Sunday 26 February 2017

Kenny resists pressure from Merkel over treaty changes

Lise Hand  in Berlin and Fionnan Sheahan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives German chancellor Angela Merkel a kiss on the cheek when the two leaders held a meeting in Berlin yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives German chancellor Angela Merkel a kiss on the cheek when the two leaders held a meeting in Berlin yesterday. Photo: Reuters

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny again resisted pressure yesterday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to agree to substantial changes to EU treaties.

The Government is adamant that major treaty change is not required and fears such reforms will have to be passed by a referendum in Ireland.

Mr Kenny insisted moves to change the treaties would be "very challenging".

"We recognise the need for stronger budgetary discipline; we recognise the need for fiscal responsibility," he said.

"While there are strong rules needed here, any steps towards major treaty change would obviously be very challenging.

"I've had a frank discussion about that with the chancellor. And I believe that the immediate crisis has to be dealt with in the short term with the facilities and tools that are available to us," he added.

Ms Merkel said she wanted to see "clear but limited" treaty change to prevent a repeat of the eurozone crisis.

The chancellor said it was not about telling countries what budgets to pass, but ensuring they must stay within the rules of the eurozone.

The Taoiseach said he asked Ms Merkel very directly what she actually meant by treaty change.

"She spelled that out that it would be an intervention and oversight role in respect of the preparation of national budgets but with flexibility for countries to do their own strategies," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny has turned down a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy because he will be at a gathering attended by leaders from the Channel Islands.

Mr Kenny turned down an invite to the Elysee Palace in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis at the end of the month as he will be hosting a meeting of the British-Irish Council.

The BIC brings together the governments of Ireland, Britain, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is not expected to attend the meeting, as he didn't even turn up when his government hosted the last meeting of the body.

The BIC was set up under the Good Friday Agreement to allow co-ordination of policies across the different jurisdictions in Ireland and Britain.

But the body is widely regarded as a ceremonial 'talking shop' with little actual power.

Mr Kenny committed two months ago to meet the German chancellor and French president to discuss the eurozone crisis and the terms of Ireland's bailout.

The Taoiseach finally met Ms Merkel yesterday, but has yet to arrange a meeting with Mr Sarkozy.

Government officials are now trying to find an alternative date for him to go to France for the meeting.

"A number of dates went over and back. One of the dates that came to us from President Sarkozy's people was the 28th (of November).

"It (the BIC) was a long-standing arrangement," a spokesman said.

The last British-Irish Council Summit, the 16th such meeting, took place in London in June.

The meeting was hosted by British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg is likely to attend the meeting on November 28. During his visit to Dublin, the deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrats leader is also expected to pay a visit to newly inaugurated President Michael D Higgins.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond and Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones will also be attending, along with representatives from the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.

Irish Independent

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