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Friday 22 August 2014

President Higgins warns of rating agencies' 'disproportionate influence' over EU decision making

Philip Ryan

Published 20/03/2014 | 18:34

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PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has urged the European Union to re-examine its overreliance on the advice of economic experts and listen to the concerns of its citizens.

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The outspoken president said economics as an academic discipline should consider its claim of being a “science truth” in the “face of the current crisis” which has caused widespread despair across the continent.

Speaking at the UCD European Institute, he reiterated his warning that rating agencies, which determine the status of a country's bond yield, had “disproportionate influence” over the decisions taken by EU bureaucrats.

He said there was an “obsession” with “calculability” and “measurement” which was undermining the role of the citizen.

“The relationship between peoples is not in the end reducible to the calculable,” he added:

Mr Higgins said the 'European system' consisted of dedicated academics, civil servants, lobbyists, think tankers and other professionals, which all draw “intellectual resources” from political science, economics and law.

He added: “These three disciplines need, in my view, to be reintegrated with philosophy.

“Economics in particular, should - in the face of the current crisis - critically re-examine its claims to science truth.

“It should have confidence in economics seen as a craft rooted within ethics and utilising the finest of intellectual tools as instruments.”

He insisted that debates on the future of Europe should include contributions from the “poor and the unemployed” so an “authentic” new agenda could be formed.

He said: “The challenge, therefore, is to craft a public discourse in which all citizens - not just the most expert, or the most mobile among them - will be allowed to take part.

“For this to happen, government and the markets must, I suggest, be made amenable to the tribunal of everyday justificatory discourse.”

During the speech, Mr Higgins urged caution in the face unfolding crisis between Ukraine and Russia and recalled how Europe “sleepwalked” into World War I almost a century ago.

He said: “We should seek to understand, reflect and speak of what it is that Europeans gained in displacing oppression as a mode of international relations.

“The full capacity of a deepened democracy in life and institutions has yet to be achieved.”

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