Thursday 25 August 2016

Rant gives rare insight into what Brussels thinks

Published 21/12/2013 | 02:30

Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn
Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn

THE Portuguese party pooper poured cold water on the idea of Ireland being rewarded for being the EU's poster boy following the exit from the bailout.

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Jose Manuel Barroso wasn't invited to Dublin last weekend to mark the end of the EU-IMF programme.

Just as well.

The Government told European Commission President and fellow EU Commissioner Olli Rehn to stay away last week as it wanted the event to be "low key".

The definition of low key appears to be a day of press briefings by four ministers on Friday, followed by a live televised 'State of the Nation' address by the Taoiseach and then the launch of an economic plan.

Low key, indeed.

Mr Barroso got his own back for the snub. He gave his real assessment of the country in a midnight tirade in Brussels.

"So the euro was not the cause of the problems of Ireland. The euro was a victim of the problems by some practice, irresponsible practices, in the financial sector, that I repeat were not the responsibility of the European Union that at that time had no competence of all in matters of supervision."

Rather than Ireland taking one for the team, the team had to take one for Ireland -- in his book.

The rant against Ireland was quite revealing and also worrying if it reflects a wider view among the European hierarchy.

The exit from the bailout was lauded at European level, but the finger of blame was still being pointed at Ireland for causing the crisis. The impression that Europe has to help Ireland because the EU created the problem is firmly rejected. The Government rushed to claim yesterday that Mr Barroso wasn't talking about Ireland's bid to get a backdated refund for the bailout of the banking system.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there was "no row" between the Government and the European Commission.

EU leaders recognised Ireland was unique 18 months ago and that supercedes any other opinion.

Mr Barroso was misinterpreted, apparently.

But the damage was done. The public in Ireland and beyond heard the tenor of his comments.

What mattered was not what specific aspect of potential support for Ireland he was referring to but the attitude towards the country.

In terms of how the process will play out, Mr Barroso's opinion is not important.

The European Commission president won't be around in 12 months' time when a decision on retrospective recapitalisation starts to come up. At a political level, his dropping of his guard to give his true opinion is significant.

The cutting loose on Ireland offers an insight into the thinking in Brussels.

The EU decision of June 29, 2013, to recognise Ireland's demand for assistance has yet to deliver a red cent.

To get a handout the Government will need the unanimous approval of all EU leaders.

The payment would be a one-off as nobody wants to see a precedent being set.

Therefore, substantial political support for Ireland's cause will be needed across Europe.

Mr Barroso's candid disclosure shows the views at the highest level in Europe when you scratch beneath the surface.

Irish Independent

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