Friday 15 December 2017

Colm Kelpie: Beware having friends in high places

Earlier Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Earlier Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Ireland received its now customary pat on the head from Europe yesterday, reaffirming its status as the continent's poster boy for austerity.

Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Ireland was making strong progress on all fronts, and that employment here was growing strongly.

That's all true, of course.

But where it was once welcome to hear plaudits from such a key European figure, especially when we had been so used to negative comments, it may now be no longer in the Government's interest. Along with German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Mr Dijsselbloem is the arch proponent of the austerity regime in the Euro area.

He stoically faced down Greek resistance to extending its current, hated, bailout programme, with the Syriza-led government left to capitulate on its promises or potentially face an exit from the single currency, a move its voters didn't want.

Yesterday Mr Dijsselbloem suggested the Greek election didn't really matter. While it reflected a clear message, there are other electorates in the currency union as well, he effectively reminded MEPs.

Analysts are already saying that Friday's Greek deal is good news for the Government here, as any sweeping debt concessions granted to the Syriza-led government would have reflected poorly on attempts by Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan to get a similar reprieve here.

Getting a pat on the head from the man so closely linked to the austerity regime in Europe may prove politically uncomfortable for the coalition.

Irish Independent

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