Wednesday 22 November 2017

Germany's finance boss jetting in for debt talks

Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

Talks with Noonan, Howlin as both sides try to mend fences

GERMAN Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will meet his Irish counterpart Michael Noonan and Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin in Dublin on Monday as the two countries try to patch up relations following last weekend's diplomatic spat.

Mr Schaeuble will be the first German finance minister to travel to Dublin since the economic crisis began in 2007.

The visit, made public yesterday, had been scheduled for some time but sources say the two-hour conversation will inevitably focus on the sometimes fierce dispute over the Irish Government's efforts to reduce the interest payments on our mountain of debt.

There is no agenda and issues such as Ireland's forthcoming EU presidency are unlikely to be discussed.

Relations between the present Government and the German coalition have been strained since the summer as Mr Schaeuble said several times that he did not want any special deal for Ireland because it would send the wrong signal to the markets.

Germany's stance was backed by other countries close to Germany such as Finland, the Netherlands and Austria.

Comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday reiterated what her finance minister had been saying for several months but provoked consternation in Dublin because it appeared to rule out a deal to reduce the cost of servicing around half of our national debt, which is linked to recapitalising the banks.

A telephone conversation on Sunday and lengthy subsequent negotiations between Irish and German officials resulted in the publication of a non-committal statement on Sunday evening that reaffirmed that Ireland was a special case but stopped short of suggesting that the chancellor had changed her stance.

Ignored

The statement was not released in German and was not placed on her website, ensuring that it was completely ignored by German media.

Mr Noonan, Mr Howlin and Mr Schaeuble will meet at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park to avoid the bank holiday Dublin marathon.

The German minister will be travelling as part of a small delegation of three people along with the usual security detail which guards him. He has been confined to a wheelchair since 1990 when he was victim of a failed assassination attempt.

Irish Independent

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