Monday 18 December 2017

No legal requirement for Dail to debate Greece's extension

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives for a ministerial meeting at the parliament in Athens. Getty Images
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives for a ministerial meeting at the parliament in Athens. Getty Images
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The Dail is not expected to discuss the extension of the Greek bailout as there is no legal need to do so.

While German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has requested a vote in his own parliament this week, the Department of Finance said the advice from the Attorney General is that there is no requirement to have a Dail debate.

However, Mr Noonan's spokesman has said that the four-month extension to the Greek bailout, agreed at an emergency meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on Friday, may be discussed at the Oireachtas Finance Committee during one of the minister's routine appearances.

Mr Noonan said last week that he would feel "obliged" to put an extension deal before parliament, even though the Government wouldn't require its sanction.

Yesterday, Eurozone finance ministers, including Mr Noonan, signed off on a package of Greek economic reforms that include a promise to cut the number of government ministries and special advisers and a commitment not to row back on any planned privatisations.

The reforms were drawn up by the Greek government to seal the agreement thrashed out between the so-called Eurogroup on Friday night.

The package is designed to placate both the country's creditors and to try to satisfy Greek voters who put the left-leaning Syriza party into power in last month's election.

Mr Noonan's spokesman said he welcomed the four-month extension.

"The Greek authorities' commitment to a broader and deeper structural reform process is very much welcomed. A more concentrated effort in terms of structural reforms will yield benefits," he said.

The full list of reforms arrived in Brussels from Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, pictured, just before midnight on Monday night, and included watered-down Syriza campaign promises to halt privatisations, boost welfare spending and raise the minimum wage.

It also pledged to consult partners before key reforms and to keep them budget-neutral.

The Commission backed the package even before the Eurozone finance ministers' conference call got under way yesterday, saying it was "sufficiently comprehensive".

The list also includes pledges to reform tax policy, and review and control spending in "every area" of government.

The Syriza-led government also committed to consolidating pension funds to achieve savings, and scrap incentives for early retirement.

The soundings ahead of the conference call were good, with Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying the reforms were quite positive.

Mr Dijsselbloem told the European Parliament's economic affairs committee that the Greek reform list was just a first step but he said that it showed the country was serious about reform. He also hinted strongly that Athens would need a further aid programme when the four months expires.

The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund all signalled their support for Greece's commitments.

However, the IMF said that while the Greek list was comprehensive, it was not very specific.

Irish Independent

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