Friday 18 January 2019

The Punt: Anglo-Saxons get angry

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
Christoph Mueller, former CEO of Aer Lingus

Jean-Claude Juncker is angering the British again. It's almost like he does it deliberately.

The European Commission President yesterday claimed that if Greece exited the Eurozone, the "Anglo-Saxon" world would dismantle the monetary union piece by piece.

Juncker told an audience at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium that a "Grexit" would expose the EU to "huge danger" as it would leave it exposed to forces who would do everything "to try to decompose" what remained of the monetary union.

As expected, the 'Daily Telegraph' accused the EC President of taking a swipe at Britain.

Because the relationship between Juncker and London has been far from rosy, and dates back to the fact that when he was running for office, British Prime Minister David Cameron's administration tried to block Junker's candidacy.

Yesterday's comments are unlikely to endear the former Luxembourg Prime Minister to Cameron.

But, then again, maybe the two men won't have to deal with one another after tomorrow's British general election vote.

ESRI names new director

After a months-long trawl of the globe in search of a new head, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has named Professor Alan Barrett as director, to replace Frances Ruane.

In the hunt for a new director, the ESRI engaged MERC Partners, and the appointment was confirmed by an international selection committee chaired by Professor Agnès Bénassy-Quéré of the French Council of Economic Analysis and Paris School of Economics. In the end the Government's favourite research think tank settled on Prof Barrett, who is currently the head of the economic analysis division at the ESRI. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Trinity College Dublin, and has been a member of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council since 2011, and previously worked at the Department of Finance.

Other members of the selection committee were Prof Bea Cantillon of the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy at the University of Antwerp, Robert Watt from the Department of Public Expenditure, Hannah McGee of the Royal College of Surgeons, Patrick Honohan from the Central Bank, Eircom chairman Padraig McManus and the chairman of the ESRI, Laurence Crowley.

Mueller's off to a flying start

It seems former Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller is getting stuck in just weeks after arriving in Asia to take over a chief executive of Malaysia Airlines.

The airline has announced that it is reviewing its fleet options, with widespread speculation that it's planning to offload its six superjumbo Airbus A380 aircraft.

The carrier, beset by two horrifying disasters last year, had already been struggling financially.

Mueller, below, was the controversial choice to help navigate the airline through the turbulence and help return it to profitability. He's the first non-Malaysian to hold the chief executive role and he officially took on the job last week.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has confirmed that it's drafting a new business plan. It's thought that selling or leasing A380s could be one of its options.

But Mueller has insisted it's too early to say what the airline will do.

"MAS needs to operate and utilise its fleet at an optimum level besides maximising revenue on the routes it flies," he said on Sunday.

"The market needs to give Malaysia Airlines room to explore various options in determining the most viable strategy."

Mueller will be able to spend even more time developing that strategy: he stepped down as a board member of Tourism Ireland last Thursday.He's still chairman of An Post, however, ensuring that he retains his links to Ireland.

Irish Independent

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