Thursday 22 August 2019

Government makes last-ditch bid for EU banking authority

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Gretchen Friemann

The Government has launched a last-ditch bid to win the fiercely contested battle to host the European Banking Authority (EBA), as a high-level delegation of civil servants from the Department of Finance jetted into Brussels.

A secret ballot to decide the agency's post-Brexit location will be held today at EU headquarters as Dublin is widely regarded to be behind Frankfurt and Vienna in the race to house the authority.

Eight EU nations are jostling to secure the lucrative and prestigious agency, which is currently housed in Canary Wharf.

A separate contest to secure the European Medicines Agency (EMA), also based in London, will be decided today too but that has long since been regarded as a lost cause for Ireland.

The Government reportedly abandoned its lobbying efforts on the EMA front in recent weeks and instead redoubled its charm offensive for the EBA - an organisation best known for its health checks, or stress tests on the region's banks.

The votes to decide which cities take the post-Brexit spoils when it comes to EU agencies will be held in Brussels' Europa Building, colloquially called the Space Egg.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney was due to arrive in the city this morning to participate in the vote, which has drawn comparisons with the Eurovision Song Contest, as competing nations attempt to drum up support for their bids from neighbours and allies.

Horse trading

But the delegation that preceded him, including European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee, has been afforded the opportunity for some last-minute horse trading, according to sources.

Ireland's geographic isolation has been cited by some as a weakness even as Government sources insist the region's smaller countries will oppose a move to re-house the lucrative EU agencies in the central economies of France and Germany.

Yet despite this common ground, many doubt whether Ireland has sufficient support in the EU's General Affairs Council to carry off a victory. Bookmakers are currently tipping Milan as favourite for the EMA and Frankfurt as stand-out candidate for the EBA.

According to sources, Ireland's pitch for the EBA has centred on the relatively seamless transition that Dublin could provide. As one source in the Department of Finance stressed, a relocation to Ireland would represent the "least level of disruption" given the similarity of the legal system and the shared language.

Last month, Mr Coveney shot down a report from Bloomberg that the Government was braced for defeat in the race for both the EBA and the EMA.

However, countries are expected to vote strategically. The ballot spans three rounds, and is likely to involve hours of haggling as the victor of each round shores up support among the losers. Papers will be destroyed after the ballot and if there is a tie after three rounds, the final decision will be made by drawing lots.

Irish Independent

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