Friday 15 December 2017

Kenny will lobby next EU boss for Ireland to get key commission job

Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker
Enda Kenny has said he is not interested in an EU job at the moment and that he backs Juncker
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will lobby the next president of the European Commission in order to get a top-job commissionership for Ireland.

As EU leaders gathered last night, Mr Kenny refused to say who he was lining up to send to Europe – but he admitted to discussing available positions with presidency favourite Jean- Claude Juncker.

"I had a discussion with Jean- Claude Juncker last Saturday and assured him of my support following the very clear election process we had in Dublin.

"I said that on his election as president then we would be talking about commissionerships.

"There are a number of commissionerships that would be of interest to Ireland and I will speak to the president when he is elected," Mr Kenny said.

Speaking at the European People's Party (EPP) summit at Kortrijk outside Brussels, Mr Kenny refused to speculate on who would be his nomination for commissioner. Environment Minister Phil Hogan and outgoing Labour leader Eamon Gilmore are among the names being circulated by Fine Gael and Labour.


"I am not going to comment about any name or any personality," Mr Kenny said.

The run-up to the summit has been dominated by a row over who will be the next EU Commission president, with Britain likely to force a vote when the full EU Council meets in Brussels later today.

Mr Kenny confirmed that a vote will now take place, because of Prime Minister David Cameron's opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Taoiseach said he expected Mr Juncker to be ratified by qualified majority.

EU sources indicated that there may be some "sweeteners" offered to Mr Cameron by way of key commission portfolio jobs in order to allow him withdraw his objection to Mr Juncker ahead of this afternoon's meeting. But it has been stressed that no official offer is on the table.

Mr Cameron has little support for his opposition to Mr Juncker from the other 27 EU members, with Hungary the only other country backing him.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has also played down the idea that fresh agreement by European leaders to ease the impact of austerity will mean an easier Budget for Ireland in October.

Mr Kenny said the Government must stick to its Budget deficit target. Speaking at the EPP summit, he said Ireland would have to meet its stated budget target of 3pc of GDP.

"On whether this impacts on our Budget for next year, we have been very clear about this. Our target is to have our deficit below 3pc by 2015, we will achieve that target," he told reporters.

"We don't know the actual scale of the adjustment, but the stronger the economy grows, the more favourable the conditions for achieving that are. Michael Noonan has made it clear we will achieve that target.

"We want to continue to be in a position to attract new jobs, new investment and for us the big picture is the mandate given to the Government in 2011 to fix the public finances and get the country back to work."

The issue of flexibility was discussed by the leaders as they gathered in Ypres to commemorate the centenary of World War I.

However, Irish government sources last night played down the significance of the decision for Ireland.

"There is no flexibility for Ireland this year, but there may be some in 2016 and beyond," said one source.

At a dinner in Ypres last night, EU leaders discussed further the new stability and growth agenda. They failed to sign off on an agreed text but work is to continue overnight. They also still have to agree on the issue of migration into the EU. It is hoped that agreement from all 28 countries can be secured later today.

Irish Independent

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