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President Higgins criticises EU leaders over economic crisis

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has taken a sideswipe at the response of EU leaders to the economic crisis, describing it as "disparate, sometimes delayed, not equal to the urgency of the task and showing insufficient solidarity".

During an address to the European Parliament as part of the Ireland's presidency of the EU, Mr Higgins also said the strand of economics dominant in the EU and elsewhere is "the flaw of our times".

The President, who received a standing ovation, warned against an "unconscious drift" towards racism, social breakdown and loss of democratic accountability during the economic crisis.

He said citizens must not be reduced to "mere consumers, pawns in a speculative chess board of fiscal moves".

"Today, citizens in Europe are threatened with an unconscious drift to disharmony, a loss of social cohesion, a recurrence of racism and a deficit of democratic accountability," Mr Higgins said.

He said "European citizens are suffering the consequences of actions and opinions of bodies such as rating agencies, which, unlike parliaments, are unaccountable".

"Many of our citizens regard the response to the crisis as disparate, sometimes delayed, not equal to the urgency of the task and showing insufficient solidarity," he told a packed parliament chamber.

But he said the EU is still an inspiration to others looking to build peace, even if "its light may not have dazzled as brightly in recent years".

To applause, Mr Higgins said "such an integrated discourse" regarding EU diversity is "missing just now".

"We are in danger of drifting into, and sustaining, a kind of moral and intellectual impotence," he added.

He said citizens "feel that the economic narrative of recent years has been driven by dry technical concerns".

"For example, by calculations geared primarily by a consideration of the impact on speculative markets, rather than by sufficient compassion and empathy with the predicament of European citizens who are members of a union.

"Instead of a discourse that might define Europe as simply an economic space of contestation between the strong and the weak, our citizens yearn for the language of solidarity, of cohesion, for a generous inclusive rhetoric that is appropriate to an evolving political union."

Online Editors