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Friday 19 January 2018

Push for growth to be at top of agenda

Sarah Collins

POLITICIANS across Europe breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after the Yes vote that commits the government to maintain balanced budgets or risk EU fines.

The result comes as EU leaders are due to agree a new growth plan at a leaders' summit in Brussels at the end of the month.

"This positive referendum decision is an impetus for us to pursue stronger stimulus for growth and employment," said German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle.

France has yet to ratify the fiscal treaty as it has parliamentary elections on June 17.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose own country has not yet ratified the pact, said that Ireland deserved "appreciation and respect" for staying the course on austerity.

"The result shows that the Irish population continues to support the demanding consolidation and reform agenda of the Irish government," she said.

"This commands -- particularly because of the ensuing cuts and hardships -- special appreciation and respect."

Germany is expected to ratify the pact along with the treaty on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone's rescue fund, before their summer recess in July.

Ireland is the ninth country to ratify after Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Denmark and Sweden. Only 12 countries are required to approve it before it comes into force.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to France's socialist president Francois Hollande, Mrs Merkel and Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy by telephone during the count yesterday.

He said the positive vote will give him more sway with the leaders as he lobbies for an extra share of EU and European Investment Bank (EIB) funding and tries to renegotiate the cost of Ireland's bank bailout.

EU officials say that while a deal is not yet in the offing on restructuring the €31bn in promissory notes pumped into the former Anglo Irish Bank, Mr Kenny does have a "better case" to make.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, who also spoke to Mr Kenny yesterday, said the vote "represents a significant step toward Ireland's economic recovery and its place at the heart of the EU".

Irish MEPs were already making demands on growth ahead of the final vote count, saying Ireland needed a quid pro quo for accepting an unpopular treaty.

Fine Gael MEP and erstwhile presidential candidate Gay Mitchell said the EU should now place the growth agenda at "centre stage".

Irish Independent Supplement

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