Thursday 18 January 2018

Van Rompuy and Barroso back deal on cutting €64bn bank debt burden

European Council President Herman van Rompuy. Photo: PA
European Council President Herman van Rompuy. Photo: PA

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TWO European chiefs have lent their support to a deal to reduce our €64bn banking debt burden.

Both European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy made comments in support of a deal for Ireland.

The boost came as Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he still believed that a deal would be done on the €31bn cost of bailing out Anglo Irish Bank before the March deadline.

Mr Barroso said he was supportive of Ireland finding a solution to the promisory notes issue. He said the commission was generally in favour of a deal, but he declined to comment on specific proposals.

Mr Barroso said Ireland's presidency of the EU offered a great opportunity for the Government to "make its case better known".

Meanwhile, Council President Van Rompuy gave his views after his Irish EU presidency meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

He highlighted the need to tackle the issue of Ireland's banking debt – as agreed by European leaders last June.

"One of the key objectives is to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns, especially for Ireland," he said.

Mr Van Rompuy has consistently been one of the strongest voices at EU level arguing for a reduction in the huge banking debt burden which resulted from the disastrous state banking guarantee in 2008.


He is president of the European Council, which is made up of all 27 EU leaders as well as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. It sets the priorities for the EU.

At Dublin Castle, Mr Van Rompuy said he was not involved in the discussions about reducing the bank debt. But he said he understood that the Irish Government was working hard with the European Central Bank (ECB) to find a mutually acceptable agreement on the Anglo Irish Bank debt.

"I really hope for a positive outcome," he said.

His comments were welcomed by Mr Kenny, who said that the Government's immediate focus would be to agree a deal on the €31bn Anglo Irish Bank debt – with another €3.1bn instalment due for payment at the end of March.

Mr Gilmore said the Irish EU presidency would also be working to tackle the "scandal" of youth employment, which is averaging 25pc across the EU.

Members of the foreign press wanted to know what the Irish Government would do if British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded changes to EU treaties as a result of pressure from eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

Mr Kenny said he did not believe that there would be treaty changes in the near future, and emphasised that it would be "disastrous" if Britain left the EU.

"Britain is an essential part of the EU and has played a fundamentally important role in developing the single market," he said.

In a light-hearted moment, Mr Kenny referred to how Mr Cameron wanted to stay on in Downing Street until 2020, leading Mr Van Rompuy to ask: "You too?" Mr Kenny responded by saying "Yes, of course".

Irish Independent

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