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EU survival must be the priority

ARE we witnessing the end for the euro, or is it the end of the beginning in its battle for survival? There was something vaguely Churchillian in Michael Noonan's comments in Washington signalling we are closer to "war war," than "jaw jaw", regarding our relations with the European Central Bank.

Concerning selective burning of bond olders, Mr Noonan was articulating a truth that Frankfurt dare not speak.

We cannot afford to foot colossal payments for bonds that are trading at bargain basement rates on markets.

With Greece on the brink, the ECB has acted with the kind of insouciance not seen since the reign of the Sun King.

Its policy seems to be to protect the banks, regardless of the impact on everyone else.

A mantra of simply 'let them eat austerity', will not suffice. To date the Irish taxpayer is signed up to pay €70bn for failed banks.

And even more hardship is not the answer in handling an ill-advised bank guarantee, which only days ago was described by Joaquin Almunia -- the European Commissioner for Competition -- as a mistake.

The delusion that the ECB can continue to play by Queensbury rules, while insisting that EU governments kick taxpayers below the belt, is a sorry strategy to secure economic revival.

There are no "risk-free" scenarios. With Italy and Spain fast coming in to the frame on their credit ratings, Frankfurt must urgently engage with the full picture.

The notion that the ECB is "bailing out" Ireland has to be addressed.

We are being lent vast sums of money which we have committed to repay at punitive interest rates.

Thus the banks will be saved -- but at what cost to the European community?

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It is a given that the EU debt problem be managed. But the damaging consensus that slashing budgets and sacrificing jobs will arrest the downward spiral that threatens the zone must be seen for what it is.

We can scarcely wait until 2013 when formal stability and funding mechanisms kick in.

A crude prescription of economic electric shock treatment will not suffice.

More expansive plans for progressive growth have to inform strategy.

Economic strategies must be balanced against the potential collateral damage to the EU as a whole. This week in Brussels, ministers must bear in mind the alternative to economic co-existence is co-destruction.

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