Kind words but with hint of caution
THE German chancellor does not always get a good press across Europe.
Austere, uncompromising and always a German patriot first, Angela Merkel has often taken positions that have been less than popular, especially in countries like ours where the pain of recession have been felt hardest.
Yesterday she greeted Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Berlin, as part of Ireland's preparation for its upcoming presidency of the EU.
She had plenty of nice things to say, but carefully camouflaged within her ostentatious praise were words of caution and mild chiding.
Dr Merkel opened by saying that Ireland was a "shining example" of how countries can emerge stronger from economic crises. And while she didn't give any more detail on a bank debt deal, she did find time to congratulate Mr Kenny on receiving a European of the Year award from a group of German publishers.
She said the prize was "very justified, looking at what Ireland has been able to do over the past few years".'
Perhaps the Taoiseach was too busy blushing to take in the import of what she went on to say, for the German leader concluded: "Last but not least, we can only be successful in the end in creating jobs if we are competitive enough as regards our products to be able to sell them on world markets.''
In other words, while Germany and our other European masters do indeed congratulate us on our discipline and hard work, they would respectively suggest too that we could do more.
Being competitive comes down to things like wage costs, the general price of doing business, and the cosy arrangements which infest many domestic services.
Critics of the Croke Park Agreement will nod and say I told you so, as will those who feel they have been gouged by one or other of the professions.
Those who have championed that deal will counter by pointing to the social harmony it has brought in its wake, and professions will claim their fees are the price of top-class service.
We must make up our own minds. It would be churlish to ignore the chancellor's kind words, but foolhardy to take lightly her gentle barb.