Sunday 22 April 2018

Fiach Kelly: More German praise from Frau Merkel as she defends austerity

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Fiach Kelly in Berlin

SO no more progress to report on Ireland's bank debt after Taoiseach Enda Kenny's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin today.

But they weren't meeting for that - according to them anyway.

Both Mr Kenny and Dr Merkel insisted the fine details of any deal are not up to them - that's the job of the finance ministers, and Michael Noonan and his European colleagues should busy themselves working out how this should be done.

Mr Noonan, with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, met with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schauble in Dublin earlier this week and Dr Merkel said the purpose of Mr Schauble's visit was to get that process moving.

Today, the two leaders were thinking of the bigger picture - Ireland's EU presidency next year, the eurozone crisis and the broader picture of Ireland's crippling back debt.

Mr Kenny's main aim was to get the chancellor to re-iterate Ireland has a "special case", and she duly obliged.

If she said it in Berlin in front of the German press and a domestic audience, it would further tie her to helping Ireland out, the thinking went.

And, of course, we got the now usual pat on the head, with Dr Merkel saying Ireland is a "shining example".

But she was most interesting today when defending austerity, although she said growth and increased competitiveness were also needed to create jobs.

"It's not an end it itself that we decided to adopt a strict policy of fiscal consolidation. It is in a way an insurance for coming generations, for our children and our grandchildren to be independent in our political decisions and this is why I am so convinced that this mix of measures for growth, for structural reforms for fiscal consolidation is the necessary one and is the right one."

Not for the first time, you find yourself thinking: I hope she's right.

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