At a public seminar organised by the European Commission in Athlone this week, Economics Editor of the Irish Independent, Brendan Keenan, argued that, despite the fact that major political and institutional changes were still needed, the EU and the Eurozone countries have “moved back from the abyss of potential break-up”.
Students, lecturers, local business leaders, and politicians were among the audience for the event, entitled ‘European Economic Policy - What’s in it for Ireland?’ Held at Athlone Institute of Technology, this seminar marked the second in a series of events organised by the European Commission to explain the current economic situation in the EU and to provide an opportunity for people to ask any questions they might have about its implications for Ireland.
Barbara Nolan, head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland spoke about the new International Treaty agreed by EU Heads of State and Government in Brussels on Monday, stating that the objective of this new treaty is to strengthen the economic pillar of economic and monetary union and ensure that mistakes made by governments in the past are not repeated. It includes the incorporation into domestic legal systems of an automatic, legal brake to stop a member state from veering too far into the red.
Brendan Keenan, economics Editor of the Irish Independent argued that, although significant work was underway to strengthen economic coordination in the European Union, the EU institutions also needed to provide strong political leadership, strengthening political coordination at EU level, in order to make the euro a genuine single currency rather than the currency of 17 separate states.
Suzanne Kelly, a tax lawyer, addressed the issue of Ireland’s overspending, stating “that arguments about who [is] responsible for the national debt are academic and distract from the real crisis which is our overspending”. Suzanne emphasised the importance of engaging in the financial discipline required to reduce overspending in Ireland and concluded that the financial standards and transparency requested by the Troika (EU/ECB/IMF ) are “preferable to the incompetent system of fiscal analysis that was the hallmark of Irish financial institutions in the noughties”.
Nigel Nagarajan, the European Commission’s Resident Adviser on Economic and Financial Affairs provided the audience with a comprehensive insight into the EU/IMF’s Financial Programme for Ireland, its objectives and the progress which has been made to date. Nigel explained that “the financial assistance provided to Ireland under the programme is helping to cushion the impact of the severe shock suffered by the economy and helping to keep vital public services operating”. He went on to say that the programme is also leading to vital reforms aimed at restarting the economy and laying the foundations for future job growth.