Belfast Telegraph

Presidency 'will not be exploited'

Ireland will not abuse its position during its EU presidency to push for a deal on bank debt, a senior Government source has claimed.

The insider said any country that enters the six-month term with the sole ambition of advancing its own agenda risks losing the support of the other member states.

Ireland will take up the presidency on January 1, following Cyprus and serving before Lithuania.

The Government source said all eyes would be on the country as it is the first to enter its term while in a bailout programme, so it would not exploit its position for its own gain.

This follows claims from European Parliament president Martin Schulz, who warned that trying to reach an agreement on separating its banking and sovereign debt would be a major burden for Ireland during its reign of the EU council. Mr Schulz said securing a deal to ease Ireland's debts would be months away.

An original deadline for the deal was set for December, but it has been clear for a number of months that would not be met. But the Government source said it was timely that the time for reaching an agreement would run parallel to the presidency.

The insider said while, strictly speaking, there would be nothing wrong with putting forward Ireland's own position, the main focus of the presidency had to be stabilising the currency union and continuing to work towards jobs and growth.

Goodwill generated through the presidency would ultimately lead to a good deal for Ireland, the source added.

The term, which will be Ireland's seventh time in office, is expected to cost the state 60 million euro. Its last presidency in 2004, during the boom, cost upwards from 90 million euro.

The insider said the lavish displays associated with the last presidency, when officials were driven in limousine motorcades to luxury venues for events, would not be repeated. The source said it was clear the hard-pressed public would not stand for such displays and that the Government would be aiming for substance over show.


From Belfast Telegraph