The image of the European Commission as pushing austerity and creating difficulties for Ireland is wrong, the Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will say today when he is awarded a honorary degree by University College Cork.
He personally made the case to lower the interest rate on the bailout funds and give the loans for a longer period of time and he supports the Irish case for special treatment to improve “the sustainability of the well-performing programme” as set out in the June 2012 statement from EU leaders.
“The European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say one of your best friends,” he said.
While some like to portray Europe as being obsessed with austerity, the efforts made by the state have been acknowledged by the EU through solidarity.
“Over the past seven years, Ireland has received nearly €14 billion in EU budget support for agriculture, but also for social and infrastructure invest and research”, he will say.
“Ireland has returned to “normal” in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era.”
Meanwhile, anti-austerity campaigners will picket UCC today in protest at its decision to honour Mr Barroso.
Security is expected to be tight in and around the university for the ceremony, which is due to get under way around 5pm.
The Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) said Mr Barroso is one of the key architects of the austerity programmes which have slashed millions of jobs, decimated workers’ living standards and undermined welfare states in Europe in the last five years.
AAA spokeswoman Marion O’Sullivan“He should be given the red card, not an honorary doctorate.”
Ireland South MEP Phil Prendergast described him as a “champion of the austerity agenda” and said: “As a result of the economic policies Mr Barroso has championed, university students across Europe, including in UCC, now find themselves in a position of great economic hardship, in some cases having to resort to food aid, or being forced to drop out altogether.”
But Fine Gael candidate for Ireland South, Deirdre Clune, slammed her “regressive criticism”.
UCC said the conferring is to acknowledge the role of the European Union in developing teaching and research infrastructure in Ireland, and in realising projects such as Horizon 2020.
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