By Geoff Percival
Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes has urged the European Commission to drop plans for an EU finance minister, calling it “a crazy proposal” and “a weapon of euro-scepticism”.
Addressing the European Parliament, the Dublin MEP said the upcoming European Council meeting in Brussels, at the end of this month, should focus on strengthening the EU economy’s recovery and delivering a long-term EU budget.
The EU summit will deal with a number of issues including Brexit and a long-term EU budget.
“We should do the impossible, agree the EU budget by May next year,” said Mr Hayes.
“It is useless dreaming up new ideas if we are not delivering on what we said we would do already. Let us deliver on our existing commitments,” he said.
Last September, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said an EU finance minister would aid a stronger economic and monetary union, adding “we need a European minister of economy and finance. I am not calling for a new position just for the sake of it. I am calling for efficiency”.
The idea has been met with considerable opposition and Mr Hayes said it should be discarded.
“It sends out the wrong message to national parliaments and to citizens. It does not have public support. It is a weapon of euro-scepticism. It is time it was finally discarded from the technocratic dreamworld where it came from,” he said.
Mr Hayes said the terms of the proposed European Banking Union need to be completed and a European Deposit Insurance Scheme likewise.
“We also need to be prepared to reform and turn Europe’s budget, the MFF [multiannual financial framework], into an instrument of innovation and growth.
“Could we do the impossible? Agree a better budget by the time of the next European Parliament elections. We need to.”
Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government is open to engaging “in a positive, constructive manner” in the upcoming negotiations on the post-2020 MFF. He also said Ireland is open to contributing more to the budgetary fund, “provided it meets European added-value objectives”.
Ireland became a net contributor to the EU budget in 2014. This year, it is set to contribute around €2.7bn, with the figure set to rise to €2.9bn next year.