EU should follow Irish lead

Taoiseach Enda Kenny compared Ireland’s turning around of its economy with what was needed in the EU generally, but said the country had some way to go to secure lasting growth and job creation.

EU should follow Irish lead

In a speech in Berlin that sounded like a job application for the post of EU Council president, he said that the EU needed to be more bold and ambitious than in the last ten years to deliver growth.

“The Union needs to take hard decisions that are hard to explain sometimes,” he told a prestigious conference of around 2,000 business and political supporters of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party.

He had a brief meeting with Mrs Merkel who also attended the conference when they discussed the job of Council president, currently filled by former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy.

Mr Kenny said he discussed the issue with Mrs Merkel around who might be suitable in terms of whether they should be from a country with the euro. But when asked if he was interested in the role, Mr Kenny said his priority was to lead the economy and create job in Ireland.

He said he discussed Ireland’s banking-related debt with the chancellor during their short meeting.

“Ensuring the sustainability of the economy is important,” he said.

“We have delivered for Ireland and the eurozone — where we do ask for assistance from our European partners that delivers for them in return,” he said.

He told the conference that Ireland and Germany had much in common, with similar GDP per capita, export-driven open economies, ambitious and dynamic businesses, pro-business public administrations together with hard working, productive, innovative and flexible people.

The two countries had a win-win relationship worth €23 billion annually in goods and services.

Earlier he opened a new Primark store in Berlin’s iconic Alexanderplatz. The Irish company that owns Penney’s employs 6,000 in Germany contributing €700m to the German economy.

Inviting German business to take a closer look at investing in Ireland, he said: “Ireland has gone far and aims higher still. In many ways it’s a business turnaround at an advanced stage.”

Looking back, he said the Irish economy was “in the right place” 15 years ago with Germany, but through very bad management, loose financial regulation at home and abroad, and a policy of looking for the easiest route to profit to keep the national accounts looking good, spending went out of control, camouflaged by a debt financed property bubble.

Ireland could have done nothing — defaulted, waited for others to step in, avoided real reforms doing the minimum — but that was not the Irish way, he said, painting a picture of a self-led, proud and plucky people.

Instead the country opted for a 19% adjustment to the economy in just seven years and with €30bn of adjustments done was now 95% of the way there.

There are intense discussions between EU leaders on who will take over the EU Council role that chairs and follows through on leaders summits. The EPP, to which Fine Gael belongs, is said to want the role and Mr Kenny, as well as former Finnish premier Jyrki Katainen are being mentioned.

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