ANN CAHILL: Barroso highlights EU-Irish tensions

The poor state of EU-Irish relations burst into the open with Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s ‘moment of truth’ in the midst of the EU summit.

For at least the second time in a year, his wish to visit Ireland was not too subtly refused — first to launch the EU jobs and growth programme at a big conference in Dublin during the presidency and then to celebrate Ireland’s exiting the bail-out.

Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn suffered a similar fate and the refusal was none too polite. That the commission was the country’s sole ally at times with other member states demanding blood was forgotten — but then the commission’s communications policy on Ireland has not helped.

Following Vincent Browne’s outbursts at a troika press conference the decision to go underground and allow no interviews left the platform to the IMF who made full use of it. It is now seen as the country’s friend.

Call for Ireland to join CERN

Apparently Ireland has a big physics-based industry worth €15bn a year to the economy but would do a lot better if the country was a member of CERN.

He says that some leading scientists estimate that Ireland could win a share of the €500m a year in contracts that CERN gives to industry.

Parliamentary plans

Politicians and academics from more than 100 countries, meeting in Brussels, have signed an international appeal for the United Nations to establish a parliamentary assembly.

It makes the point that the daily lives of the world’s citizens are increasingly shaped by global economic, social and political forces that ignore national borders.

“A UN parliamentary assembly would ‘enable citizen representatives to be directly involved in global political deliberations, agenda-setting, and decision-making’.”

It’s a mind-blowing idea given that the EU has 750 members of its parliament for half a billion people — one 16th of the global population.

Fitting punishment

With increasing accusations against large financial organisations of insider dealing, manipulation of interest rates and fraud, the European Parliament has agreed such crimes should be punishable with jail.

Currently EU counties have different definitions of this kind of fraud and different penalties or none, so prosecuting cross-border is not easy. Countries that go easy or take no action are more likely to be victims.

However, there is a long way to go with so called ‘Chinese walls’ within organisations accepted as separating potentially conflicting interests — such as advising shareholders and their boards or assessing banks and buying their shares.

Extensive spying

The extent of the spying by the United States and their partners, the United Kingdom, continues to unfold.

The latest is that the EU commissioner for competition, Joaquin Almunia, was being spied on — proving (if proof was needed) that much of the surveillance is about business interests.

The statements from the commission are getting slightly more abrasive: “This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states”.

Nobody seems to have raised it with British PM David Cameron, however, during the summit — too many countries with irons in that fire doubtless.

O’Reilly’s profile continues to grow

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s profile continues to grow in the EU with her successful push to have the commission open an investigation into funding of Spanish football clubs.

Ms O’Reilly didn’t mince her words either saying she was glad the commission “has finally acted in this case after a delay of more than four years”. Normally they have just one year to decide to act.

The allegation is that the Spanish government has given unfair tax advantages to four Spanish football clubs that is worth several billion euro to them.

Ms O’Reilly’s statement noted that this was at a time when the country was requesting billions of euro from eurozone taxpayers.

Literary legacy

An important part of women’s legacy, so often invisible in history, is to be uncovered thanks to an award of around €2 million to Dr Marie-Louise Coolahan in University College Galway.

For the first time the European Research Council has given the prestigious Consolidator Grant to an Irish researcher in the field of literature.

Over five years Dr Coolahan and a team of five postdoctoral researchers will trawl British, Irish and US literature written by women between 1550 and 1700.

They hope to show how women’s writing has made an impact and produce a method that can be applied to other languages and other places.


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