EU leaders ‘were slow to act on crisis’

European Union leaders did not react “anything like as fast as they needed to” during the euro crisis, “just doing enough to solve today’s problem but not the problems of tomorrow”, according to a former leader of Fine Gael.

Alan Dukes pointed out at a conference on Europe that the euro crisis started to materialise in 2007 but it took another five years of crisis before the first policy action was taken by the EU.

The ECB and in particular president Mario Draghi were singled out for praise by Mr Dukes and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, with Mr Dukes saying “the ECB has done the most to counter the crisis despite treaty restrictions”.

Also speaking at the Reflections on Europe conference at UCC, Mr Martin called for a stronger banking union within Europe, a wider mandate for the ECB and an significantly enlarged central budget for countries facing regional problems.

He said Ireland needed to “rethink” our relationship with the EU.

“As a country, we have made no statement about what our roadmap is or what our vision for Europe is. We need to remember Europe is ‘us’ not ‘them’,” he said.

And in a presentation that highlighted the European Regional Development Fund and the political and geo-political effects of EU enlargement as outstanding achievements of the bloc, Mr Dukes noted there are still “consistently sub-optimal policy decisions” at EU level, a feature he added that “is common in all democratic systems”.

Mr Dukes said he cannot understand why there still is not a common EU foreign policy, saying this was “a failure to use our capacity to pursue our values”. If such a common policy existed, he said, the UK would not have invaded Iraq as they wouldn’t have got the majority backing.

Mr Martin said that “through shared sovereignty” at EU level, Ireland has discovered that it has “more influence than it otherwise would” as a small country.

He criticised the union for an “overly inward perspective” as it had “failed to embrace globalisation”.


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