Greek uncertainty likely to overshadow growth talks

The emergency EU summit is expected to resolve doubts over the fiscal treaty referendum, and shift the emphasis from austerity to growth in a bid to address the concerns of French president-elect François Hollande

However, the meeting is likely to be overshadowed by the problems in Greece where the anti-bailout parties are now trying to form a coalition and threatening to throw out the agreement with the EU and IMF.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Ireland’s EU commissioner, called for a yes vote and with Commission president José Manuel Barroso upbraided states for failing to grasp the growth agenda.

Mr Hollande will attend the informal dinner of EU leaders that will discuss his plans for a growth pact to accompany the fiscal treaty.

Should they agree to his demands — which the Government has said it supports — it will not be necessary to reopen the treaty, removing the question of whether Irish citizens will vote at the end of the month on a document that could be changed.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, who is responsible for science and innovation, said the treaty opened the door to further funding if Ireland needed it — and this why citizens should vote for it.

There was no “plan B” and rejecting the treaty would not mean it would be renegotiated as it needed just 12 EU states to ratify it. However, any country not ratifying it will be precluded from tapping its €700bn European Stability Mechanism, she said.

“I am concerned that people are losing sight of what the debate is all about. People need to get out and vote yes. It is the only sure way to secure funding for the state, and it’s a clear signal to investors that Ireland means business,” she said.

Above all it was about reassuring investors and potential investors in Ireland and any rejection of the treaty would create uncertainty, which would come with a price, she warned.

Welcoming the new emphasis on growth in the EU, she said “the penny is dropping slowly”, adding that the Commission’s programme for growth had been put forward in 2010, but there was little enthusiasm for it.

“Member states are having lots of discussion since the beginning of this crisis and we have put forward policies but a lot have not been implemented — it is very frustrating when you are working hard to make changes demanded by the Council and the European Parliament,” she said.

However, Mr Barroso, in an address to mark Europe Day today, said “every euro spent on interest payments is a euro less for jobs and investment”.

There will be little good news for the EU leaders to focus on at their meeting according to Investec, the big banking concern.

Official data for Germany, France, and Italy over the next few days are expected to show that the eurozone is not about to emerge from recession.


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