‘Threaten to veto EU issues for debt relief’

Philippe Legrain, the economic advisor to former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, believes Ireland should threaten to veto issues important to European leaders in order to receive concessions on its bank debt.

“You can take advantage of a decision which requires unanimity, which Ireland can threaten to block unless debt relief is granted,” he said.

Mr Legrain, independent economic advisor to Barroso from 2011 to 2014, said the behaviour of the European Commission and the French and German governments in forcing Ireland to take on €64bn in bank debt had been “outrageous” and “the very opposite of the solidarity on which the European project is meant to be based”.

He was speaking at a debate in Charleville, Co Cork, on Saturday, “The EU — Friend or Foe?”

Mr Legrain said it was in Ireland’s interests to remain in the EU, but “it would be a mistake to think that EU institutions, or other EU governments, are Ireland’s friend.”

He believes those across Europe, angered by austerity and mismanagement in the wake of the financial crisis, are natural allies of the Irish people.

He acknowledged Ireland has benefited from EU membership, but said actions of EU institutions and governments have harmed this country.

“The most obvious and egregious example of that is the threat of the ECB, backed up by the French and German governments, and the European Commission, in effect to force Ireland out of the Euro unless this country unjustly took on €64bn in bank debt, which you should not be liable for.”

Author of European Spring: ‘Why Our Economies and Policies are in a Mess – And How to Put Them Right’, Mr Legrain has also founded a grassroots political movement, www.europeanspring.org.

MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said his ideal European community was similar to the original EEC, “a bloc of nations looking to enhance their ability to trade with each other. However, we are no longer a community, we are a member of a union, one which took the side of the bondholders… We need the EU to go back to being a community which puts people before bankers.”

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy quipped he wasn’t in Charleville representing ISIS, a reference to remarks by Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan, who last week told the Dáil that water charge protests, in which Mr Murphy took part, put Ireland in danger of “potentially an ISIS situation”.

Mr Murphy emphasised that he considers the EU to be a foe for the “99%” in Ireland and Europe, meaning those outside a tiny wealthy minority.

“Our friends right across Europe are the 99%. I think the task in terms of changing Europe, or building a Europe that works for the millions rather than the millionaires, is to reach out to those who are friends, and have a co-ordinated battle on things like water charges, banking debt, and what kind of society we want.”

A recording of the debate will air tonight on TV3.


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