EU leaders to discuss growth ahead of vote

EU leaders will meet on May 23 to discuss ways of boosting economic growth — just eight days before Ireland votes in the fiscal treaty referendum.

It comes as Europe grapples with the election results in Greece and France, which have widely been interpreted as a rejection of the EU’s austerity drive.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday he had urged EU president Herman van Rompuy to hold such a meeting in a phonecall on Sunday.

“This is clearly in Ireland’s interests,” he said.

Were growth initiatives to be flagged in the wake of the informal meeting, it could boost the Government’s chances of securing a yes vote.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny rejected suggestions the meeting was an attempt at “window-dressing” ahead of the poll.

“[Such an interpretation is] cynical and cynicism isn’t going to get us out of this situation,” he said.

While the treaty focuses on tighter budget rules to reduce deficits and debt, French president-elect François Hollande has argued that the EU must do more to spur growth.

He is likely to outline his proposals for growth initiatives at the May 23 meeting in Brussels ahead of the formal leaders’ summit at the end of June, where final agreement would be sought.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the Government to spell out what growth initiatives it would be seeking in the coming weeks.

“We have consistently argued that the fiscal treaty is an essential step for Ireland’s recovery but that it needs much more,” he told the Dáil. “It is important that Europe hold its nerve and keeps on a credible pathway out of this crisis.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the treaty would only ensure further austerity and reiterated his calls for a no vote.

“We have had five austerity budgets under Fianna Fáil and the current Government, with the social consequences for citizens becoming worse and worse,” he said.

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the weekend elections were a “clear rejection of austerity policies” and a sign that Ireland should reject the treaty.

“The peoples of Europe have told their governments that they want to see a jobs creation strategy and an end to high unemployment — not austerity policies designed to save banks and speculators.”

The Workers’ Party launched its campaign for a no vote yesterday, urging voters “not to accept blackmail”. Party president Michael Finnegan said the Government had “resorted to threats and bluster” and that the country needed a change in economic policy.


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