Ireland wants more of EU rescue fund says Micheál Martin

Ireland wants more of EU rescue fund says Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives at the EU summit in Brussels. Picture: John Thus, Pool Photo via AP

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said Ireland wants more of the €750 billion EU rescue fund but said Ireland will contribute to it as well.

Speaking in Brussels as he attended his first EU Summit as Taoiseach, Mr Martin said further more consideration is required before he can accept the proposal.

He was speaking as EU leaders met on Friday to discuss plans for an unprecedented €1.85 trillion EU budget and recovery fund. 

Leaders were wearing masks as the summit got under way, with the usual hugs, handshakes and kisses replaced by friendly nods and elbow bumps.

Mr Martin said Ireland will make contributions to the the €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund.

The Taoiseach said Europe needs to give far more detailed consideration to other proposals including, for example, a digital tax. 

"The full implications of that at a time of such unprecedented economic upheaval needs to be thoroughly examined until someone commits to that," he said. 

"We will not support that at this meeting, as essentially we need to know the consequences of such measures."

He added that, because Europe has taken such a hit economically, "we do not want to do anything that would create further hits or further unintended consequences".

EU leaders will spend at least 48 hours attempting to reach agreement on a €750bn Covid-19 recovery fund, as well as the next seven-year budget.

French President Emmanuel Macron led the early negotiations, arriving in Brussels on Thursday and using the the pre-summit hours to meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. He is a stringent budget hardliner and considered one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a deal at the two-day meeting.

Mr Rutte said, "I am not optimistic but you never know. Nobody wants another meeting." 

Mr Macron underscored the importance of the challenge. 

"The coming hours will be absolutely decisive. It is our project Europe that is at stake," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on her arrival, "The differences are still very, very big and so I can't predict whether we will achieve a result this time. So I expect very, very difficult negotiations." 

Mrs Merkel, who is in her last term and has her political legacy at stake, has already got Germany to agree to join in a common debt programme to alleviate the economic suffering in mostly southern and eastern member states. 

She has also agreed to include grants and not just loans in the recovery package, to avoid overburdening member states with high debt already.

"The crisis brought about by this pandemic, with all of its economic and social consequences, is the most severe we have had to face since the Second World War," European Council president and summit host Charles Michel said.

The urgency is such that leaders have ended a string of coronavirus-enforced video conference summits and are meeting in person for the first time since the pandemic began.

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