ANN CAHILL: Brussels Briefing

Science versus faith: a Euro conundrum

A third of Irish people believe we depend too much on science and not enough on faith. But that is a lot fewer than our debtor colleagues where up to two thirds would prefer more faith.

In fact the answers to this non sequitur question cleanly divides the EU into the rational western and northern bloc, including France but excluding the Baltics, and the rest.

The Dutch are the most likely to disagree while and Bulgarians are least likely to favour science. But the Irish were four times more likely than the EU average to believe that the Government was doing too much to stimulate an interest in Science — Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, take a bow.

Implant compo

Faulty breast implants that threatened the lives of thousands of women was the joint responsibility of companies in France and Germany, a French court has ruled in a €50m compensation claim.

The manufacturer, PIP which has since gone out of business, and the company in Germany, TUV Rheinland that had certified them for 17 years were ordered to pay compensation to 1,600 women and six distributors who took the action.

Around 300,000 women worldwide were fitted with the implants that contained industrial grade silicon that leaked.

Centralised Ireland

At 90% Ireland has the highest percentage of government staff employed centrally of all 37 OECD countries.

Dispersing government departments all over the country has not fooled those who carried out the survey as Ireland has the most centralised government.

This compares to our EU sister, Germany that has just 10% of civil servants employed in the federal government — the other 90% are in the regional governments and authorities of their 16 lander.

‘Sure we all have debt’

GIGGLE, GIGGLE: Journalists voted Irish politicians the most value and fun in the EU after Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s briefing in Brussels as he prepared to officially tell his eurozone colleagues Ireland was going for a “clean exit”.

A little history, having long fought for our freedom; a little economics, in charge of our own spending.

And his giggles when asked if a debt of €67bn could be regarded as freedom. But perhaps most of all his counter question — “I don’t know how you’re fixed” and to the answer “bad”, more giggles and “sure we all have a little debt”.

Indeed we do Mr Noonan, and so does everyone else, the journalists agreed.

French fight to keep Euwood film breaks

So what is the film capital of the world? Hollywood? Bollywood? No. It’s Euwood.

Last year Europe produced 1,299 feature films — a third more than its US rival and just pipping India. The industry employs more than a million Europeans and availed of tax breaks and subsidies of over €3 billion.

Now under new rules taxpayers money can cover half the costs of a film and require that up to 80% of the budget be spent in the subsidising country — and can fund the total costs of documentaries and non-commercially viable films. The French have been to the forefront in fighting for the European film industry, insisting on excluding it from the trade talks with the US which could ban such straight forward subsidies.

How about an island as credit collateral?

Had the Government decided to look for the precautionary credit line from the EU, they would have had to figure out what to give the Finns as collateral — an island in Clew Bay, a share of fish landings, or money in an escrow account?

The creditor country, full of fiscal rectitude, passed legislation in its parliament insisting that help to feckless debtor countries required more than interest and capital repayment.

As a result it wants a guarantee, much like the bank wants the deeds of a house for a mortgage. It led to long debates for Greece. Would they want a little island in the sun? They ended up getting a complicated insurance.

EU military force inactive since 2007

France and Britain in a rare show of unity decided 15 years ago that the EU needed a structure that could mobilise a credible military force to respond to international crises. This led to the creation of 13 EU Battlegroups deployable within 10 days. Ireland is part of two of the 13, with the British and with the Nordics.

But since the military rapid response tool reached full operational capability on Jan 1, 2007, according to a brief, they have not been deployed, “raising serious doubts about the viability of the overall initiative”.

According to Anna Barcikowska of the EU Institute for Security Studies, countries have lost their appetite to use them possibly because the groups, which are on stand-by on a roster basis, must be funded by their government — a disincentive in times of austerity.


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