ANN CAHILL: Brussels Briefing

Get a taste of some of the interesting and quirky happenings in Europe from our Europe correspondent, Ann Cahill.

Cameron’s skewed view on ebola funding

Ireland was having difficulty getting word out that the country was contributing substantially to the fight against ebola at the EU summit.

The Government has given €16m already and Concern, which is active in Sierra Leone, has a €36m programme planned.

But Britain’s David Cameron was showing his electorate why the UK needs to be in the EU. “We have marshalled €1bn from the EU now against ebola — I came here to tell them to pony up”, he told journalists.

The €1bn — more than the total requested by the UN — of course was pledged before he arrived in Belgium, together with more per capita from Ireland than any other country — but that didn’t fit into Cameron’s skewed EU narrative.

How Swede it is

The newly elected Swedish parliament has cleared the final hurdle to allow Ireland repay €18.3bn of its €22.5bn loan to the IMF early since the country can now borrow off the markets for a fraction what it was paying to the IMF.

Ireland has a €600m loan from Sweden and had to waive the usual agreement that says none of the creditors would be given preference, for example, paid early.

While Ireland got the go-ahead from every other EU country last month, it had to wait for Sweden to install a new government, which it did at the start of October.

Cameron fury

British prime minister David Cameron expressed fury over the €2bn budget cut ‘bill’ the UK has received from the EU which, he suggested, came out of the blue.

Apart from the fact that his representatives, and those of all other EU countries, were involved in the process, his House of Lords had been furiously demanding his attention on the budget issue for months. “The process is an almighty mess,” the House of Lords warned in a report just last week, having heard from several MEPs on the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee.

They included Richard Ashworth, a Tory, who said of the treasury: “They will get excited about the sort of headline that will make news in the Daily Mail… but I find it difficult to get them to take the subject seriously.”

European duobowing out

FOND FAREWELLS: EU leaders were saying goodbye to the man who marshalled them over the past five years, Herman Van Rompuy (above), and to the head of the European Commission for the past decade, Jose Manuel Barroso.

They treated the prime ministers to Belgian beer and Portuguese wine during their dinner over which they got to grips with climate change targets.

And they each received a large white china plate signed by all the prime ministers.

Mr Barroso’s plate was inscribed with “Let’s build Europe together” — a plea they frequently made to the PMs, while Mr Van Rompuy’s had one of his famous haiku poems in Flemish — “A wreath of stars rocking the blue sea together forever”.

Cork goes green

Cork is one of 12 European cities competing for the Green Capital award 2017.

The award goes to cities at the cutting edge of environmentally friendly urban living — and is judged on a list of 12 indicators including air quality, green areas, local transport, noise, water management, nature, and biodiversity.

Next June each of the cities will make a presentation to an international jury and the winner will be announced in Bristol, the 2015 Green Capital.

Migrant expulsions

Close to half a million asylum seekers and refugees were ordered out of the EU and home in 2012 with around 178,000 actually leaving.

Frontex — the EU’s border body — returns a small percentage of them, but is heavily used by Ireland, which ‘saves up’ their returnees and deports them with other countries.

For instance, last year 30 Congolese from Ireland, Germany, France, and Belgium were returned.

Now ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, below, is investigating how Frontex respects these migrants’ rights especially those sick or pregnant. The European Commission says there were no violations, but she notes that only half the returns were independently monitored.

Italy’s banks — and ECB site — fail test

The whole world must have been interested in the results of the bank stress tests, despite much of the bad news having been well leaked in the days and weeks leading up to it.

No sooner had the deadline been passed for the ECB to release the results of the stress tests that its website collapsed.

Anybody who wondered why the bank’s president, the Italian Mario Draghi, was not taking the press conference afterwards quickly got their answer — all nine of Italy’s banks failed.


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