“The prize of going down in history as the government that brought about the end of Eta must be tempting”

The Irish Times‘ Paddy Woodworth reports on the latest developments following ETA’s declaration of a “permanent, general, and internationally verifiable” ceasefire.  From the Irish Times report A document leaked to the Spanish newspaper El País at the weekend appears to confirm that Eta is still locked into the dogma that “armed struggle” will remain an essential element in the pursuit of Basque independence. According to the paper, a resolution passed by the group, following an internal debate after its initial ceasefire declaration … Read more

Euro crisis: “Slowly the public is being softened up for historic change.”

While the euro crisis rumbles on, and with Frau Bundeskanzlerin promising that “We will do what is necessary, everything else will be discussed step by step”, the BBC’s Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, wonders “what democracy in Europe means”… If the eurozone group of countries heads towards fiscal union then a further question will surely follow. Can you have fiscal union without political union? Slowly the public is being softened up for historic change. President Sarkozy was not a lone voice when he … Read more

Irish Government tough on fiscal policy; weak on dishing it out to the banks

P O’Neill with a sharp observation of the Irish version of mañana, or ‘don’t do today, what you can do tomorrow’. Think of those late agriculture, regional development, education and OFMdFM draft budgets, if you’re getting all nordie and smug. But in the maelstrom of the Republic’s economic crisis, the consequences have been catastrophic, not least in the government’s ‘unaggressive’ dealings with the banks… He quotes Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a member of the ECB: “Markets waited and waited and since … Read more

“It was the choice of the successive governments, and their voters…”

In a lengthy interview in the Irish Times senior European Central Bank official, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, makes a point previously noted here.  From the Irish Times article A lean Italian in his mid-50s, Bini Smaghi is a ranking member of the ECB executive board and was a key figure behind the scenes in the drama that saw Ireland seek an EU-IMF bailout two months ago. He is the first senior European official to publicly describe in detail, from the perspective … Read more

Angela Merkel: “We will do what is necessary, everything else will be discussed step by step”

Eastern promises aside – and isn’t there something about beware [metaphorical] Greeks bearing gifts? – Portugal’s visit to those reluctant bond markets is described as “successful” by this Reuters report at the Irish Times –  €1.25 billion raised with the ten year yield kept below 7%. But as the BBC report points out Bond buying by the European Central Bank (ECB) had helped keep the yield below 7%. “Probably the most important thing for the 10-year yield is that the 7% level … Read more

Eastern promises

It would appear that our Asian friends have confidence (and an interest) in the survival of the European project. Japan and China will help fund the European Financial Stability Fund that will be used to bailout European banks,  sorry,  I mean Ireland. With Japan pledging to buy 20% or more of the bonds that will be sold later this month. From Bloomberg – There is a plan for the euro zone to jointly issue a large amount of bonds late … Read more

“the euro crisis had a Christmas break, but it’s back”

With Portugal heading back to an increasingly reluctant bond market, the BBC’s Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, notes that “White knuckles have re-emerged in Brussels and other vulnerable European capitals.” Sometimes in Brussels I detect that the fight is less to save Portugal but more to ring-fence Spain. It’s the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone. If it needed rescuing the funds currently are probably not there. And then awkward questions would have to be asked – including whether Germans, in those … Read more

Bertie Ahern: “If you ask me, my view is you’re better doing it my way…”

Now that the notorious gambler, and former Taoiseach, Bertie ‘Lucky’ Ahern, has confirmed his decision not to contest the next Irish general election he obviously feels freer to be critical of his party colleagues in government.  From the Belfast Telegraph report Mr Ahern, a columnist for the Irish News of The World, told the newspaper Mr Cowen’s administration failed to communicate properly with the public throughout the crisis. He said he carried out daily doorstep interviews with the media when he led … Read more

Draconian press laws in the EU’s new Presidency…

“”Reporting on crime that “doesn’t serve the interest of the democratic public” must be restricted to 20% of the time devoted to news.”” That would be nice wouldn’t it, simply removing the inconvenient news by not reporting it. Believe it or not, that is one of the planks of an authoritarian new media law recently introduced by a European Union country, a country that takes up the EU’s Presidency as of today. And it gets worse. A “media council has been created, … Read more

Euro crisis: “For good or ill, she is perceived to set policy, pace and tone at every turn.”

In the Irish Times Arthur Beesley’s assessment of the “mammoth task” European leaders face in the year ahead is well worth a read.  From the Irish Times article Strain and anxiety were everywhere in 2010. Merkel held the line against easy bailouts but her dogged intransigence on core principles led to accusations that she was making matters worse, not least in Ireland. From the summit room came whispered reports of shouting matches between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and ECB chief … Read more

Twitter Joke Trial and what it means for politics

So Paul Chambers has been granted leave to appeal to the High Court over his Twitter Joke conviction, and the hearing should take place sometime between March and June next year. Just to refresh your memory, the whole farago started when Mr Chambers – commenting on disruption at his local airport – said this on Twitter: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky … Read more

Angela Merkel: “now we need more in common in our economic policies…”

EU leaders met in Brussels last week, for their last summit of 2010, and agreed the text of a “narrow revision” to the Lisbon Treaty – the conclusions of the European Council (16-17 December 2010) [pdf file]. In Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s view, “There isn’t a change of competence or a transfer of competence, so our strong view is that it is compatible with the Constitution.”  That would be without the need for a referendum.  And from the same Irish Times … Read more

“the gulf between the views held by supporters of the three main political parties and Sinn Féin”

Inside the Irish Times Stephen Collins drills down into the data from the survey Brian noted to pick up on an interesting point.  From the Irish Times article When asked if it was better to be part of the European Union the same pattern emerged. Among Fianna Fáil voters 87 per cent said it was better to be in the EU with just 9 per cent saying it was not. Fine Gael and Labour voters gave identical responses, with 77 … Read more

Don’t beat yourselves up over loss of sovereignty. There are compensations

  Asked if they believed that Ireland had surrendered its sovereignty in accepting the bailout, 56 per cent said that it had, while 33 per cent said it had not and 11 per cent had no opinion.  Latest Irish Times poll As Mick and others have discussed , it’s interesting how fashions of sovereignty change. I remember Dev’s grandson Eamonn O Cuiv telling me how Ireland finally won it on joining the Common Market in 1973 (though even if they … Read more

‘Independence’ is reason Cowen cannot pull off the Brown ‘trick’…

If it’s a given that the Irish media aren’t very fond of Fianna Fail, then Harry McGee’s summation of their prospects is as fair a one as I’ve seen in while. Early on he wonders out loud whether Brian Cowen can do a Brown and bring his party back from the brink so many believe he has already dropped off. The analogy is an interesting one, and no doubt will have some appeal to those inside government. And despite the … Read more

The European view on insolvency

The new proposed European Stability Mechanism looks like it will come into force via a change to The Lisbon Treaty, and will avoid facing public vote by referendum. It provides a process for sharing losses with sovereign creditors in the case of national insolvency. (More details on that below). In yesterday’s FT, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an executive at the ECB, made the case against sovereign debt restructuring in the Eurozone. He argues that government debt is a central plank of … Read more

Student finance goes nationalist in a four-way UK split. Can it last?

So devolution looks like producing four different solutions to the problems of student funding, at least in the short term. The latest from Scotland is to charge strangers from the rest of UK so that young Scots can continue to enjoy a no fees regime in their native land. The money follows Welsh students anywhere in the UK, as Dewi celebrates and recommends NI follow. Iain McWhirter may be right, that the SNP may take a political trick with this … Read more

Why referendums should be banned

In the not too-distant, we are going to be offered a referendum to decide which voting system we prefer in the UK and Northern Ireland. This is the equivalent of being offered a trial-by-combat to decide who should be awarded a peace prize. There is little evidence that referendums make a vote fair. Nor are they widely seen as a means of forming good policies. Yet they have gradually slipped into the British constitution in recent years without much discussion … Read more

Olli Rehn: “We are now in the decade of fundamental reforms”

As the Irish Times notes,  EU economics and monetary affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn has joined the head of the IMF in calling for “well coordinated action to safeguard stability in the euro area”.  From the Irish Times Mr Rehn told the conference [in Athens] that the euro area was determined to agree thorough reform to set up a new system of economic governance. “We will not stop until we have accomplished our mission. We are now in the decade of fundamental reforms,” … Read more

“Hollow nationalist rhetoric will not do.”

In the Belfast Telegraph Sinn Féin MLA Mitchel McLaughlin responds to Ed Curran’s question on the cost of a united Ireland with some hollow nationalist rhetoric, and indulges in some fantasy economics. An analysis of the expenditure by ‘regions’ along with a series of estimates of the revenues from the regions by Oxford Economics shines some light on the actual subvention by the British Exchequer. The main findings demonstrate that total ‘identifiable expenditure’ for the North was £14.1bn in 2004/05. This is … Read more