Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Stimulating economies and bloggers brains

November 21st, 2008 · 7 Comments · Blogging, European Union, Irish Politics, linkiness

Main meeting room of the European Commission i...    

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Back from Brussels where I took part in a press trip organised by the European Commission representation in Ireland.*

You’ll be reading a lot in the coming days about a Financial Stimulus package proposed by the European Commission after a request for same from the Council of Ministers last month. Details of the package on how the EU intends to save itself and individual member states from ruin were leaked yesterday and work is still going on – it seems it will be announced on Wednesday. However we were given information by the Secretary General of the European Commission, Irish woman Catherine Day, and President Barroso seems to be talking about it also.

The package will be all about the three T’s – ‘Timely, Targeted and Temporary’. It will include proposals for tax cuts, fast tracking of Structural Funds to stimulate growth, and a percentage of GDP (maybe 1% or maybe not) from member states. There will also be consideration of the budget deficit problems that Member states find themselves (a bit of slippage, sliding, etc. but not much more tolerance for that on the Irish side of the house and that’s where the T in Temporary might come in.) Whether cuts, savings or spending already proposed by governments (I’m thinking the ‘subprime’ lending scheme in the budget last month) will be seen to contribute to the member state’s contributions remains to be seen.

Other messages of the day were ‘look at Iceland and the mess they are in’ and ‘Denmark who don’t have the Euro and have high interest rates’. I was aware that there is a lack of discourse in Ireland on the importance of the Euro to Ireland’s future financial stability – though I’m not sure who now will be doing the talking on that and would actually be listened to!

It was very interesting to hear spokesperson after spokesperson talk about the issues presented by Lisbon and Ireland’s non (or not yet) ratification. Lots of talk about the commissioner issue – how Ireland could have a commissioner if we voted yes – Lisbon might allow us to keep the Commissioner whereas when the Nice Treaty kicks in next year it actually decreases/limits the numbers of commissioners.

It might have been more useful to debate if having an Irish Commissioner is really of any use at all – the work of the Permanent Representative’s Office in Brussels seems to be more important in analysing how Irish interests are represented. 

Whilst our visit was taking place Sweden ratified the treaty – so that’s 24 down, Poland about to sign and 2 states left to ratify . I say not yet because it was clear that the Commission expect another vote, a different campaign and a different result.

There are far more pressing issues on the European Commission agenda in the coming months and while they are waiting for Brian Cowen to appear next month before them with the masterplan, time frame etc. there is a lot more going on. Climate Change and the afore mentioned Financial Stimulus/Economic Recovery plans and continuing EU unity on issues such as Georgia are those which take up most time and energy and they are not all waiting with anxiety on the Irish government and electorate to make up their minds again.

However I don’t think that Commission officials really grasp how unpopular/inept the Irish government is at the moment and how Lisbon is probably a non touchable issue in the months ahead. Competency of the Irish government and other actors on the issues and communicating them is something that I know a lot of bloggers have been talking about recently. (See Simon’s great post on the meeting with Margot Wallstrom last week. And thanks to Alexia for pointing out that Commissioner Wallstrom has blogged her thoughts on the visit also.)

We had briefings from spokespersons from the Economic and Finance Directorate, Agriculture, Institutional Communications. Lunch with Charlie McCreevy was jovial and ‘intimate’ and slightly surreal but off the record – actually there was no commentary on Ireland’s current situation financial or EU institutional issues at all. It was food blogger photo heaven but I’m not a food blogger…

The ghost of commissioners past also made an appearance at the beginning of our trip – Padraig Flynn was staying in the same hotel. No chance to ask him about the remaining houses or his thoughts on stimulus, governmental melt down or finance bill issues (such as will he have to pay a 3% levy!).

So that’s the initial impressions, more posts later from the trip including meanderings on explaining the European Union in the light of the the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on ‘How to solve the Lisbon problem’. I see Coir were throwing their rattles out of the pram yesterday – pity I missed it live. I hear the grumpy old men (Cullen, Hook and Dunphy) were also giving their views to the committee also. That committee has provided the most Oireachtas fun in ages – we should find another crisis for a subcommittee to solve! What you mean the banks are in meltdown, job losses through the roof….

* Full disclosure – the trip was paid for by the European Commission. Many thanks to them for arranging it and continuing to think of new media/citizen journalists in broadening the coverage and keeping us informed. Look out for that disclosure in the old media’s coverage…and send me the flying pig while you are at it!

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