Thursday, October 02, 2008

No guarantee for our commitment to the EU

THIS WEEK'S events had given a clear indication of the importance of a strong European Union and the need for Ireland to remain centrally involved by ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said yesterday in Dublin.
There's no way that 'our EU partners' believe a word of that. Not now; not after the Irish government stepped in to bailout/rescue/guarantee/give a pat on the back to the Irish banks this week. I don't know if the government's action violates the letter of the (EU) law, but it sure as heck violates the spirit of the EU.

The Irish government guaranteed the Irish banks, including their operations in other EU states, but not the Irish operations of 'foreign' banks. So, you have the strange situation where those Post Office accounts with the British Post Office are guaranteed by the Irish government (those accounts are with Bank of Ireland), but not accounts in the Irish Post Office because that operation is with Fortis, a Benelux bank.

There also may have been an EU bank eying a low price takeover of one of the Irish banks and had their plans thwarted by the government's action (and the market's reaction). Preventing Ireland's banks from falling into 'foreign' hands is hardly an endorsement of the EU.

I'm not overlooking the fact that rescuing the Irish banks was in the 'national' interest, but it has completely distorted the market. The Irish government may be able to make the case that the guarantee is what should be done across the EU, but that's what they should have done - made the case to 'our EU partners'. They didn't.

They didn't because deep down, when times are tough, the Irish government's commitment to the EU is only skin deep. I'm happy to know that, but then I wish they'd stop with the hypocritical support for the deeper EU commitment that the Lisbon Treaty represents. They don't mean it.