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Address by H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament (Continued)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 777 No. 2

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  11 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

Thus, personally, I believe that the Irish programme should be adjusted before the end of the year along the lines of the June European Council conclusions.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz: The biggest risk for Europe is the lack of mutual trust. How can we regain the confidence of our citizens if the highest European body, the European Council, which consists of Heads of State and Government, is not reliable? We will never regain the trust of our citizens if we do not stick to our promises.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz: After all, Ireland got into trouble because it took over the debt of its banking system, a banking system which allowed some banks to engage in unethical financial transactions based on greed combined with irresponsible lending practices.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz: Irish taxpayers are now paying the bankers' bills to stop a domino effect that could have dragged the whole European banking system down. Therefore, solidarity with Ireland is to give something back. You took the burden on your shoulders to avoid the crash of the systems of other countries, including my country. Therefore, I find the 27% German participation in the package for Ireland is to give solidarity back to the country that showed solidarity with us.

The economic crisis has come at a tremendous human cost. Hundreds of thousands have become unemployed, poverty is growing, many families had to leave their homes because they could no longer pay their mortgages and emigration numbers are on the rise again. When young people leave, it is a loss for both family and country. Still, despite all the hard work, despite the over-accomplishing of set targets, despite the huge sacrifices made by the people, Ireland has still to get back on its feet completely. To me, this shows that the recipe is not fully working. Yes, sustainable budgets are important, but with cuts alone no economy can recover.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz: There is more to be done. The first lesson from the crisis is that we need a robust supervisory system for banks to ensure that what happened in Ireland and elsewhere will never happen again. After all, it was the banks which gambled and lost on property loans. It was the banks which had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. Two years ago, the EU established European supervisory authorities. The European Parliament had pushed for more integrated and intrusive supervision of banks, insurance and financial markets. The member states first refused our requests, only to come back to our ideas this year in June. Two years were lost in the process. Now, the project is back on the table. That is good news. Work is ongoing and member states seem to already disagree. We parliamentarians will do our utmost to set up a solid, transparent pan-European supervision of banks because we believe this is in the interest of our citizens, but we will not do it at any costs. We want a supervision of banks that works and can, at a later stage, be extended to insurance, pension funds and financial markets and also be extended from the eurozone to all EU countries.

Ordinary hard-working people cannot be asked to shoulder the follow-up costs of this crisis alone. The European Parliament with an overwhelming majority believes that the financial markets have to deliver now and they have to contribute to the follow-up costs of the crisis with a financial transaction tax. In the view of the European Parliament, it is simply a matter of moral decency and social justice. I know the reluctance of Ireland, but those who wish to have a financial transaction tax should not be prevented from implementing it on the basis of enhanced co-operation.

The second lesson from the crisis is that credit-fuelled booms are simply not sustainable. Financial crises, time and again, show similar characteristics: cheap money, excessive debt, speculative bubbles with overvalued assets and so-called innovative products on the financial markets. In my eyes this is fantasy football. One of the them, credit-default swaps, was referred to by Warren Buffet as a "weapon of mass destruction", leading to irrational exuberance that tips over into panic when the first mortgage payments are not met. Time and again we are told that this crisis was an accident and completely unpredictable. Yet, they keep happening, and at regular intervals.

To protect ourselves from the next crisis, the European Parliament believes that we have to get tough financial market regulation with transparency as its core principle into place, decrease macro-economic imbalances and return to growth based on the real economies. Ireland is well-placed. Ireland's growth in recent years has been based on the high-skill, high-technology sector. Renewed growth will come from jobs in industries of the future. With its well-educated workforce and functioning administration and its intact business and social model, I am convinced that Ireland will succeed in the long term.

The third lesson from the crisis is that we need a growth pact to boost the economy and create jobs, in Ireland and in Europe. The European Parliament believes that a more balanced approach is needed - "Yes" to sustainable budgets but also "Yes" to growth initiatives. The European Council is called upon not only to talk the talk, but to walk the walk. It promised a growth initiative. It now has to deliver a growth initiative. That is also a question of credibility. Fiscal stability is necessary, but it needs to be backed up by other measures as well.

It is the conviction of the European Parliament that the EU budget supports growth and that it is an investment vehicle. Calls for cuts in the EU budget may be popular. They sound wonderful but they are irresponsible. The EU budget is not money for Brussels. The EU budget is money for the people of Europe. It is a means of boosting the economy, one we need more than ever at a time of crisis, to create growth and jobs. In areas like research and development, it provides Europe-wide scale from which individual EU countries like Ireland all benefit.

Ireland is living proof that the EU budget is a tool to make the lives of people better. Over the last years Ireland received €30 billion net from the EU. Ireland used this money wisely, maximizing the impact of receipts from the Structural Funds to accelerate development and modernisation. Success stories like Ireland will no longer happen if the EU budget is slashed. Vital areas for Ireland, like agriculture, would also suffer. That is why in the negotiations with the Heads of Government the European Parliament is fighting for a proper budget, for the people of Europe.

The Taoiseach mentioned the role of the Parliament. We will meet more often in the next weeks. I am fighting for an ambitious budget. Not far from here, in the capital of another island member of the European Union, people are thinking of cutting the European budget in a way I will never accept.

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