Ireland raises economic hopes on EU presidency

Ireland raises economic hopes on EU presidency

DUBLIN - Agence France-Presse
Bailed-out Ireland hopes to use the momentum of its presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2013 to push through measures to boost growth and create jobs.

Ireland is the first country to take on the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-nation bloc while being propped up by money from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

A limited recovery is underway, but with austerity measures still hitting ordinary people hard, Dublin is clear about its priorities.

“What we are doing during our presidency is advancing a theme to advance measures that promote jobs and growth,” the minister for foreign affairs and trade, Eamon Gilmore, told AFP.

“And that just isn’t a rhetorical statement. There are a number of key legislative measures that we attend to advance.” In November 2010, the one-time “Celtic Tiger” was forced to accept a 85-billion-euro ($112 billion) bailout programme following a banking crisis and one of the worst property crashes of all time.

But since then, Ireland has been praised as the “poster boy” of the financial crisis for the way
it has swallowed the bitter medicine of austerity -- unlike fellow bailed-out EU countries Greece and Portugal.
Now Dublin aims to be the first eurozone country to emerge from an EU-IMF program.

It has even found sponsors to help deliver what it calls a “cost-effective presidency”, signing up car giant Audi among other partners in deals worth 1.4 million euros. Ireland’s economy is showing some signs of life, with official figures this month showing it grew 0.4 percent in the second quarter of this year and 0.2 percent in the third quarter.