PositionEuropean Union

Will the reform of the Growth and Stability Pact, carried to the baptismal font in December 1996 in Dublin under the previous Irish Presidency, dominate Eire's sixth Presidency since its accession? Premier Bertie Ahern is anxious it should not. He and his Government were expecting six tranquil months managing EU current affairs, notably applying the recipe of Ireland's economic success to the Lisbon Process. However, they now risk having to deal with legal quarrel before the European Union Court of Justice pitting the Commission against the Council, following the decision by Euro-zone Finance Ministers to circumvent Union monetary rules to satisfy Germany and France.

Dublin could well have done without this bone of contention, particularly since the failure of the Brussels Summit will force it more actively than it would have wished to work to kick-start the suspended dialogue of the Inter-Governmental Conference. There is considerable pressure on Bertie Ahern, notably from Romano Prodi, self-styled spokesmen of the impatient. Out of conviction or tactically, the Commission President, dispelling any doubts, insists that if the Member States fail to agree on a Constitution by the end of the year, then some may inevitably decide to explore ways and means of forging greater political integration within a restricted circle. The Irish Government, like many observers, does not really believe in this pioneer group option floated by the French, Germans and Belgians. Pragmatic, like their British neighbours, the Irish are hard...

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