‘Positive response’ to second Eurogroup term – Donohoe
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said eurozone finance ministers have agreed that an election to appoint the president of the Eurogroup will take place on 5 December 5, with a deadline of 24 November for prospective candidates to put their names forward.
Mr Donohoe said he was “very privileged” to have received the support of the Irish Government to put his name forward.
Earlier, the minister said he had had a positive response from eurozone finance ministers in his bid to win a second term as President of the Eurogroup.
Speaking as he arrived at the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, Mr Donohoe said he would be explaining to his colleagues how the proposal to have him remain as chair, while also having Michael McGrath attend meetings as Irish minister for finance, would work.
“The process is beginning today,” he said. “I will be explaining to all my colleagues in the Eurogroup in the coming weeks how this proposal would work.”
Eurozone finance ministers are to begin the process of electing a president of the Eurogroup when Mr Donohoe’s term ends in December.
The Government announced on Friday evening that it was nominating Mr Donohoe for a second term, despite Mr McGrath being due to take over the finance portfolio as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.
Fianna Fáil has insisted that as part of the swap arrangement Mr McGrath would take his seat both at Eurogroup meetings, and at the gatherings of all 27 European Union finance ministers, known as Ecofin.
A Government spokesperson said that if he was re-elected Mr Donohoe would carry out his duties as president of the Eurogroup as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Mr Donohoe said: “Initially I have got a positive response to staying on as president of the Eurogroup, but the process only begins today so I have to explain to my colleagues how that would work in detail and explain it to them and answer their questions on it.”
Asked about the downturn in the tech sector and the risks to Ireland, Mr Donohoe said recession was “a risk” but one which faced all economies.
“The Irish economy is as exposed to these trends as any other small open economy that has a large digital or services dimension to it. Every economy is undergoing change at the moment, every economy is undergoing challenges. We’re no different.
“But if I look at where we stand at the moment, we have an economy with a broad set of employers within it, and we have an economy with a high level of growth in it.
“Yes, recession is a risk, yes change in global and economic forecasts can impact on our performance, but all economies at the moment are grappling with these issues.”
Mr Donohoe could in theory be re-elected president since the Public Expenditure and Reform portfolio is an economic one. However, it is unusual for a member state to have two ministers around the Eurogroup table.
The Government has sought legal advice on the issue and it is understood the Government has been told there is no legal impediment to having two ministers attend Eurogroup meetings, although it could be politically tricky.
There is a precedent in that the former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker was president of the Eurogroup and his finance minister also attended.
While Mr Donohoe has been highly praised for his performance as president so far, it is unclear if Ireland having two seats at the table will be acceptable to the other 18 finance ministers, or indeed if another member state might now put forward a candidate to contest the position.
Dutch finance minister Sigrid Kaag has expressed support for Mr Donohoe in securing a second term.
However, she acknowledged that a number of member states were seeking more information on how Ireland would be able to have two ministers around the table once Mr McGrath becomes finance minister.
Arriving for the Eurogroup meeting, Ms Kaas said: “We appreciate the role that Paschal Donohoe has performed so far immensely.
“It’s also important we consider the value of continuity in times of great economic uncertainty and potential crisis, hence his experience, the way he delivers on his role, we value immensely.
“But I’m not going to fast forward on possible other discussions.”
Finnish finance minister Annika Saarikko also expressed her support for Mr Donohoe in his bid for a second term, saying that he has “been very cooperative and a good leader of the group”.
Belgian finance minister Vincent van Peteghem said Mr Donohoe was “the right man in the right place” for the past two and a half years.
He told reporters: “I’m also sure in the coming two and a half years he will also be a good president of the eurogroup. I think it’s important that in very uncertain times as we have today that we have some stability and we have continuity in this position.
“So I fully support his presidency,” he added.
Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the only people interested in Mr Donohoe’s attempt to remain as president of the Eurogroup are in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
He told RTÉ News: “The reality is that the only people interested in this are senior members of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil who are carving out jobs among themselves.”
The TD for Donegal added: “We wish him well, but what people want is not a rotation of Finance Minister but a new government that will seriously tackle the cost of living crisis.”
Meanwhile Labour’s Ged Nash has claimed that Mr Donohoe’s bid to be re-elected as Eurogroup president has “taken up far too much time and political energy.”
“It has proven to be an unwelcome distraction at the top of Government, when all energy should have been focused on tackling the cost of living crisis,” he said.
The Louth deputy added: “While it is welcome that an Irish Minister looks likely to remain at the helm of the Eurogroup, the reality is that this issue couldn’t be further from the day-to-day concerns of ordinary people and businesses.”