28th May 2023

Europe Day celebrated amid growing criticism of ECB

  • EU flag: anti-EU populism is growing, warns the commission (Photo:

It may be Europe Day, but a new haiku from the bloc's president celebrating the occasion could not mask unease across the Union, with criticism of the partisanship of the European Central Bank growing in Ireland and Greece suffering from yet another credit-rating downgrade.

On 9 May 1950, one of the two main founders of the EU, Robert Schuman, presented his proposal for an organised Europe, known as the "Schuman declaration" - considered to be the birth of the European project.

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Sixty-one years later, European Council President Herman van Rompuy in a prepared video message conceded that the bloc was in a "difficult" period, but offered the 27 states a freshly written poem as a birthday present.

"A corona of stars / Rolling over the deep blue sea / Together forever," the haiku read.

A more frank assessment of the current climate was offered by Ireland's European commissioner, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, in a Europe Day address to the the Irish parliament.

"I am deeply concerned that a broad-brush attack on 'Brussels' is turning legitimate criticism on specific issues, into a populist attack on all institutions and indeed on our place at the heart of Europe," she said.  

"Robust criticism and debate is the life blood of democracy. But when it comes to the vital issue of holding EU institutions to account, facts matter."

She appeared to be responding to sharp criticisms of the European institutions' handling of the Irish economic crisis and in particular the ECB's insistence of full repayment of bank bonds out of the taxpayer's pocket that appeared in the country's newspaper of record, the Irish Times, on the weekend.

Professor Morgan Kelly, a University College Dublin economist whose views are closely watched domestically for his prediction of the collapse of the Irish banking sector well ahead of its coming to pass, argued in a widely read opinion piece that the country should pull out from the EU-IMF-ECB bail-out programme immediately, as it was guaranteeing Irish bankruptcy.

He lashed out at the Frankfurt-based central bank, accusing it of forcing the rescue package on Dublin not to keep the government afloat until it could return to the money markets, but to use the country as an example to frighten Spain into getting serious about reining in its deficit.

On Monday, the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, appeared to endorse criticisms of the ECB, called for "ways in which to improve the bank's accountability", while Micheal Martin, leader of the opposition Fianna Fail party, attacked the bank's "rigid orthodoxies" and said it "does not appear to have the humility required to evolve or the diversity to encourage rigorous debate on policy alternatives. Its defensiveness in the face of criticism serves no positive public purpose."

Elsewhere, further dampening the Europe Day celebrations, credit rating agency S&P slashed Greece's rating from BB- to B and threatened to cut it still further.

The government immediately responded by saying that the decision was unfounded.

"There have been no new negative developments or decisions since the last rating action by the agency just over a month ago and therefore is not justified," said the Greek Finance Ministry in a statement, accusing the firm of basing its assessments on "market rumours and press reports".

European stocks also fell on Monday following suggestions appearing in the German media on Friday that Greece may be considering an exit from the eurozone.

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