Carthy on future of Eurozone: ‘We won’t trade rights for crumbs from the table’

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy tonight slammed the proposals for reform of the Eurozone contained in the European Commission’s ‘“reflection paper” on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Addressing MEPs during a debate on the reflection paper in Strasbourg this evening, Carthy said:

“There is one positive element of this reflection paper – the Commission finally admits that the status quo, and the divergence it has led to, is unsustainable and has to change.

“But the proposals to deepen the EMU entirely fail to address the problems caused by the structural flaws of the euro, which are becoming clearer and clearer and are now acknowledged by mainstream economists.

“The plans to deepen the EMU are based on enshrining permanent austerity and the dubious economic model of export-led growth.

“The German current account surplus is the cause of existing debt crises in the Eurozone and it will be the cause of future crises. If one country is constantly exporting more than it imports, other countries – in our case, the EU peripheral countries – will have to import more than they export.

“But while the EU’s ‘rules’ set a limit for current account balances of plus-six per cent of GDP, no sanctions have been imposed against Berlin despite the fact Germany has exceeded this limit for 21 consecutive quarters and for 31 out of 40 quarters since the start of 2007.

“In typical Commission fashion, a European Unemployment Insurance Scheme is dangled in this reflection paper to gain public support – while the trade-off is the ‘harmonisation’ of labour relations and anti-worker reforms.

“As for the proposed ‘investment scheme’, it is contradictory nonsense to create a scheme to protect investment during downturns while insisting on keeping the Fiscal Compact straitjacket in place.”

Carthy, a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, continued: “These measures won’t solve the euro’s structural problems, and they demand trade-offs in rights, democracy and popular sovereignty.

“I don’t oppose transfers to correct imbalances – but I will definitely oppose them if they are conditional. Social rights cannot be dependent on economic performance or a state’s following of the fiscal rules. Rights are rights.

“We will not fall for the trap of surrendering more ground on democratic rights in exchange for these crumbs from the table.

“We need a real public investment plan to stimulate growth. We need effective sanctions against current account surpluses; for investment to be excluded from the fiscal rules; and to reject the Fiscal Compact being enshrined in the Treaties at the end of this year.”

Future of farming and agrifood in the North hangs in the balance as a result of Brexit

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Matt Carthy, speaking in Fermanagh at the launch of the party’s document on Farming and Brexit has said the survival of farming and agri-food in the North is hanging in the balance as a result of Brexit.

Matt Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:

“Brexit will be a disaster for the people of this island and in particular those involved in farming and agri-food.

“The DUP has serious questions to answer for supporting the Tories and putting our rural communities in such a position. Agriculture faces three key challenges as a result of Brexit:

· Major loss of funding – £236 million a year – an average of £10,184 per farm as well the loss of £186 million from the Rural Development Programme.

· Costly barriers – Irish agriculture operates in a highly integrated manner with many sectors completely all-island in nature. Barriers including tariffs, origin checks, more paperwork, physical border checks and two different regulatory regimes will cause serious disruption.

· Vulnerability to cheap imports as the Tories pursue trade deals which reflect their needs and not those of producers in the north.

“There is also uncertainty as to the future status of the many thousands of EU nationals who are a critical part of the workforce in the agri-food sector in the North.

“We can avoid all of this and continue to grow our farming communities if we achieve designated special status for the North within the EU and negotiate a free and fair trade deal with equivalence of standards in terms of food safety, traceability, animal health and welfare.

“This will ensure continued access to essential markets and CAP farm payments and that country-of-origin labelling take account of the fact that a large number of animals are reared on one part of the island and slaughtered on the other, and another portion of products travel across the border for process.

“There are a range of additional measures which we believe could also assist farming communities deal with the negative impact of Brexit including extending State Aid limits to protect sectors affected by currency fluctuations, the North being able to participate in the EUs quality schemes and a Mutual Recognition Agreement to allow products approved by an agency in one state to be sold in the other without additional testing.

“There is long standing recognition at EU level of the special and unique circumstances that exist in Ireland and given the different membership and associate membership models that already operate within the EU, it is possible to find a solution for Ireland.

“The next step is for all of this to be part of the negotiations when they begin in June.”

Noonan to be called before EU inquiry into tax avoidance

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has announced that outgoing Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan is to be called to appear before a hearing of the European Parliament’s Panama Papers inquiry committee (PANA). The mandate of the inquiry is broader than the Panama Papers leak itself and is to examine contravention or maladministration of EU law in money-laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance.

In an email to PANA political group coordinators this afternoon, it was confirmed that at a hearing of a selection of finance ministers to be held on July 10-11, the ministers to be requested to appear are from Ireland, Germany, Romania, Italy and Estonia (in Estonia’s capacity as holding the incoming Council presidency). Carthy is now the coordinator for GUE/NGL on the PANA inquiry committee.

Speaking today, Carthy said: “I welcome the decision by the PANA committee to invite Minister Noonan to address the Panama Papers inquiry committee, a proposal I made at the beginning of the inquiry’s mandate. I urge the Minister to respond positively to the request and to engage with the committee.

“While the Irish government has taken limited steps in the last budget to address some of the problems identified by the Panama Papers leak, which I have supported, the mandate of the PANA inquiry is also to examine cases of tax avoidance facilitated by EU Member States, which was my focus in making this proposal.

“Unfortunately, the Irish state has been identified as a corporate tax haven by numerous reputable academic and development agencies. In December Oxfam identified Ireland as the sixth worst corporate tax haven in the world, following a report in October last year by US-based Citizens for Tax Justice which also cited the Irish state as being the sixth worst tax haven globally for Fortune 500 companies.

“An academic study commissioned by the PANA inquiry itself, which was published this year, identifies Ireland as one of the top conduit offshore centres in the world – which means that while multinationals may not hold all their profits in the Irish state, they are allowed to use Ireland to divert their profits to sink offshore centres such as Bermuda.

“Leaked notes from EU Council tax discussions in September last year showed the Irish government opposing the use of a ‘base erosion test’ to assesses to what extent company ownership correlates with a corporation’s presence in a state – one of many initiatives aimed at tackling tax avoidance opposed by the Irish government in the Council. The government’s appeal against the Commission’s verdict in the Apple case has caused further damage to Ireland’s reputation on corporate tax.

“I hope we can examine some of these issues before the inquiry hearing in July.

“The Irish government needs to respond to domestic and international pressure to change its tax-haven strategy – a strategy which is unsustainable, unjust and damaging to the Irish people, our reputation and our economy.” ENDS

Sinn Féin leadership bring Brexit concerns to European Parliament Carthy insists Good Friday Agreement must be protected in negotiations

Matt Carthy and his colleague Sinn Féin MEPs this week hosted their party’s Deputy Leader, Mary Lou McDonald, and Leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Sinn Féin leaders met senior EU Officials to make the case for the North of Ireland to be designated special status within the European Union and for the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety to be prioritised during Brexit negotiations.

Matt Carthy said:

“It was an important opportunity for us to have Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill on a two-day visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to engage directly with EU leaders on Brexit.

“This forms part of Sinn Féin’s diplomatic offensive to build support for the case for the North to have designated special status within the EU. The visit helped reinforce the arguments that I and my fellow Sinn Féin MEPs have been making over several months.

“There is a clear appreciation of the danger posed to Ireland by Brexit. In fact I would argue that many key EU figures have a better understanding of the threats posed by any hardening of the Irish border than any British politician.

“Mary Lou and Michelle again set out the party’s case for the North to have designated special status.

“Sinn Féin has been clear that the Irish Government must represent the entire island of Ireland in Europe.

“Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are incompatible.

“Sinn Féin has now received assurances from the EU that the Irish peace process and the Good Friday will be protected in its entirety. The best way of doing this is through the delivery of a special status for the north. The Irish government must demand this as mandated by the majority in the Dáil.
“We value the support we have received from political colleagues across Europe so far and we will continue to press Ireland’s case.”

EU Court judgement on trade deal confirms that Irish referendum is required – Carthy

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed todays European Court of Justice decision relating to the competencies of the Commission in ratifying Free Trade Agreements. The court judgement will have implications for an EU-UK post Brexit trade agreement and certainly reinforces the position that a referendum will be required in Ireland before the government can sign up to the final agreement on the controversial EU-Canada CETA trade deal.

Speaking from Strasbourg Matt Carthy said:

“This judgement, which took the EU-Singapore FTA as a test case, states that these new agreements can only be concluded by the EU and Member States acting together. Crucially it states that the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States cannot be established without the Member States consent. This reinforces the legal opinion I have received that outlines that a constitutional referendum will be required on the recently concluded EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA) due to the inclusion of the anti-democratic Investment Court proposal.

“One of the reasons Sinn Féin campaigned against the Lisbon treaty was due to the included expansion of the scope of the EU’s competence over external trade policy to include not only trade in goods, but also trade in services, intellectual property and foreign direct investment. We correctly predicted that the commission would use these increased powers to pursue a regressive, dangerous trade agenda. In fact, this judgement proves that they gone even further than their competencies allowed.

“The judgement categorically proves that the Commission is not competent to conclude free trade deals like TTIP and CETA on its own. It must act jointly with national parliaments and governments, giving them a much increased role in the process.

“This could prove significant for Brexit negotiations going forward. Talks of a future EU-UK Free Trade Agreement will now be subject to approval by all EU Member States. Parts of the Agreement that previously would have been agreed solely by the European Commission, will now have to be approved by national parliaments including the Dáil.

“This will give an increased scope for participation by the Irish Government and will hopefully ensure a more robust defence of Irish interests particularly in relation to the position of the north.

“The clear delineation of competences will mean a smaller mandate for the Commission on topics negotiated in secret. If the commission adheres to the findings of this judgement it would mean topics such as dispute settlement being taken out and put in separate agreements. Should TTIP (EU-US trade deal) negotiations restart, as the Commission and corporate lobbyists are heavily pushing for, this should radically change the way negotiations are conducted.

“As an immediate step the Irish Government must now immediately review its position on a referendum on the Canadian-EU Trade Agreement and specifically the inclusion of an Investment Court that would allow corporations sue governments for enacting progressive legislation, if it impacts on profits. All the evidence suggests that a referendum is required. The government shouldn’t have to be brought to court themselves in order for that referendum to be held.”

Westport meeting hears of Threat to Rural Post Offices

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy addressed a public meeting in in Westport on Friday, 5th May on the threat now posed to the future of rural post offices.

The meeting in Woods Hotel was also addressed by Mayo Senator Rose Conway Walsh and a speaker from the Postmasters Union.

Carthy told the Westport crowd:

“Successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil-led Governments have closed local post offices across the country and cut back drastically on funding to An Post. The last government allowed the closure of 198 post offices across the state.

“Meanwhile the decision of the Department of Social Protection to move to electronic transfers of social welfare and pension payments has also hit the post office network badly.

“It was revealed in March that many more closures are on the way. Communities across Ireland must resist this latest attack.

“Sinn Féin wants the retention by post offices of all existing services such as social welfare payments.

“We also want to see the expansion of services available at the Post offices including motor tax renewals, local authority payments, business rates, rents, and other Government payment services.

“With many bank offices closing in rural Ireland, An Post should also be allowed to provide more financial services to citizens.”

“Sinn Féin is campaigning to retain local postal services across Ireland and for the use of the post office network to administer a range of financial services, to help ensure its viability.

“Attacks on our post offices have not only come from the Irish Government. They have also come in the form of the EU Postal Services Directive which prevents governments from adequately subsidising this essential public service.

“The Directive means that all EU Member States must inflict aggressive competition from private companies on their post office network.

“My fellow Sinn Fein MEPs and I have strongly opposed this disastrous measure while Irish government representatives and Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Independent MEPs have supported it.

“The EU Postal Services Directive remains a key threat to the long term survival of Ireland’s rural post office network and all Irish MEPs, from all parties and none, must work to Repeal it. The EU must allow Member States to protect their postal services.”

At Friday’s meeting – Tara Bleeks, Matt Carthy MEP, Senator Rose Conway Walsh, Paddy McCann of the Postmasters’ Union, Cllr Gerry Murray and Cllr Teresa Whelan

EU must change direction or risk disintegration

A shipping clerk on the quays of Antwerp exposed the reality that King Leopold’s ‘Belgian’ Congo – a supposedly benevolent empire built by a man lauded by anti-slavery groups – was actually a brutal colony built on slavery.

There are figures in today’s Brussels intent on building a new empire. They too use benevolent language to disguise a dangerous truth.

After the back-slapping of the recent Treaty of Rome anniversary celebrations, it’s time to take a hard look at the EU, where it is going, how it works and how it has changed.

In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC), ostensibly a free trade organisation.  

Today the EU is a political union where many in key positions – such as EU Commission President Jean Claude Junker and senior MEP and former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt – seek a federal state with tax raising powers and an EU army.  

For too long, we in Ireland have ignored the drift towards an EU Superstate and accepted as fact, claims that the EU always acts in the best interest of citizens.

We are told that to criticise any EU policy is to be ‘anti-European’. But we need to move past the idea that you are either for or against Europe. We need to discuss the EU as it is today rather than harking back to the EEC’s role in social issues here in the 1970s.

Since my election as MEP, I have been struck by the extent to which many at senior levels within the EU are committed to creating a Federal European superstate.

I have also been struck by the huge level of corporate lobbying in Brussels that would make a Washington insider blush.

There are 30,000 lobbyists in Brussels alone with lobbyists estimated to impact on over 70% of legislation.

The Brussels elite is deeply interconnected with corporate and financial interests.

ECB President Mario Draghi came to Brussels from Goldman Sachs, while former EU Commission President Jose Manual Barroso went straight from Brussels to work for Goldman Sachs.  

The European Ombudsman has re-opened an inquiry into Mario Draghi’s membership of the Group of Thirty, a body that includes executives from several senior private banks.

Today’s EU is wedded to neoliberal policies which even many within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now admit are flawed.

These have created widespread hardship as austerity, deregulation and privatisation undermine the social function of states and the rights of workers.

Patients are dying in Greece as the public health system disintegrates under the unbearable burden of EU-imposed austerity.

Increasingly, people across Europe are uncomfortable with the EU’s direction. This is manifested in the growth of far right parties who exploit people’s real concerns regarding the direction of the EU.

Such groups fill a gap created by the failure of social democratic parties to defend the rights of nation states and their citizens.

The European federal project was clearly rejected when people in France and the Netherlands voted down the proposed EU constitution in 2004.

The response of the EU establishment was to ignore democracy and reframe the constitution into a Lisbon Treaty which wasn’t put to electorates – other than in Ireland – and we know how that went!

Since then, the chasm between how the average citizen perceives the EU and the plans of the proponents of further integration have widened.

More and more people struggling in low paid, precarious work with increasingly privatised public services and declining social protections are alienated from the European Union.

The arrogance of the EU elite was starkly exposed when the head of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem recently dismissed the hardships of peripheral states – brought on by flaws within the common currency – as like a man who has spent all his money on “women and drink” and should not be bailed out.    

Some assumed that Brexit would prompt a much needed re-think in Brussels regarding the push for further integration. But it now appears it is prompting some to demand an acceleration of this process.

Federalists see Brexit as an opportunity to reform the EU, in the words of Guy Verhofstadt, “in the model of the American federal government.”

Verhofstadt has also call for a defence where “The soldiers of the European Army will wear the same uniform with the same EU insignia”.  

Irish voters, concerned at this, should be aware that Verhofstadt is the leader of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe to which Fianna Fáil is aligned.

Meanwhile, Mario Monti, Chairman of the EU High Level Group on Own Resources, is bringing forward proposals to enable the EU to directly raise tax revenue.

Like Verhofstadt, Monti is a member of the Spinelli Group, set up to pursue EU federalisation.  

The recent election of Antonio Tajani, a close ally of Silvio Berlusconi
who, as Commissioner for Industry, ignored warnings about what became the Volkswagen emissions scandal, reinforces the sense that something is rotten at the EU’s core.

Some of Sinn Féin’s political opponents have sought to portray our opposition to Brexit as a change in policy from our previous opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. It is not.

The Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for Ireland.  Brexit is also bad for Ireland. Sinn Féin opposed both and we are to the forefront of the campaign to minimise the negative implications of Brexit.

We have demanded special status for the North of Ireland within the EU, reflecting the democratic wishes of the people there.

Fine Gael, like their allies in Brussels, see more-EU, more-federalism and less democracy as the answer to everything.

But the people of Ireland, and indeed of Europe, don’t want an EU Superstate.

Sinn Féin and the progressive left across Europe seek a different Europe and a change of direction.

Powers will have to be returned to states. Brussels will have to be cleaned up. The federalists will have to be reigned in.
The European Union must become a cooperative union of nation states committed to working together on issues such as climate change, migration, trade and using our common strengths to improve the lives of citizens. If it does not, EU disintegration becomes a real possibility.

*Matt Carthy is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee and Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee

Kenny talks CETA in Canada before Dáil has even discussed it

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for preparing to discuss and promote the controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Free Trade Agreement (CETA) on a visit to Canada next week while the issue hasn’t even been discussed in the Dáil.

Matt Carthy said:

“The Taoiseach is visiting Canada next week where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss and promote the highly controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  This deal has raised serious concerns among many citzens, particularly farmers, workers and small & medium indigenous companies.

“Despite these concerns the government have signed off on the provisional application of the deal at EU level disregarding the fact that it must be agreed by all national parliaments including the Dáil.  The Dáil has not yet voted on this deal, amazingly it hasn’t even debated it.  In actual fact the only vote in the Oireachtas was a Seanad resolution calling on the government NOT to ratify the deal.

“Many people will therefore find it objectionable that Enda Kenny is willing to discuss and promote this dangerous trade deal with the Canadian Prime Minister but not with fellow TDs in the Dáil, several of whom have expressed deep and well founded concerns about its implications.

“It is my firm belief, based on legal advice I have received, that under the Irish Constitution final ratification of CETA requires a referendum.  This is because of the inclusion within the deal of an Investment Court that would have powers to fine governments for enacting legislation that impact on the profits of corporations.  I suspect that there would be little public appetite for such a scenario.

“The Government has recently denied the Dáil a debate on CETA, a decision which exposed Fine Gael’s complete disregard for the Irish Constitution, the justice system, as well as contempt for the Dáil itself and the people of Ireland.

“As is his style, it appears that Mr Kenny would rather talk to foreign leaders about matters which directly concern Irish citizens than make himself or his Government accountable to the Dáil.  This is unacceptable.”

Ring must make statement on resignation of Western Development Commission Chairperson

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has expressed deep alarm at what he said is a “damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general”, provided by the Chairperson of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness has asked Minister of State for Regional Economic Development, Michael Ring not to reappoint him, citing a list of major criticism of how the Commission has been ignored by Government.

The MEP has called on Michael Ring to make a statement on the issue immediately.

Matt Carthy said:

“The Chairperson of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness has written to Minister Michael Ring asking him not to consider him for reappointment.

“He says he has taken this action because he believes strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development nor is there any worthwhile plan to redress rural decline.

“Criticisms made by Mr McGuinness of the manner in which the WDC has been treated by Government are deeply alarming.

“Mr McGuinness says that the the Minister’s Department has never engaged with him on what the WDC was doing or whether it could achieve more.

“Examples provided by Mr McGuinness of of the lack of interest in the Commission’s work include:

  • The commission was left without a board for over three months in 2014 and presently does not have a board since 20th February of this year.
  • The position of CEO is vacant for almost three years despite the board’s efforts to have it filled.
  • An allocation of €2m in 2015 to develop a pilot Strategic Regional Development Office was appropriated (possibly mistakenly) as capital expenditure.  The proposal did not need and could not use capital expenditure. Yet over 18 months of representations has failed to have the funds transferred to current expenditure.  As a result, no progress has been made on an exciting initiative.
  • The present Programme for Government contains a line committing ‘an enhanced role for the Western Development Commission’. In spite of persistent enquiries at political and administrative levels, the board has not been told what exactly the ‘enhanced role’ means or involves.
  • A delay of at least six months work on the proposed Atlantic Economic Corridor through setting up yet another organisation to progress the proposal, despite the fact that  this project could easily have been led by the WDC.

“The WDC is an important element with a good record of achievement but it clear from Mr McGuinness’s revelations that in the Government and Minister Ring have abjectly failed to support its work.

“This is a major scandal and a damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general.  It is just the latest in a long line of evidence of the failure of Fine Gael, like Fianna Fáil before them, to go beyond rhetoric when it comes to rural and regional development.

“Big questions will also now be rightly asked of those so-called ‘Independents’ who claim to champion rural Ireland but yet support this regressive government.

“Minister Michael Ring must make a statement on this immediately and outline what he intends to do to rectify a deeply worrying situation for people in the west of Ireland.”

Westminster election opportunity to build further towards united Ireland

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that Theresa May’s announcement of her intention to call a snap Westminster General Election is further evidence, if it was needed, that the concerns and needs of people in the North of Ireland do not register on the British Government agenda.

He added however, that Irish republicans must seize the opportunity, provided by the election, to further to build political progress towards a referendum on Irish unity.

Matt Carthy said:

“Today’s announcement by the British Prime Minister Teresa May of her intention to call a snap Westminster General Election is further evidence, if it was needed, that the concerns and needs of people in the North of Ireland do not register on the British Government agenda.

“Sinn Féin said at the weekend that the British Government will always put its own interests above any others and, at this time, that means the concerns of a very reactionary Tory Right Wing.

“Brexit has highlighted, in stark terms, the undemocratic, unnatural and unjust nature of Partition.

“Brexit and the recent Assembly election which by saw the end of a permanent unionist political majority, have changed the context of the argument for a United Ireland.

“Despite the narrow political motivation behind the calling of a Westminster election, Irish republicans must seize the opportunity to further to build political progress towards a referendum on Irish unity.

“It is an opportunity to reject the Tory political agenda, to re-assert the North’s vote to remain within the EU, and to advance the cause of a shared inclusive and United Ireland.”