The Irish Presidency: Priorities and Pitfalls

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, Brussels Back in June 2004 Bertie Ahern was showered in adulation by his European counterparts. Ireland had just successfully negotiated the mammoth EU Constitution using its storied negotiating skills to reconcile vastly conflicting agendas – big countries versus small ones, voting rights at the Council of Ministers, the size of the European Commission, how to bridge an alarming democratic deficit.

Eurozone: the Great Leap Forward?

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, Brussels For three years eurozone governments lurched from one crisis to the next, improvising with one ad-hoc solution after another, amid a rising tide of austerity-driven recession. However, having for so long taken the road ill-travelled, it may just be that the eurozone is finally confronting the hard choices needed first to save – then to rebuild – the single currency.

Fears for an EU seven-year glitch

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, Brussels This week 27 EU leaders will gather in Brussels to thrash out the next seven-year budget round. While Europe needs to demonstrate to the world it can function in the face of a crisis, a number of pretty unpleasant things may well collide: a possible UK veto, hours of acrimony over money, rich countries pitted against poor ones, reputational damage to the EU on top of the Greek crisis, and the undermining of Ireland’s …

A Bank Debt Deal: The Morning After Optimism

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, Brussels When back in June eurozone leaders hatched a deal on bank debt in the early hours of the morning during a summit in Brussels, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny described it as a “seismic shift”. The breakthrough that would lift the burden of Ireland’s appalling bank debt would off the taxpayers’ shoulders had finally arrived.

Nudging Britain towards the exit: The Rise of Tory Euroscepticism

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, Brussels By any measure the current brand of Tory euroscepticism is more visceral, and poses more of a systemic threat to Britain’s EU membership than at any other time in the past 50 years. Antagonism towards Europe has been building and now it’s coming to a head. By pulling the Tories out of the centre-right European political group, the European People’s Party (EPP), David Cameron signalled he was prepared to submit to that force before …

Money Talks

By RTÉ Europe Correspondent Paul Cunningham It’s budget time in Brussels – drafting a trillion euro financial plan for the years 2014 to 2020. EU leaders want agreement by November, and so decision time looms. The EU budget is of particular importance to Irish ministers this time round.

Spanish budget may offer bailout clues

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, in Madrid Now that the Spanish budget has been presented we should know more about when the government of Mariano Rajoy will move into full bailout mode. The centre-right prime minister has delayed long and hard before seeking a rescue, but the European Commission has warned that it is a dangerous game which could deepen the country’s economic woes, and stop the fragile sense of eurozone optimism in its tracks.

If the ECB is eager to do a deal – what happens next?

By Paul Cunningham, Europe Correspondent, in Nicosia It now appears inevitable that the Government will reach a deal with the European Central Bank on lowering the cost to the taxpayer of the highly-expensive Anglo Irish Bank promissory note scheme. ECB Executive Board member Jorg Asmussen has spoken publicly about how its officials are working under “heavy time pressure” to finalise an agreement. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told journalists in Nicosia that the ECB was “more eager now to move …

Stuttgart seeking Ireland’s IT talent

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Stuttgart Stuttgart may live long in Irish folklore as the place where, in 1988, a certain Ray Houghton put the ball in the English net, but could it become the Promised Land for Irish IT graduates? “I think the Irish would do very well, particularly in this part of Germany,” says Mark Hyland, a graduate from Roscrea who now teaches English to executives at the huge Mercedes Benz production facility outside Stuttgart.

Norway braced for mass killer verdict

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Oslo On a tiny island with 600 people there aren’t too many places to hide. Vegard Groslie Wennesland, a 28-year-old member of the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth wing was lucky enough to find sanctuary in a cabin with around 40 others when Anders Breivik started his murderous assault on scores of teenagers, the youngest victim just 14 years old. “I saw him kill several people,” he recalls just over one year on. “We …