When the weather is bad in Ireland, that is to say when it is bad on a sustained basis, people often muse on the idea of what living on the island would be like if you could tow it a few hundred miles farther south to a warmer, drier, clime.
Not a few might be thinking this week that a tow to the west, amounting to, say, a couple of thousand miles or so, might be a good option given the political and economic turmoil in a Europe that suddenly seems too close for comfort.
Ireland’s present and future, and by this we mean the entire island, is tied tightly to the European Union and that is not going to change. In a few weeks, voters in the Republic will be asked if that tie is to be bound up tighter in economic and fiscal terms.
At this juncture, the outcome of the vote – which is closed to any and all who have been forced to leave the Republic since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger – is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, Irish government leaders are this week staring straight ahead to the May 31 referendum trying not to pay too much attention to events in France, Greece, Holland and next door Britain, where voters gave a thumbs down to the ruling Conservatives in local elections.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was actually in France to witness the election to the presidency of his fellow socialist Francois Hollande. But such is the distinctly topsy-turvy state of European politics that Gilmore and Hollande now find themselves on opposite sides of the argument over the EU fiscal compact and its anticipated effect of imposing tighter fiscal policies on signatory states.
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Mr. Gilmore has emphasized that president-elect Hollande is not opposed to the fiscal treaty so long as a policy for economic growth is tagged on to it. He has expressed support for such a jobs and growth addendum.
“He is not proposing to reopen the treaty – he is talking about adding a growth agenda and that is something that is very much in our space,” said Gilmore in reference to Hollande. But call it what you will, Hollande wants a significant change to the fiscal treaty, whether it’s attached to the inside, or tagged to the outside.
Without it he is opposed to the treaty every bit as much as the man he ousted, Nikolas Sarkozy, was supportive of it. Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU leader who has been calling the austerity shots up until now, is apparently dead set on there being no change to the treaty’s components.
It all makes for an interesting few weeks.
Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Vladimir Putin became his country’s version of Grover Cleveland – well, sort of – over the weekend by once again ascending to the Russian presidency.
By contrast to all this, Obama versus Romney promises to be relatively sane. Where’s that tow rope?