Furious Barroso rounds on MEP Joe Higgins

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso erupted in fury today as Socialist MEP Joe Higgins accused Brussels of destroying Irish services and living standards.

Mr Higgins described an EU emergency support fund – used to help bail out the Irish Government to the tune of €85bn – as “nothing more than another tool to cushion major European banks from the consequences of their reckless speculation on the financial markets”.

Mr Higgins, speaking in a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, went on: “It is a mechanism to make working class people throughout Europe pay for the crisis of a broken financial system and a crisis-ridden European capitalism.”

He accused Mr Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy of effectively transferring tens of billions of euros of private bad debts “on to the shoulders of the Irish people”, adding: “Far from being a bail-out, your International Monetary Fund/EU intervention in Ireland is a mechanism to make vassals of Irish taxpayers to the European banks.”

Mr Higgins continued: “You are destroying our services and the living standards of our people.

“Your Financial Stability Mechanism (which needs MEPs’ approval to become a permanent fund in future), is a vicious weapon dictated by the markets, masquerading as something benign. We on the left in Ireland will insist that it goes to a referendum of the Irish people before it is passed.”

A furious Mr Barroso retorted: “To the distinguished member of this Parliament who comes from Ireland, who asked a question suggesting that the problems of Ireland were created by Europe, let me tell you: the problems of Ireland were created by the irresponsible financial behaviour of some Irish institutions, and by the lack of supervision in the Irish market.

“Europe is now part of the solution…It is trying to support Ireland. But it was not Europe that created this fiscally irresponsible situation, and this financially irresponsible behaviour.

“It is important to know where the responsibility lies. This is why it is important that those of us – and this is clearly the majority – who believe in European ideals, are able as much as possible to have a common response.”

Mr Higgins was not the only MEP who upset Mr Barroso today.

After others challenged the EU’s handling so far of the economic crisis, the Commission President responded: “I have heard some nationalistic, prejudiced comments that I am not used to hearing in the European Parliament. They were a minority, but those comments were made, trying to deepen divisions between so-called ’rich’ and so-called ’poor’ Europeans.

“To those who made those comments, I ask: where were you when Europe was financing your farmers after the war to feed your own people?

“Where were you when Europe was financing your infrastructures for development and competitiveness of your countries?

“Where were you when Europe provided the internal market for selling your services and your products?

“Where were you when Europe was the basis for the prosperity and the growth of your countries after the war?

“Only selfish, short-sighted, short-term views can sustain these kind of statements against European unity.

“I think this is a serious problem.”

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