[Sinn Fein]

31st December 2001

Unifying symbol of Europe coming together is misleading

Speaking on the eve of the massively hyped launch of the Euro across 12 European member states, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Europe, Alderman Seán MacManus has questioned why the same energy and resources where not put into the many real issues concerning EU citizens, like unemployment, minimum workings hours and equality in healthcare and living and standards. Alderman MacManus said:

``The political manipulation of the single currency as a unifying symbol of a new Europe coming together is misleading. We may have a single currency across most of the EU but in the end it is just that, a symbol, when the reality is far different.

``The problems highlighted in the Laeken Declaration clearly showed an EU out of touch with its citizens. The declaration recognised that EU citizens, "believe that the EU is behaving too bureaucratically. What they expect is more results, better responses to practical issues and not a European Superstate. Citizens are calling for a clear, open, effective and democratically controlled Community".

``The introduction of the euro will do nothing to address any of these very real concerns. In fact it has all to do with the bureaucratic EU super state that EU citizens fear and distrust so much.

``Now as we witness the hype surrounding the launch of euro notes and coins we must also ask why was the same effort and resources that were put into the single currency not put into formulating and implementing a policy of full employment across the EU, or enforcing a common minimum wage across the EU, or a real maximum working week, or an agreed minimum standard of living and healthcare for all EU citizens?

``The first two years of the euro have shown up serious flaws particularly in the `one size fits all policy' being used to set interest rates and inflation targets.  There has been no attempt to recognise the unique situation of smaller economies such as the Irish one where a lack of autonomy in formulating economic policy is clearly hampering the ability of the government to deal with the growing recessionary forces in the island economy.

``There have been at times confused signals from the senior management of the European Central Bank, confusion that had lead to massive negative speculation in the currency. It must also be said that there are no Irish officials among the ECB's senior management, so how do we know there is any consideration of the Irish needs when economic policy is being formulated.

``In terms of the island economy there has been no attempt made in either the 26 or Six Counties to ensure that the introduction of the new currency does not further hamper economic development and integration.

``A single currency for the whole island would be desired by all.  However, the euro is not that currency. It does not devolve power. It takes power away from our elected representatives. We need to be able to set not just interest rates and inflation targets for the island but to be able to plan spending, taxation policy and development strategies. The Stability Pact we are part of as members of the euro curtails all of that. The recent censure of Charlie McCreevy by the EU Commission highlights not just their failure to understand the Irish economic situation but also the failure of the Dublin Government to understand the terms of the agreement they signed on our behalf.

``We need to ensure that the introduction of the euro does not negatively affect business in not just the Six Counties but throughout the border region

``What we really need is an end to the ridiculous situation where Ireland will continue to have two different currencies and two tax systems operated by people who have little or no understanding of how our island economy can best work for the people who live on it.''

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