Ireland's finance minister Michael Noonan set out its EU Presidency's economic and financial priorities to the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on Tuesday. He pledged to address all aspects of the banking union proposals, but insisted that sequencing them was crucial. He also said that although reaching a deal on banking supervision in the first half of the Presidency might be optimistic, this would remain his first priority.
Mr Noonan quickly came under fire from MEPs, particularly on how the Presidency was running negotiations on banking supervision and the capital requirements legislation. They warned him that reopening talks on issues already agreed upon under the Cypriot Presidency would set a dangerous precedent. It must be ministers, not bureaucrats, who shoulder responsibility for shying away from political duties such as that of clamping down on bonuses in the finance industry, they added.
In his role as finance minister, Mr Noonan was also asked whether he believed that extending the maturities on Ireland's short-term loans would truly improve the sustainability of the country's debt pile. He was also asked about the social effects of this debt financing. He replied that its effects on society, and particularly jobs, would indeed be the most pressing concern in 2013, not only for Ireland but for the EU as a whole.
MEPs also put questions on the situation in Cyprus, the appointment of the new Eurogroup President without unanimous agreement, the need to tax the financial sector more heavily, and whether stronger growth components should be retrofitted to the "six-pack".
In the chair: Sharon Bowles (ALDE, UK)