Britain joins euro talks focused on Irish loan rates

28th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's finance minister George Osborne joined emergency talks with euro currency partners on Sunday to finalise an 85-billion-euro Irish bailout amid anger in Dublin at high interest rates being imposed from Brussels.

"We have all come here on a Sunday to sort this out and in order to get some stability," Osborne said on arrival for talks between the 16 euro currency partners plus Britain, Denmark and Sweden, each of whom have offered to contribute bilateral loans.

"It's in the whole of Europe's interests that we bring this matter to a close, get some stability and get our economies moving," Osborne said, referring to market pressure on other heavily-indebted euro nations like Portugal and Spain.

Weekend media reports suggested Ireland might be charged 6.7 percent interest over nine years, significantly more than the 5.2 percent rate charged to Greece on its three-year programme and "simply unacceptable," according to Irish Fine Gael opposition figure Brian Hayes.

Asked directly if the rates were fixed or had still to be settled between ministers, Osborne replied: "We are going to discuss the details of the whole package today. I think we're going to make good progress."

Agreement in principle was reached at international negotiations in Dublin on the package, from which 35 billion euros would go to Ireland's shattered banking sector, a diplomat close to the negotiations said earlier.

The deal comes a day after mass street protests in Dublin against the Irish government's austerity cutbacks, and with a poll showing a majority of Irish people think the country should default on its debts rather than succumb to prohibitive conditions.

It is Europe's second bailout this year, after the 110-billion-euro aid granted to Greece in May, and experts are predicting more to come in Portugal, Spain and elsewhere despite politicians' denials.

Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado, also present at the talks despite a 90-minute delay for Ireland's Brian Lenihan due to the big freeze across much of Europe, said she was in Brussels "only to speak about Ireland" amid questions about market pressure on Madrid.

© 2010 AFP

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