Irish papers in Germany not final budget plans: EU

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Documents about Ireland's possible budget plans that turned up in the German parliament, angering the Irish opposition, were not final, the European Commission office in Dublin said on Friday.

The fact that the documents, which contained proposals for a hike in sales tax to 23 percent, were studied by a German parliamentary budget committee raised protests from opposition parties in Dublin and embarrassed the government.

The leader of the main opposition Fianna Fail party, Micheal Martin, demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Irish parliament on Friday.

Martin said the situation was "unprecedented" and defied belief.

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty told RTE state radio it was "deeply embarrassing" for the government that the taxation measures to be announced in the December 6 budget had been revealed to "parliamentarians across Europe" yet were still hidden from Irish lawmakers.

A year ago, Ireland was forced to seek an 85-billion-euro ($119 billion) rescue package to deal with massive debt and deficit problems.

The European Commission, in a statement released through its Dublin office, said "elements of the confidential draft programme documents for Ireland" that were reported "were not final and were not signed by the Irish government".

"Decisions on the budget have not been taken yet," the statement said.

As a member of the so-called troika of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank, the Commission said it had a mandate from member states "to report on the contents of the quarterly review (of Irish fiscal measures) and share all the relevant information with the governments."

"Ireland sees the same information from the troika about Greece, for example.

"With this information member states are in a position to endorse the conclusions and decide to proceed with the disbursement of the next instalment of the financial assistance programme."

The Commission said that in the case of Germany, it understands "there is a legal obligation to share this information with the Budget Committee of the Bundestag as it has a central role in deciding on these disbursements."

"What happened there is the sole responsibility of the German authorities," the statement added.

Ireland's 2012 budget next month will involve 3.8 billion euros in spending cuts and tax hikes aimed at cutting the public deficit to 8.6 percent of gross domestic product.

© 2011 AFP

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