Noonan writes to Rehn over leak

Thursday 01 March 2012 16.47
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Michael Noonan wants Commission review after second Irish report leak
Michael Noonan wants Commission review after second Irish report leak
Commission backs latest slice of funding for Ireland
Commission backs latest slice of funding for Ireland

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said it is a matter of concern for the Irish Government that a European Commission document on Ireland's finances was leaked in Berlin for a second time in a matter of months.

Speaking on arrival for talks with other EU Finance Ministers in Brussels, Mr Noonan said he had written to Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn asking that he review its practices and procedures to ensure confidentiality in the future.

Asked about the detail of the report, which suggested further fiscal tightening may be required this year in the event of an economic downturn, Mr Noonan said that all the authorities had agreed that Ireland will reach its 8.6% target, so further tightening did not arise.

Earlier, the European Commission also said it was "deeply concerned" about the leak of its report on Ireland.

It said it had a mandate to report on the contents of its reviews on Ireland and share all relevant information with member states' governments. But it added that breaches of confidentiality undermined the process and were harmful to the efforts being made in countries such as Ireland.

This came as the Commission approved €5.8 billion in funding for Ireland following the latest review of the EU/IMF programme carried out in January.

The Commission's report published today, while broadly optimistic about how Ireland is performing, warns that improving market sentiment towards the country "remains fragile", while there are threats to forecast growth and bank deleveraging which "could require further fiscal tightening later in the year".

The Commission said Irish GDP is estimated to have returned to positive growth of 0.9% last year, helped by strong exports, but it has lowered its growth forecast for 2012 to 0.5% because of a slowdown in growth in Ireland's main trading partners.

It said Ireland had made progress, but added that much remained to be done. The Commission said further financial turbulence in the euro zone could affect Irish efforts to fix the banking system, and that a drop in demand for exports could hit Ireland's budgetary performance.