Over the weekend, several Irish newspapers reported on Open Europe's new poll of German voters, which shows that 70% are against the idea of bailing out other EU countries in difficulty in the recesssion, such as Ireland.
Voters were asked: "In the course of the current economic and financial crisis, individual countries such as Ireland and Greece have got into financial difficulties. The German Federal Government has indicated that Germany would be prepared to financially support countries like Ireland "which have been hit quite hard by the banking crisis". With this in mind, which of the following comes closest to your view?"
24.8% agreed with the statement "I believe that German taxpayers' money should be spent on helping countries like Ireland or Greece." 70.9% agreed with the statement "I believe that German taxpayers' money should not be spent on helping countries like Ireland or Greece." 3.4% said they don't know.
The results are particularly interesting given that , on the one hand, the German government is said to be considering such a bailout, and on the other, the prospect of the EU coming to Ireland's rescue is increasingly being linked to the outcome of the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Take this, for example. Among its top five reasons to vote 'Yes' to Lisbon ,the snazzy new 'Generation Yes' campaign in Ireland makes the extremely blod claim that a yes vote is:
"Our best chance for an economic recovery: Ireland can’t fight global economic forces on its own, in this financial storm the EU is Ireland’s safe harbour."
However, there is of course no explanation what they think this means. How, exactly, will the Lisbon Treaty help Ireland to weather the "financial storm", and what do they mean by "the EU is Ireland's safe harbour?"
Similarly, on 25 June, German MEP Jo Leinen said the Irish must vote "Yes" if they wish to continue to benefit from the "protective umbrella" the EU provides. Again, no explanation, and no effort from the journalist to press him on what exactly he means.
It is miselading in the extreme to tell Irish voters that if they just show their appreciation of 'Europe' and vote yes, then the EU will somehow come to their rescue. For one thing, any 'bailout' of Ireland completely depends on German taxpayers coughing up. As the respected German magazine Der Spiegel notes, Germans would pick up a quarter of the entire tab. One expert reckons it will cost the taxpayer €1.5bn a year (we're not talking about a one-off here).
No wonder they're not keen. See this piece in yesterday's Irish Mail for more.