THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has described the latest leak of confidential documents relating to Ireland’s bailout programme as “unfortunate and irresponsible”.
A spokesman for European economics commissioner Olli Rehn said this afternoon that it was “regrettable” that details of the latest documents – this time a European Commission working paper – had been made public before their formal publication in Ireland.
The Irish Times had this morning published details of the latest paper, outlining its concerns that the burden of austerity measures need to be distributed equally between the various levels of society.
But what are the procedures for distributing papers like this – and how come they keep getting out?
Contrary to what some people might (forgivably) believe, it’s not the case that Germany has some special position, simply because of the extent to which it is funding the bailouts of other countries.
Rather, Germany is an example of a country where democratic procedures require documents to be distributed by politicians in order to enforce greater oversight of how that country spends its money.
Today’s leaked document – as with each of the others – has been compiled by the teams who visit Ireland each quarter to inspect our progress under the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund programme.
These quarterly reviews – the last of which was held in April – are used by the Eurozone’s finance ministers to decide whether Ireland should receive the next round of its bailout loans.
In essence, the ministers use the Troika’s reviews and briefing notes as a way of examining whether Ireland’s on what they consider to be the road to recovery – and whether, therefore, it is deserving of the next round of cash.
Draft and circulate
In order to allow this, draft versions of reviews and working papers are sent around to ministers in advance of the European Council meetings where they decide to approve such loans.
Though this would naturally appear to affect Ireland, it would also be the case for Greece and Portugal (and, soon, Spain) – with Michael Noonan receiving the draft versions of paperwork relating to the first Greek bailout, to which Ireland was a contributor.
Where Germany comes in is the fact that the German Bundestag has a particularly prominent role in overseeing how Germany spends its money. There, the Finance Committee has the power to tell minister Wolfgang Schauble whether to release Germany’s cash or not.
In order to facilitate this decision, the Finance Ministry is therefore required to share any documents with MPs – from whom such reports end up in the media.
Rehn’s spokesman said the Commission’s working paper, as detailed this morning, would be formally released on June 25.
In the Dáil today, Enda Kenny said following the most prominent leak – the leaking of documents outlining some of the government’s Budget plans, including a VAT increase, last November – new rules had been adopted where confidential documents were distributed to TDs as well.
“The government made it clear before, that the reports would be given simultaneously to the Oireachtas joint committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform,” Kenny said, pointing out that the documents were shared on a confidential basis before their formal release.
“It’s not a case of taking individual documents and giving them to international committees,” the Taoiseach said.