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Germany’s EU commissioner wants Irish flag flown at half-mast

Günther Oettinger wants the flags of ‘deficit sinner’ countries – including Ireland – to be at half-mast at all EU institutions.

Image: Haydn West/PA Archive

GERMANY’S EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER has lent his voice to demands that the national flags of all bailed-out European Union member states be flown at half-mast at EU buildings.

Günther Oettinger told German media last Friday that the move would “be a big deterrent” to those countries – which he called “deficit sinners” – who cannot keep control of their financial affairs, though he admitted that it would “just be a symbol”.

The suggestion would mean that the flags of Ireland, Greece and Portugal would have to be flown at half-mast outside all of the EU’s buildings in Brussels, Strasbourg and elsewhere.

Among Oettinger’s other controversial ideas are that the EU simply take over the power of collecting tax in Greece.

The German, who is in charge of Europe’s energy policy, says Athens is “obviously ineffective” at collecting its own tax revenue – and that countries which expect solidarity from the rest of the EU “must also be prepared to give up partial responsibility for a certain time”.

The comments have met with disapproval from several MEPs, including Labour’s Phil Prendergast, who are to write to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in complaint at the remarks.

“The so-called deterrent in his eyes is humiliation,” Prendergast said. “This is totally at odds with EU values, and unhelpful at a time when States most affected by the financial crisis struggle to get public acceptance for efforts to bring their debt under control.

“Commissioner Oettinger’s comments are all the more offensive considering they were made at a time flags flew at half mast across America to remember the victims of 9/11. Does he think the US should keep it that way until they have their deficit under control?

Prendergast said Oettinger “should focus on working with his colleagues on proposals to strengthen our collective response to a collective problem.”

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Gavan Reilly

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