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Donohoe wins in bid to become president of the group of Euro finance ministers, says EU recovery fund is first priority

Donohoe faced opposition from finance ministers in Spain and Luxembourg for the Eurogroup presidency.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking at Government Buildings this evening.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking at Government Buildings this evening.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Jul 9th 2020, 8:05 PM

MINISTER FOR FINANCE Paschal Donohoe has been elected new president of the Eurogroup – the group of finance ministers from the 19 countries that use the Euro currency. 

Donohoe won out against Spanish Minister of Economy Nadia Calvino, who had been in pole position to take the job, in the second round of voting this evening.

The Eurogroup takes decisions on policy issues related to the management of the Euro-area economy. 

Seen as a strategic position, the president chairs the monthly meetings of Eurozone finance ministers and is tasked with bringing to order the economic policies of countries that often sharply diverge on such matters. 

The task requires a great deal of diplomacy, since it involves forging compromises between richer countries in the north that insist on budgetary discipline and those in the south that are considered more lax. 

In a statement this evening, Donohoe said: “The Eurogroup is the economic engine for the Eurozone and the single currency.

My immediate priority, as President, will be to chart a common way forward on building the European recovery, strengthening the Eurozone economy, and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth for Member States and their citizens. Across the EU our citizens are looking to us to provide the necessary leadership.
I will bring to the table Ireland’s experience as a small Member State that has been a Programme country but which has also seen its economy and society transformed through EU membership.

Donohoe becomes the fourth president of the Eurogroup, after Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, Netherlands’ Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Portugal’s Mário Centeno. Juncker, in particular, was prominent in the role during the financial crisis of the last decade onwards. 

He will still perform his role as Minister of Finance in the Irish government alongside the presidency of the Eurogroup. 

Speaking this evening, Donohoe reiterated that first criteria in his new role will be for EU members to agree a recovery fund during Covid-19. 

“We are in the midst of a profound economic challenge as we speak tonight,” he said. 

“There are so many citizens here in Ireland and across Europe who are unsure if they’ll have a job, what their income is going to be tomorrow and so many employers worried that they might not be around next year.

“So the number one fiscal priority has to be reaching agreement in relation to the recovery fund and then implementing it,” he said. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has congratulated Donohoe on his appointment. 

“This is a very proud achievement for Minister Donohoe and is a testament to his personal experience and skills,” he said. 

“It is also good news for the country. At such a critical time for the Eurozone economy it is very important to have an Irish voice influencing decisions and economic policy.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, described Donohoe’s election as a “singular, personal achievement” and “something that was very good for Ireland”.

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He said the appointment was a “diplomatic coup”.

In a statement last week, the Department of Finance said this would be a crucial time to take the role. 

“The Eurogroup President has a vital role in shaping the agenda and policy response to major economic issues, including the economic impact of the present Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

Donohoe will now serve a two-and-a-half year term.

Similarly to Ireland’s recent bid for a seat the UN Security Council, Donohoe had aimed to drive home the national reputation of the Irish as bridge builders in his bid for the Eurogroup presidency. 

Donohoe has received the “full support” of the Europan People’s Party, the political family which brings together the European conservative parties, including Angela Merkel’s CDU in Germany.

With reporting from AFP

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