Sunday, October 05, 2008

Blood on the floor

We've said it before but it won't hurt to say it again. Very often, the story missed by the journos is far more interesting than the one they are telling us. And leaping into that category is the latest development on the Irish bank guarantee saga, which hints at massive infighting within the EU commission, with blood flowing under the doors and into the couloirs.

As we left the story, the journos and sundry others were twittering away about the guarantee, entirely oblivious to the fact that the Irish government had clearly and unequivocally breached EU law, specifically Directive 97/9/EC.

What they are also missing is that Charlie McCreevy, the EU's financial services (and single market) commissioner is responsible for enforcing this directive, it being a single market measure.

However, given his former role as Irish finance minister and, currently, Ireland's EU commissioner, he was fully aware of the parlous state of the Irish banking system and the last thing he was going to do was pull the plug on his own country, especially as that would have meant the collapse of the Irish banking system – or a major part of it.

That left the commission in the untenable position of a member state having driven a cart and horse through EU law, potentially – and in fact – threatening the whole moral authority of the EU.

But, while McCreevy is prepared to stand idly by, and see the EU fall apart rather than his beloved Ireland, Dutch commissioner Neelie Kroes (pictured), with a cv to die for, is made of much sterner stuff.

The Rottweiler of Brussels, this is the lady who took on Microsoft and won and, although her directorate has no direct jurisdiction over single market issues, according to Reuters, she has nevertheless intervened.

In a statement today, she has declared that there was a "discriminatory element" to unlimited guarantees on bank deposits and that she "expected" Ireland to modify its guarantee plans.

The word "expected" from that lady is merely a long-winded way of saying "you will" and, to reinforce the message, she told Dutch TV, "We are now in close contact. My people were in Dublin Friday and Saturday and returned with reports that changes will be made." This lady just don't take prisoners.

How McCreevy will react remains to be seen but we will probably never know. Unlike Westminster, the "colleagues" tend to do their in-fighting behind closed doors, away from the prying hacks – who are anyway too dim to realise what is going on even when, as in this case, the blood is seeping under the doors.