Irish ‘mad at Merkel’ as they vote on Fiscal Pact

Anti-German sentiment on the Emerald Isle was said to be running high on Thursday as Irish voters entered the polls to deliver their verdict on ratifying the European Union Fiscal Pact pushed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Irish 'mad at Merkel' as they vote on Fiscal Pact
Photo: DPA

“The people see it as crass blackmail, as an attempt to subjugate their freedom,” said Paul Murphy, a member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party.

“There’s a huge anti-Merkel mood. And an aversion against German banks which Merkel is seen to represent,” he told a DAPD reporter according to Thursday’s Handelsblatt newspaper.

Murphy warned that by voting yes, the Irish people would be signing up to even harsher austerity.

“The Fiscal Pact would cost Ireland €6 billion and the EU a total of €200 billion,” Murphy said. “It will damage people’s lives, create unemployment, damage the economy,” he said. “Besides, the debt brake will take away the democratic right of people to vote for different policies.”

Though Ireland’s voters have twice rejected European Union treaties in the past, this time things are widely expected to go off smoothly and clear approval is expected.

The Fiscal Pact requires nations that use the euro to adhere to strict spending and borrowing limits and slash their debts or face heavy penalties. Ireland is the only one of 25 countries participating in the treaty to put it to a referendum, the Berliner Zeitung said on Thursday.

In recent weeks, emotions have been running high in the debate on the treaty. Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told Irish radio station Limerick’s Live 95 FM on Tuesday that a “No” vote would keep foreign investors away and paralyze economic growth.

In a television address ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, urged people to vote for the treaty, arguing that rejecting it would bar Ireland from emergency EU funding when its current bailout package expires in 2013.

“I ask you to make a further contribution by coming out to vote ‘Yes’ on Thursday. Yes to stability. Yes to investment. Yes to recovery. Yes to a working Ireland,” he said. Kenny warned that rejecting the treaty would bring “uncertainty at a time Ireland definitely doesn’t need it.”

But opponents of the treaty have complained that they are being forced into approving it and say that voters feel bullied and angry at being forced to accept greater belt-tightening measures spearheaded by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The German leader is a prime backer of the fiscal compact. It surrenders sovereignty on budget matters to the European Union and is being demanded by richer nations like Germany who are funding bailouts of debtor nations.

The Local /DPA/sp

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
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‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.