Opinion

Waiting for Mr. Donohoe, the arbiter of the reconstruction fund

Paschal Donohoe

He was the dark horse in the finance ministers' vote to lead the Eurogroup and his victory against the odds has once again shown us that no one in Europe marries anyone in an altruistic and romantic way. The aspirant Nadia Calviño, who was dragged down by her head of government who was unable to gauge Spain's support or the opinion that her separatist and radical partners are causing in the European Union, is well aware of this. They were so happy that they were promised that now it is much more difficult to convince the Spanish people that they had the necessary votes insured, but "someone" betrayed them. The advantage of the secret ballot is that it exposes those who take their victory for granted.

But who has defeated the favorite? Paschal Donohoe (Phibsborough, Dublin, 1974) is a politician of the Irish Europeanist, conservative and Christian Democrat generation. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, his first experiences of public life took place at the city hall of the capital. His membership of Fine Gael confirms the profile of this leader: the party defends the market economy, fiscal discipline, the role of business as an engine for wealth and job creation, and individual rights. He is more conservative than centrist. Fine Gael was involved in founding the European People's Party and currently governs in Ireland with his great rival from the beginning of the last century, Fianna Fáil. 

Donohoe replaced the resigned Lucinda Creighton as Irish Minister for European Affairs, then held the portfolios of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and finally Finance from which she has made the leap to the Eurogroup. The recovery of an economy that bordered on bankruptcy and required a European rescue, as in Greece and Portugal, has given politicians like him wings: the Irish no longer believe the siren calls that lead to more debt and runaway spending, because they suffered a monumental social adjustment for years. Pragmatism is now their hallmark, as evidenced by the 12.5% corporate tax paid by Irish companies, which has made Ireland the sanctuary of Google, Amazon or Facebook. The most interesting thing about Donohoe, from Spain's point of view, is his radical opposition to the digital tax that he wants to introduce here, which would provoke a direct confrontation with the United States, whose president and candidate for re-election is keen to find scapegoats. Donohoe will lead the Eurogroup with this premise of favouring business growth with measures to promote competitiveness and not tax derision. After all, the opposite of tax haven is tax hell, and multinationals are fleeing from hell. 

The consequences of the coronavirus in his country have put Donohoe on the ropes internally. Unemployment has skyrocketed due to the paralysis of activity and the Irish economy has suffered a severe blow, but the head of finance is confident in the policies that have already brought the country out of recession and onto a growth path. 

His arrival at the headquarters of the Iustus Lipsius building in Brussels comes in the midst of the fight against the pandemic from a health perspective and against its effects from an economic perspective. The most important task awaiting him is to contribute to a fair distribution for all of the European reconstruction fund, the only item on the agenda of next week's summit. Reconciling the demands of the North and the South, of those in favour of expenditure control and those in favour of non-repayable transfers. He has been made president by the hawks of the north and the small countries, who have stood up to the candidate supported by Berlin, Paris and Rome. And that opens up an alternative scenario for the management of the 750 billion euros that will be in competition.