Irish Voters Approve EU’s Treaty to Control Spending

Posted June 1st, 2012 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
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Irish voters have approved the European Union's new treaty to control government spending in the continent's only referendum on the issue.

The government said Friday more than 60 percent of those voting a day earlier supported the pact that eventually is likely to impose new government deficit limits throughout the 17-nation bloc that uses the euro currency. Twelve countries need to ratify the treaty for it to take effect, but parliaments are considering it in all countries except Ireland.

One Irish official, transport minister Leo Varadkar, said his countrymen do not like the austerity measures they have been forced to endure while accepting a $106 billion bailout from their European neighbors. But he said the favorable vote shows they still support eurozone membership.

“Well, it sends a very important message. First of all, it says that the Irish people want to stay in the euro, that we're committed to European integration and that Ireland is a very safe place for people to invest and create jobs and, secondly, it does show that the Irish people are behind the government's plans to balance the budget and to reduce our national debt. People don't like those austerity policies, but they do understand in Ireland that they are necessary.”

The Irish government had warned its citizens that failure to approve the EU plan would not be in the country's best interest if it needs more bailout help when the current rescue package runs out in 2013. Opponents said the treaty would hamper Ireland's ability to stimulate its economy.

Ireland signed the austerity-based treaty in March, along with 24 other EU countries. Only Britain and the Czech Republic rejected the pact.

But the favorable Irish vote comes at a time when European leaders are debating new ideas to boost economic growth, to combat record-high 11 percent unemployment in April throughout the eurozone. Ireland needs more European growth if it is to expand its export-driven economy to pay down its debt.