Ireland has thought about contingency plans in case the euro zone disintegrates but thinks the chances of this happening are very small, an Austrian newspaper quoted Finance Minister Michael Noonan as saying.
Asked by Der Standard newspaper whether he was bracing for a collapse of the euro zone, Noonan said: Not in detail. Of course we have considered emergency plans, but the possibility of it coming to this is very slight.
In the interview, which was published in German on Saturday,
Noonan said the euro had shown itself to be a strong currency that had fuelled trade in the European Union.
I would distinguish between the currency and the current debt problem. We have to solve that.
He said an aid package put together by the EU and the International Monetary Fund had sheltered Ireland from the storm whipped up by the euro zone sovereign debt crisis.
Now we have to find a way in the euro zone to build a firewall that can stop the current crisis. The role of the European Central Bank certainly offers room for discussion, he was quoted as saying.
There are supposed to be legal difficulties there. Perhaps it can act in combination with the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) rescue fund or the International Monetary Fund.
Asked about potential plans by Germany and France to create a core group of financially strong countries in the euro zone, he said he knew nothing about it.
There was never talk of this in European committees, so it makes no sense to speculate about this.
Noonan saw scant chances for getting Irish voters to approve changes to EU treaties that Germany and France have proposed as a way to give European authorities intrusive powers to intervene in the national budgets of countries sharing the euro currency.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy said on Tuesday that Paris and Berlin will soon propose amendments to the European Union treaty in response to the debt crisis.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny has already made very clear in Brussels that it would be extremely difficult to win a referendum given the current mood, Noonan said.
We should seek ways to solve problems that lie below the threshold of new treaties. In our opinion 95 percent of the changes being sought can be done under existing treaties.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Keiron Henderson)