EU finance ministers to meet on approval of Irish aid

Updated: 2010-11-28 19:46


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BRUSSELS - European Union (EU) finance ministers are due to meet on Sunday to finalize their approval of an expected 85-billion-euro ($112-billion) financial aid to debt-hit Ireland.

Finance ministers from 16 eurozone countries will hold an extraordinary meeting in Brussels at 13:00 local time (1200 GMT), and they will later be joined by their counterparts from other EU countries, the EU said.

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The ministers are expected to sign off a financial bailout plan totaling 85 billion euros for Ireland, the second eurozone member after Greece that fell prey to a debt crisis.

Faced with mounting market pressure and a worsening banking crisis, Ireland asked for help from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) one week ago.

Following the Greek debt crisis, the EU, jointly with the IMF, set up a 750-billion-euro fund for possible bailout of other eurozone countries which may plunge into the same situation as Greece.

Intensive negotiations on how to draw on the support mechanism have been going on in Dublin during the past week. Diplomatic sources said the international negotiators wrapped up the talks earlier Sunday and set the stage for approval by EU finance ministers.

Among the 85 billion euros, about 35 billion euros are expected to be used to shore up Ireland's shattered banking system, while the 50 billion euros will be used to plug the shortfall of the country's public finances.

Irish media had reported that Dublin would have to pay an annual interest rate as high as 6.7 percent to borrow money from the EU-IMF joint rescue, but it has been denied by the Irish government. Greece paid a rate of 5.2 percent.

The expected approval of the rescue package came after thousands of people demonstrated in Dublin on Saturday against the EU-IMF bailout and the government's austerity plan.

In a bid to save the country from the devastating debt crisis and meet the conditions for rescue, the Irish government unveiled a four-year austerity package on Wednesday, committed to bringing its budgetary deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a ceiling imposed by EU rules, by 2014.

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