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Cablegate: Brian Cowen: No Solution to the Lisbon Crisis But

VZCZCXRO5090
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHDL #0389/01 1791440
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271440Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9298
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000389

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2018
TAGS: EAIR ECON ENRG ETRD EUN PGOV PREL EINV
SUBJECT: BRIAN COWEN: NO SOLUTION TO THE LISBON CRISIS BUT
CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR U.S. INITIATIVES

REF: A. DUBLIN 384 AND PREVIOUS
B. 07DUBLIN 919
C. DUBLIN 306
D. DUBLIN 228
E. DUBLIN 54

Classified By: Ambassador Thomas C. Foley; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) During the Ambassador's meeting with Irish Prime
Minister Brian Cowen on June 26, 2008 (their first formal
meeting since Cowen assumed his new position as Taoiseach),
Cowen affirmed continued Irish support for U.S. activities in
Shannon and expanded CBP pre-clearance operations. Cowen
urged a swift conclusion to the negotiations to expand CBP
operations in Ireland. Regarding the two issues which have
garnered the majority of local media attention over the past
several weeks: rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and the
economic downturn, Cowen provided limited insight into likely
next steps by either the Irish government or the European
Union. The Taoiseach indicated that lack of a resolution on
the issue of undocumented Irish in America remained a
pressing bilateral issue. Finally, he expressed interest in
spurring private philanthropy, but cautioned that the
economic climate could complicate government efforts. End
Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Shannon Airport/CBP Operations - Continued Support
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (C) Cowen stressed that as long as he is in office, the
United States can count on continued support for its military
flight activities at Shannon airport. (Note: Spurred by a
recent Amnesty International report, Irish media have again
focused national attention on the alleged use of Shannon for
extraordinary renditions. end note) The Taoiseach urged the
Ambassador to press for a swift conclusion of the
negotiations on the agreement to expand pre-clearance
operations, noting that he strongly believed that adding
pre-clearance capabilities to Shannon would bring a large
economic boost to western Ireland. The Ambassador pointed
out that he understood that a significant sticking point is
the required legislation in Ireland that may delay until 2009
the launch of the expanded CBP operations. Mr. Cowen replied
that his staff would investigate to determine if the
legislation could be fast tracked.

--------------------------------------------- ----------------
Undocumented Irish - Potential To Harm "Special Relationship"
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

3. (C) The Taoiseach told the Ambassador that the unresolved
issue of undocumented Irish in America could affect bilateral
relations in the future if young Irish no longer have the
opportunity to go to America to work. While he sees the
proposed new exchange visa as helpful, he is concerned about
those who are already in America and urged the U.S. to
develop a means by which the undocumented Irish could return
to Ireland and somehow apply for permanent residence status.
He stressed that the special relationship between Ireland and
the U.S. is a result of generations of Irish workers in the
United States, some of whom stayed, others who returned to
Ireland. He said he would be "concerned for the
relationship" if that flow stopped for ten or twelve years.
When questioned about the status of immigration reform in the
U.S., the Ambassador indicated that it is a priority for the
current administration but the outlook is poor for passing
immigration legislation before the President leaves office.

-------------------------------------------
Lisbon Treaty Aftermath- No Clear Direction
-------------------------------------------

4. (C) Cowen was generally non-committal and genuinely
appeared to be unsure of the way forward in light of the
recent Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. He indicated
that amending the treaty would be unlikely, as that would
require re-ratification by all member states. Cowen
suggested that the only option available would be to vote
again on the same treaty, an option he couldn't be optimistic
about, and one which, at the very least, would require the
passage of considerable time. As such, he is adopting a
"wait and see" attitude.

----------------------------------
Economy- Exaggerated Media Reports
----------------------------------


DUBLIN 00000389 002 OF 002


5. (C) While he did acknowledge a significant downturn in
the current year, Cowen believes that media reports are
exaggerated and he is "not too worried" about it. He
believes that based on demographics, new construction will
rebound to 65,000 homes next year. He stated that many
adults in Ireland have never experienced a down economy and
that the onus is on the government to develop a "political
narrative" for them. He briefly discussed alternative energy
sources, and shares Post's belief that Ocean energy provides
Ireland with a good investment and job creation opportunity.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Philanthropy Stimulation- Support, But Difficult Political
Environment
--------------------------------------------- -------------

6. (C) Cowen indicated that he is interested in the issue of
Philanthropy and that he supports the U.S.'s efforts in
Ireland (see Reftel). However, he expressed concern that the
economic climate may make it difficult for the government to
implement tax incentives in the near term that could be seen
as favoring the rich. He believes that there is a general
consensus that the wealthy should not benefit from tax breaks
and believes that in order for opinion to shift, prominent
NGOs are best situated to make the case for new tax
incentives. The Taoiseach is in agreement with tasking the
National Economic and Social Forum to make policy
recommendations for stimulating philanthropy in Ireland. At
the conclusion of this discussion, the Ambassador provided
the Taoiseach with a memorandum on the issue (sent to Desk
separately). He then suggested that creating an environment
to stimulate philanthropy in Ireland would be an excellent
legacy opportunity for some leader and that he hoped Mr.
Cowen would make it one of his.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (C) Brian Cowen has a very different style from his
predecessor. He is very knowledgeable on the issues and is
willing to engage in dialogue at the policy level. He is
more approachable than his predecessor and offers the
opportunity for closer personal relationships with Embassy
personnel. Staffers expressed interest and excitement in a
possible connection between Barack Obama's ancestors and the
Taoiseach's home county of Offaly.
FOLEY

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