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Deal on European recovery fund top priority as Donohoe takes up Eurogroup presidency

Finance Minister Paschal Donohue says his top priority as Eurogroup president is to strike a deal on the European recovery fund.

The €750 billion bailout plan aims to ease the economic pain of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the worst recession Europe's faced since the Second World War.

But European leaders are split on how much of that fund should be offered as grants rather than loans and which nations should get it.

"We are in the midst of a profound economic challenge. As we sit tonight there are so many citizens here in Ireland and across Europe unsure if they will have a job, unsure of what their income is going to be tomorrow.

"So many employers are worried that they might not be around next year.

"The number one fiscal priority has to be reaching an agreement in relation to the recovery fund and then implementing it."

Minister Donohoe says Ireland's low corporate tax rate will remain a national priority during his time as Eurogroup president.

He was voted in by a secret ballot of national finance ministers last night and will serve a two-and-a-half year term as the EU faces into the worst recession since its foundation.

Some of the bloc's most influential nations, including France and Germany, had pushed for changes to the 13.5% rate in recent years.

But Minister Donohoe says his colleagues in Europe understand the importance of the issue to Ireland.

"During the campaign when I was asking for the votes of colleagues, they understood what our national position on these matters were.

"But every colleague that I engaged with had a national position on an issue that really mattered to them and that's the way the European project works.

"We have issues that are really vital for Ireland and other colleagues have similar issues.

"What I will do is continue to find a balance."

Speaking last night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this is a "critical time" for Europe's economy.

He said Minister Donohoe's appointment is good news for the country.

"It's particularly important for Ireland and it is a great win for Ireland.

"It is very welcome for this country that at such a challenging time, we are in a key position now within the European framework and institutions we have our Minister for Finance at the helm, chairing a very influential and important group."