Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Finance, Michael McGrath has called on the EU Commission to step up its efforts to review and monitor foreign investments from outside the EU amid the COVID-19 crisis, and has said the EU may need to move as a bloc to prevent strategic assets being acquired by investors outside the EU at depressed prices. His comments follow the publication of the European Commission’s guidelines on the issue last Wednesday. Deputy McGrath said this issue should be raised further at a European level by the Irish government.
Deputy McGrath explained, “With the onset of this crisis it is clear that many assets in the EU, including assets in Ireland in sectors such as aviation, media, communications, energy and real estate, may well see their values depreciate substantially.
“With the fall of asset prices, the opportunity presents itself for investors to come in from outside the EU and take advantage of the situation. We need to be careful that certain strategic assets and companies are not snapped up by predatory investors that could potentially jeopardise national interests across the EU.
“In Europe, we could see critically important companies, like utility and transport companies being bought up by foreign regimes. This could turn into a real risk in the longer term for the European economy. Other countries have begun to move on this issue at a unilateral level and I believe the EU as a whole and the European Commission needs to be alert to the risks. In its guidelines, the European Commission has effectively left it up to individual Member States. However, it is extremely difficult for any national government within the EU to tackle this threat effectively on its own and that is why consideration should be given to a coordinated response across the EU.
“A flow of inward investment into Ireland will be a key driver of the recovery of our economy post Covid-19. We must protect Ireland’s attractiveness as a place for foreign investment. However, as with other countries in the EU, I do think we need to keep a close eye on the strategic assets and companies in the economy and ensure our vital national interests are protected through and beyond this crisis. There is certainly a balance to be struck here, but I believe the European Commission needs to be alert to the risks and the EU needs to be prepared to act as a bloc if necessary”, concluded Deputy McGrath.