Growth must become the first objective of policy across the European Union and confidence in ‘Social Europe’ must be rebuilt, Congress General Secretary David Begg has told an audience of senior EU diplomats. Speaking at a gathering of EU ambassadors and key EU officials, Begg also highlighted the threat posed to Ireland by Britain’s potential exit from the EU, saying it would be a “critical juncture” for this country. Begg likened current EU austerity policies to the ‘needless sacrifice’ of World War I and warned of a ‘growing disaffection’ within the European trade union movement, with the broader European project. “Growth must become the first objective of policy and action must be taken to reflate the European economy. It is imperative that confidence in Social Europe be rebuilt.  Expecting workers and social welfare recipients to carry the burden of macro-economic adjustment is unfair and unreasonable,” he said. Begg said that the Irish bank debt had to be dealt with and called for the EU Council agreement of 29th June 29, 2012, to be honoured. That deal committed Europe to breaking the link between private bank debt and sovereign debt. Ireland has taken on some €64 billion in debt in order to rescue the banking system and prevent any threat to the wider Eurozone banks. Begg explained that this meant everyone in Ireland had already paid almost €9000, while the across the EU the average cost of the banking crisis was just €192. He warned that EU unemployment of some 25 million people was “politically and socially unsustainable. If this is left to fester it will foreclose many other options. If necessary, members states must be encouraged to become employers of last resort, Begg said.