Greece – where the bailout program is the subject of continuing drama and debate - could learn a thing or two from Ireland, Europe's poster-child for austerity and economic recovery, the country's Prime Minister Enda Kenny told CNBC.
"For Greece, there's a lesson from Ireland," Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny told CNBC Wednesday. "Obviously, we respect and understand the difficulties that apply in Greece from a humanitarian point of view…Greece needs time and space and Europe is giving Greece that time and space."
Greece has dominated the headlines since its new left-wing government came to power in snap elections in January. The Syriza party promised to "tear-up" Greece's long-standing bailout program and its unpopular austerity measures if it was elected.
During tough negotiations with its international lenders two weeks ago, however, Greece was forced to climb down from some of its election pledges and request an extension to its bailout program. It was granted a four-month extension, but in order to receive a vital tranche of bailout aid it now needs to make far-reaching and immediate reforms.
Greece's fellow euro zone country and recipient of emergency financial aid, Ireland, also received a financial bailout at the height of the region's debt crisis. But Ireland has been hailed as a "poster-child" for austerity measures, and exited its aid program in 2013. Last year, it was the fastest growing economy in the European Union, with gross domestic product (GDP) expansion of 4.8 percent.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation's conference in Dublin, Kenny told CNBC that Ireland had gone beyond the demands made of it by its international creditors. The country's bailout was overseen by the so-called troika, made up of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Commission and European Central Bank.
"We didn't stick by the rules in the sense that we built a relationship with the troika and actually made better propositions than they were making themselves…We made progress," he said. "Now, we're able to buy out the IMF loans and borrow money in the international markets at historically low rates."
Unlike Ireland, however, Greece's relations with its lenders and euro zone neighbors appear more strained than ever, with a number of spats being made public over the last few weeks. Making matters even more confusing are conflicting reports about the possibility of a third bailout for Greece, which euro zone officials have denied.
Kenny insisted that Ireland's process of "constructive engagement" with Europe was a path Greece also needed to follow.
"Difficult though it has been for our country, the benefits are starting to be seen after a four-year period," he said. "I've said that to the Greek prime minister myself - here's a lesson from one small country that you can take some reflection on in terms of building your own economy for the future."