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EP president Martin Schulz praises Ireland's sacrifices on visit to Dáil

EP president Martin Schulz convinced students of the EU's benefits during a informal debate at the University College Dublin in Dublin

European Parliament president Martin Schulz paid tribute to Ireland's efforts to tackle its financial difficulties with "determination and purpose". In an address to Dáil Éireann, Mr Schulz said Ireland had not only met but even exceeded the tough economic targets set for the country. During his visit to Ireland on 3-4 October, the president also met Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other high-ranking government officials and took part in a debate with students in Dublin.

In his address to the Irish parliament, Mr Schulz said Ireland had taken the hard decisions needed to get its economy back on track and that Europe should play its part by showing solidarity. "Personally, I believe that the Irish programme should be adjusted before the end of the year along the lines of the June European Council conclusions," he said.  

The president stressed Ireland had benefitted much from being in the EU: "Joining the European Union nearly forty years ago boosted the Irish economy though direct aid and increasing foreign investment. Today, 60% of Ireland's exports go to the EU." Mr Schulz added that to overcome the crisis cooperation on a European level was needed, for example by investing in growth-boosting initiatives.

Ireland will be taking over the EU Council presidency in January 2013. Mr Schulz said he was looking forward to it: "Since joining Ireland has made enormous contributions to European integration. Judging from very good past experiences with Irish presidencies, I know: this presidency will be an exceptional one."

Mr Schulz also made the case for Europe during an animated debate with students. University College Dublin had invited him to argue against the motion: "Europe is bad for Ireland". His passionate plea led to the motion being resoundingly defeated. The debate also created a buzz on Twitter. Iarán O'Driscoll wrote: "Great input by Pres of the European Parliament @MartinSchulz at the UCD debate - he spoke strongly on the common ideas that is the EU." Meanwhile others branded the debate "excellent" and "good fun".