President Demetris Christofias of Cyprus told Parliament on Wednesday that tackling poverty and social exclusion was a key Presidency goal. Completion of the budget negotiations was also a priority, he said. The need to resolve the issue of the division of the island of Cyprus was raised by several MEPs during the debate.
"A more social Europe is what we need, especially during these difficult economic times", said President Christofias. He insisted that EU decision-making should involve the EU institutions, and not be restricted to governments, and he stressed the need to "face challenges together".
Agreement on the EU's multinannual budget and on the 2013 budget and speeding up work on energy, research and innovation policies and on reforms to farm and fisheries policies were also high on the Cyprus Presidency agenda, the president said.
The Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, voiced his "confidence in the readiness of Cyprus to take over this Presidency". He agreed with President Christofias that the EU institutions must work fast and cooperate closely on legislation. He hoped solutions would found rapidly for the EU patent and the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism.
For the EPP group, Joseph Daul pointed again to the need to step up efforts on the Single Market Act and the Digital Single Market as "all these policies will generate growth and jobs".
Hannes Swoboda, for the S&D group, called for an effective banking supervision system, saying: "we need better spending but this doesn't mean budget cuts. We want a budget that generates growth".
Mr Swoboda regretted Turkey's stance vis-a-vis the Cyprus Presidency but said both communities on the island must be defended. Graham Watson, for the ALDE group, said Cyprus should "lead by example" and work closely with Turkey to resolve the situation. Responding to a question from Mr Kasoulides (EPP, CY), Mr Watson said he was "not criticising Cyprus" and wanted to see Cyprus "use EU influence in order to solve the problems on the island".
Rebecca Harms, representing the Greens/EFA group, called on the EU to act responsibly and warned that today's politicians "are more party politicians than European politicians". She also wondered whether the decisions taken at the last summit would have any real impact.
Martin Callanan said his party, the ECR, did not want to see the EU fail and backed the Cyprus Presidency's goal of making Europe more effective. He supported the single market but strongly criticised Eurozone decisions and the increase in member states' contributions to the EU budget.
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL) said: "Europe is facing gigantic challenges" but she was confident that the Cyprus Presidency was prepared for them. She pointed out that this was the first time an EU Presidency was focusing on the well-being of citizens in need.
"Your Presidency is starting in the midst of a difficult situation", said Niki Tzavela, (EFD), adding that energy independence must be given priority, with trade relations that could help achieve this for the whole EU.