Stability, jobs and growth will be Ireland's priorities while in charge of the Council presidency over the next six months. EP president Martin Schulz and the leaders of the political groups visited Dublin in November to discuss it with the Irish government and we have now asked Irish MEPs to tell us what they hope the presidency will achieve.
Liam Aylward (Fianna Fáil) said: "Unemployment in the European Union and youth unemployment, in particular, is currently at chronic levels and is the biggest challenge we face. The Irish presidency must prioritise European citizens who need support and investment to ensure that this generation and the next can find meaningful employment and realise their full potential."
Nessa Childers (Labour) said: "Hopefully the Irish will run a highly competent and efficient presidency. There are many important issues on the agenda, and I look forward to working with my Irish colleagues on the tobacco directive and the financial transaction tax in particular."
Emer Costello (Labour) said: "Adoption by Council of the Recommendation for a Youth Guarantee, recently launched by the European Commission, coupled with progress towards ratification of the ILO Convention of Domestic Workers, would ensure Ireland a progressive, action-orientated six-month presidency."
Brian Crowley (Fianna Fáil) said: "We now have the opportunity to set the agenda for the future of agriculture and economic development."
Pat the Cope Gallagher (Fianna Fáil) said: "Ireland will take over the presidency of the Council for the seventh time, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Ireland's accession to the EEC. Ireland will face many challenges during the next six months but in particular, I am hopeful that the Irish presidency working jointly with the European Parliament will make significant progress with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy."
Marian Harkin, a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said: "There are great expectations of the Irish presidency, much detailed and time-consuming work ahead on many legislative dossiers ranging from the Common Agricultural Policy reform to the Social Fund, and also huge demands on our representatives' negotiating and consensus-building skills to pull together the necessary agreements."
Jim Higgins (Fine Gael) said: "The Irish presidency is an excellent opportunity to show case all that Ireland has to offer and to ensure that people know that Ireland is open for business. The presidency will focus on a very broad range of issues, priorities of particular importance to me are tackling youth unemployment, the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy."
Seán Kelly (Fine Gael) said: "As ITRE rapporteur on the General Data Protection Regulation, I am glad that the Irish presidency has this issue as a priority and therefore my hope is to see real progress during the first six months of 2013."
Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael) said: "My abiding wish for the Irish presidency is that it will successfully conclude agreements on vital policy areas for the 2014-2020 period and that it will rebuild that all important sense of solidarity between our 27 member states of the EU, which has been eroded since the crisis."
Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) said: "We need to change the language, words matter: recovery must replace austerity. Hope, jobs , a brighter future looms, the medicine may be bitter but its sole objective is help the patient recover."
Paul Murphy (Socialist Party): "I hope that the Irish EU presidency can focus international attention on how austerity policies, such as those implemented in Ireland, do not work for ordinary people and the economy as a whole. The holding of the presidency also gives workers and the unemployed in Ireland a focal point to show their opposition to these policies."
Phil Prendergast (Labour) said: "Our presidency will prioritise issues that not only affect Ireland, but also have a wider European dimension. There is a high expectation that subjects like growth and job creation, protecting the EU budget, getting agreement on banking union and a financial transaction tax, and the resolution of concerns about unsustainable debt levels, will be brought to the forefront of the European political agenda during the presidency. I am confidant that we can achieve a lot during this period, and I look forward to playing my part, together will all my colleagues, in fighting for progressive change across Europe over the next six months."