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Ireland to focus on growth as EU president

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Ireland to focus on growth as EU president

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(BRUSSELS) - The way forward out of the crisis for Europe is to secure growth and jobs, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said on Monday as his country prepares to take over the rotating EU presidency.

Setting out his country's priorities for the six-month stint at the helm of the European Union, Gilmore said Dublin would make every effort to boost recovery, with jobs, especially for the young, a first priority.

Gilmore, who also serves as foreign minister, said that Ireland would be optimistic and realistic about what could be done as the eurozone languishes in recession and the jobless rate runs at record highs.

At the same time, Europe faces increasing competition and a key issue will be restoring its competitive edge, he said, highlighting the fast growing digital sector in Dublin's plans for the next six months, which will include a Digital Assembly in June, its biggest function of the term.

Gilmore, whose country takes over January 1 from Cyprus, said trade was also important, with the EU about to begin talks with Japan on a Free Trade Agreement and hoping to do the same with Washington

An EU-US FTA was a priority for Brussels, Gilmore said, adding: "I know it is a priority for the US as well," after raising the issue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Gilmore noted last week's accord on the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), a key step towards a wider 'banking union' aimed at preventing any repeat of the disastrous eurozone debt crisis by breaking the link between banks and sovereigns.

It was now "imperative that we move along as soon as possible" with the next steps -- a facility for winding up failed banks and a deposit guaranteee scheme.

Ireland had to seek help from the EU and IMF in 2011 when its banks ran up so much bad debt that the government was threatened with bankruptcy after trying to keep them afloat.

Gilmore reiterated that Ireland aimed to be the first eurozone country to emerge from its EU-IMF programme next year, ahead of Greece and Portugal who similarly sought help.

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