Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Wednesday, 4 July 2012 11:47 UK

Cypriot president sets out EU vision

The president of Cyprus has outlined his vision of his country's six month presidency of the European Council to MEPs in Strasbourg.

Communist leader Demetris Christofias told the European Parliament on 4 July 2012 that Cyprus' political goal is to create a more effective Europe with better social cohesion - and hoped he could count on the rest of Europe to achieve this.

"A more social Europe is what we need, especially during these difficult economic conditions," he said.

Cyprus assumed the rotating presidency on 1 July, after Denmark's stint came to an end.

Mr Christofias criticised austerity, arguing that it has made the European crisis "worse". He also called for a better redistribution of wealth.

Austrian social democrat Hannes Swoboda argued that a financial transaction tax would be the best way to achieve this, and ensure the financial sector contributes to clearing up the economic crisis.

Centre-right group spokesman Joseph Daul urged Cyprus to show "courage and resolve" in its presidency.

He said the economic crisis was a challenge but also represented opportunities, for a common economic policy, for example.

However, British Liberal Graham Watson took a more critical approach.

He said Cyprus should lead by example, telling Mr Christofias to use the EU's influence to sort out some of the "serious problems" on the island.

His comments were rebuked by Greek centre-right MEP Ioannis Kasoulides, however, who said it was unfair to criticise the presidency before it had started.

German communist MEP Gabriele Zimmer said it was a special moment for her group as the head of EU Council belongs to "our political family".

For the Commission, President Jose Manuel Barroso, wished Mr Christofias "every possible success" and said he had confidence Cyprus would live up to the task.

Later, British Conservative Martin Callanan hit out at Mr Barroso's "outburst" on Tuesday that Conservative MEPs "take great delight" in the problems facing the euro - saying this was "absurd".

"Do you honestly think we are pleased to see so many people suffer as a result of your political project?" he asked.

Wrapping up the debate, Mr Christofias said Cyprus was a small country with the ambition to serve Europe without a national interest.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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