STRASBOURG, France, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday called for swift progress in boosting jobs and establishing a banking union as planned for the single currency bloc.
Barroso brought forward the two priorities for the year ahead in his annual "State of the Union" speech during the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg, France.
"We owe it to our 26 million unemployed people, especially our young people... The current level of unemployment is economically unsustainable, politically untenable and socially unacceptable," Barroso told European lawmakers.
The euro zone started returning to growth earlier this year after its longest recession, and the debt crisis has largely calmed down since the European Central Bank promised to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro.
"For Europe, recovery is within sight... One fine quarter doesn't mean we are out of the economic heavy weather, but it does prove we are on the right track," Barroso said.
Unemployment, however, has appeared to be the biggest challenge for the EU and many of its member states after years of crisis and austerity.
"We need to avoid a jobless recovery," Barroso said, calling for immediate implementation of youth employment initiatives at European and national levels. Growth was necessary to remedy unemployment, he added.
The president also urged member states to complete the project of the banking union and to make sure "taxpayers are no longer the ones in the frontline for paying the price of bank failure."
"First and foremost, let's be concrete in delivering the banking union. It is the first and most urgent phase on the way to deepen our economic and monetary union," he said, adding that it would also help restoring normal lending to the economy, notably to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The banking union is believed to be able to help stabilize the bloc's financial system. Members of the Parliament will vote later this week on the legislation establishing a centralized oversight for the EU's largest banks, considered as a first step for the banking union.
Barroso focused on the bloc's fragile economic recovery throughout the speech, projecting a "more united, open and stronger" Europe walking out of crisis next year.
The "State of the Union" address, most likely inspired by the U.S. president's annual address to its Congress, was initiated in 2010 by Barroso, whose term ends in 2014 after a decade of leading the EU's executive body.