Martin Schulz said while much of Ireland's six-month term from January will be dominated by attempts to put Europe back on track, an agreement to ease the debt load could be months away.
"I must say, clearly there will be another burden for the Irish presidency because I think we will switch to January, February, March," Mr Schulz said. Ireland had initially hoped to strike a deal on separating its banking and sovereign debt by December, however it has been clear for a number of months that deadline would not be met.
Mr Schulz said in October, following a visit to the Dail, that Europe must honour its commitments to Ireland, because it had shown solidarity to other countries in shouldering the fallout of the economic collapse.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, at the first formal meeting for Ireland's EU presidency, said the aim now was to have the legal frameworks put in place to establish a banking union, which would then lead to a deal on debt.
"The conclusion of the EU Council meeting was that before the council could do anything about the banking union, we have to have a legal framework in place," the Taoiseach said. "To have that evolve, the decision in the council was that should be in place by January 1."
European heads of state agreed at a crucial meeting on June 29 that the sustainability of the Irish programme would be improved.
Mr Kenny was on a recent collision course with German chancellor Angela Merkel following confusion over whether Ireland would be able to access a pot of emergency funds - the European Stability Mechanism - to pay off its legacy debt.
Ms Merkel had claimed any money used to ease Ireland's bank burden would apply only to debts moving forward. But in a joint communique with Mr Kenny, the German chancellor went on to claim that Ireland would be a "special" case when dealing with its 64 billion euro legacy debt.