THE euro area is likely to emerge from recession this year with the worst now behind us, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has said.
Addressing IBEC members and business chiefs in central Dublin, the top European politician said 2012 had marked a turning point in the crisis.
He said the eurozone was no longer in "existential threat mode".
"The gloomiest of expectations are slowly fading," Mr Van Rompuy said.
"The worst is now behind us, but not all is right, far from it."
The council president said unemployment levels across the union were unacceptably high.
He claimed all efforts must be concentrated on improving the growth of economies and jobs.
"With 26 million unemployed throughout the union. . . there can be no more important priority," he said.
Mr Van Rompuy said full economic recovery for Ireland is around the corner, but claimed it won't be an easy path.
"But looking at the progress since the crisis hit your economy hard, so much has been achieved and your economy is certainly closer to the end of the programme," he said.
The senior European politician said progress on implementing a banking union would be top of the eurozone's agenda for the first half of 2013.
"It will therefore be at the heart of the work of the Irish presidency," he said.