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 socially unacceptable," Barroso told the Parliament.
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.
Unemployment, however, has appreared to be the biggest challenge for the EU and many of its member states after years of crisis and austerity.
The president also urged member states to complete the project of the banking union and to make sure, when banks fail, "taxpayers are no longer in the frontline to pay."
The banking union is believed 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 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, stronger and more open" 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 heading the EU's executive body.