In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
is president of the European Parliament. He joined the SPD, the German social democratic party, at the age of 18. He was elected to the European Parliament in 1994 and since 2004 has been leader of the Socialist group there. He became president of the parliament in January 2012. He is married with two children
Eamon and I met first in the European election campaign in 2004. You meet people and feel in the first second, this is a person you like and with whom you could imagine to become friends. This is the feeling both of us had, spontaneously. Eamon is a very spontaneous man with a very open-minded character. And me too . . . and we understood each other immediately.
It's not about our political views, no, no. We are similar characters is my feeling: we have the same kind of relationship to our wives, our children. We have a sense of humour. If we discuss family, you can believe he has the exact same feeling, the same view on human relations as I have, that's what I felt from the first moment.
I have also always had the feeling that he is very rooted in his constituency, in his surroundings. I used to be a mayor in Germany. In local politics you learn very fast that the most important thing in political life is individual personal relations and mutual trust. You must keep your promises . . . All these elements are similar for Eamon and for me.
It is easier to do business politically when people have a personal relationship, absolutely. He will become president of the general affairs council when Ireland holds the EU presidency. If you've known somebody for a very long time you take the phone and call him . . . and that makes life much easier.
On an international level such individual friendships are perhaps more important than at a national level. . . At an international level you must take into account heterogeneous cultures, backgrounds, traditions and so individual relations play a bigger role.
In the framework of European decision making, it is really helpful.
I have been in Ireland twice this year. The EU must keep its promises to Ireland: there was a promise made at the June summit and I was a witness to it. It concerns not only Ireland, it is a question of principle. The promise to Ireland must be kept not only because of Ireland but because of the credibility of the whole political system in Europe.
There is never time for Eamon and myself to socialise - we promise each other all the time to do more. We agreed to meet each other with our wives as soon as possible to go and look at exhibitions in Brussels.
We agreed to use the opportunity of the Irish presidency . . . to meet privately: but . . . we also promised not to be disappointed if it doesn't happen, because we know our schedules.
is Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. He became leader of the Labour party in 2007 and will play a key role as the Republic takes over the EU Presidency for six months from January 1st. He, and his wife Carol, have three children and live in Shankill, Co Dublin