What to expect from the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU?
Having finished off its challenging 6 months at the helm of the Council of the EU by ensuring consensus on the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 and concluding negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China, Germany now passed the Presidency baton to Portugal. As the COVID-19 pandemic remains the major issue for EU decision-makers to deal with in 2021, the Portuguese nevertheless bring the EU into the new decade with an ambitious policy agenda.
Under the motto “Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery”, Portugal aims at ensuring the continuity of the general policy direction taken by their predecessors and focusing on the areas crucial for restoring EU citizens’ hope for a speedy socio-economic recovery after the crisis. Consequently, the Portuguese government set the following three priorities for the period of its Presidency of the Council of the EU lasting from 1 January till 30 June 2021:
- To promote a recovery leveraged by the climate and digital transitions;
- To implement the European Pillar of Social Rights of the EU;
- To strengthen Europe’s autonomy whilst remaining open to the world, taking a leading role in climate action and promoting a digital transformation in the service of people.
The above priorities are to be pursued by the Portuguese Presidency along the following five lines of action:
Resilient Europe – promote Europe’s recovery, cohesion and values
This heading concentrates primarily on securing a smooth implementation of the MFF for 2021-2027 adopted at the end of 2020. This entails finalising negotiations on the legislation enforcing the EU’s standard long-term funding instruments, such as the Cohesion Fund, European Fund for Regional Development, etc. In addition to the new MFF, the Recovery and Resilience Facility is to be implemented, in order to help Europe recover from the crisis and lay the foundations for sustainable growth and job creation.
Green Europe – promoting the EU as a leader in climate action
This line of action follows up naturally on the EU’s long-lasting efforts to become a global leader in fighting climate change. Major policy priorities are the implementation of the European Green Deal, with a view to sustainable economic recovery, and the approval of the first European Climate Law, as a legal instrument supporting Europe’s efforts to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
Digital Europe – accelerate digital transformation in the service of citizens and enterprises
Along with the European Green Deal, Europe’s digital transition is the top priority of the current policy cycle. Similarly, it is meant to be another driving force of the EU’s economic upturn and promote its global leadership in digital innovation and the digital economy. By maintaining a close link between the European Green Deal and Europe’s digital transition, new digital solutions and strategies for the green transformation in the areas of health, research and innovation, industrial property, justice and mobility are to be discovered.
Social Europe – promote and strengthen the European social model
This line of action stems from Portugal’s traditional recognition as a socially friendly country. The Presidency’s mission in this regard is to ensure that all Europeans embrace the abovementioned green and digital transitions, leaving no one behind. This is to be achieved by, inter alia, picking up on and giving concrete meaning to the European Pillar of Social Rights – on of the flagship initiatives of the Juncker Commission – and promoting increased cooperation among EU member states in the area of public health, namely by contributing to the foundation of the European Health Union, to support their better preparedness for potential future health and security crises.
Global Europe – promote Europe’s openness to the world
Portugal, as an exceptionally welcoming and cooperative country, will commit to the development of effective multilateralism and the geopolitical positioning of the EU as a global player. The country’s track-record in maintaining strong relations with African countries is to be the main driving force of the Presidency’s active work on the preparation of the 6th EU-African Union Summit, postponed from last year to 2021. Besides, Portugal expressed its ambition to give a renewed political momentum to relations with neighbours in the south of the Mediterranean and monitor challenges faced by partners in Latin America. Finally, in May, Porto is scheduled to host a Meeting of European Leaders with the Indian Prime Minister.
Full programme of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU can be found on its official website: www.2021portugal.eu.
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Image © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, 2021