Portugal assumed on Friday the rotating presidency of the European Union in succession to Germany in a role that is expected to be many challenges, especially in a period dominated by the health crisis.
With the approval of the post-Covid-19 recovery plan after it was blocked and the final quarter of the post-Brexit trade agreement with the United Kingdom, Germany’s presidency of the bloc successfully ended in two files that cast a shadow over Portuguese presidential projects.
However, Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa stressed that the challenges of the coming stage are no less demanding”.
In an article published in the weekly newspaper “Exberso”, he confirmed “it is time to move to actions, and to use our means: The European-level vaccination plan and the national recovery plans”.
After the last European summit headed by Germany managed to persuade Poland and Hungary to withdraw their objection to the economic recovery plan, the Portuguese presidency will implement a huge plan estimated by 750 billion Euros financed by a joint borrowing, in an unprecedented step.
The implementation of this plan will be the first priority for the Portuguese presidency in chapter I, but this requires first the adoption of various national recovery plans, which, according to Lisbon, are to be driven toward “an economic and social recovery driven by climate and digital transformations”.
Social Summit in May
In order to “ensure that this dual transformation is an opportunity for all”, Portugal hopes to organize a “social summit” on May 7 and 8 in Porto, the largest city in the north of the country.
If health conditions permit, this urban meeting is supposed to lead to the commitment of Member States to promote the social rights of Europeans.
This “pivotal event” of the Portuguese presidency should be followed by a summit of the European Union and India in Porto, which is supposed to address Portugal’s third priority, “promoting strategic independence” of the bloc.
Lisbon considers that the meeting between the heads of state and government of the European Union and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent a translation of what the member states aspire to for “diversifying” the bloc’s partners amid the increasing competition between China and the United States.
If the arrival of the Democrat Joe Biden, who does not show any enmity to the European Union, like the outgoing President Donald Trump, to the presidency of the United States, will be in the interest of the Portuguese presidency. However, the latter will have to reach an agreement with Washington like the “tentative” agreement that the bloc signed Wednesday with China on investments.
The Portuguese presidency will also have to apply the free trade agreement signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom to regulate trade relations after Brexit.
The Portuguese presidency will also be presented with another thorny file, the new charter on immigration presented by the European Commission in September, which raises a sharp division between the countries of the border bloc most prone to the influx of asylum-seekers like Italy, Greece, Spain and Cyprus, and between countries that refuse to receive immigrants in the same way as Poland and Hungary.