Portuguese Council presidency: what MEPs expect 

Logo of the Portuguese presidency  

Portugal took over the rotating Council Presidency on 1 January 2021, amidst a health and economic crisis. But what are the Portuguese MEPs’ expectations?

As Europeans continue to face the unprecedented socioeconomic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Portugal takes over the six-month presidency of the Council of the EU determined to prioritise recovery.

On 20 January, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa will discuss the presidency's programme with MEPs, during the first plenary session of the year.

Given the current challenging times, Portugal is committed to promoting a resilient, social, green, digital and global Europe. The slogan of the new presidency is "Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery”.

It will also have to continue work on some of the priorities of the previous German presidency: the future of EU-UK relations, progress on climate action, the EU’s long term budget and the Covid recovery plan. The Portuguese presidency also sees the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 as one of its major challenges and counts on EU countries' joint efforts to tackle it.

We asked Portuguese MEPs about their expectations and their views on the priorities put forward by the new Presidency.

According to Paulo Rangel (EPP), the three priorities that will dominate the agenda of the presidency are the “launch of the recovery fund, the vaccination strategy and future EU-UK relations”. He underlines the importance of the social pillar, which “should focus more on health”, and of the EU-India summit. The Conference on the Future of Europe and the new strategy for Schengen along with the EU Migration Pact “deserve more attention” from the presidency, he added.

Portugal is “combining social and climate agendas with the digital transition as engines of the European Union's resilience and recovery,” said Carlos Zorrinho (S&D). Lisbon “is also committed to repositioning the EU as a multilateral power, namely through the summits with Africa and India,” he said. Referring to “an increased uncertainty” led by the pandemic and Brexit, Zorrinho sees the Portuguese presidency as “a unique opportunity for the EU to rediscover itself and its founding principles”.

Francisco Guerreiro (Greens/EFA) said that Portugal’spPresidency coincides with “the greatest global crisis ever – the one related to the rampant destruction of biodiversity”. In his view, one of the biggest challenges is the completion of the negotiations for the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which retains a major share of the EU budget. “We do not have expectations that there will be any structural changes to the CAP capable of accomplishing the European Green Deal and respecting the ' Farm to Fork' strategy or [with regard] to the preservation of biodiversity,” he said.

Marisa Matias (The Left) said that “social Europe, the green transition and the digital transition are the right priorities and in line with the challenges” currently being faced by the EU. However, she addedthat “Europe is experiencing moments of deep division” and is struggling to provide solutions to the structural challenges. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities to make sense of the European project and none can be missed,” Matias said, adding that she hopes that “the Portuguese presidency will not get lost behind its intentions”.

Portugal has started its fourth Presidency of the EU. On 1 January, it also celebrated 35 years since its accession to the EU together with Spain.