MEPs discussed the programme for the next six-month presidency of the Council of the EU this morning with Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa.
The success of the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and achieving an economic and social recovery based on the digital and climate transitions are the major challenges for the Portuguese Council Presidency, stated Prime Minister Costa, whilst urging members states to work closely together to achieve these goals. International solidarity will also be key to vanquish the virus, he added.
Other challenges, such as the climate crisis, also deserve the EU’s full attention, said the Prime Minister. Under the motto “Time to Deliver”, the Portuguese Presidency will focus on adopting the European Climate Law, advancing on the Digital Services Act package, delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights, and strengthening international partnerships, especially with the UK, the USA and Latin America. Portugal will also host an EU-India Summit in Porto, on digital issues, trade, investment, pharmaceutical products, science and space, Mr Costa announced.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the Portuguese Presidency’s focus on social issues and said the Commission will update its industrial strategy to help create “quality jobs in the post-pandemic world”. “The green, digital and fair recovery must be a jobs recovery”, she stressed.
MEPs broadly supported the proposals of the Portuguese Presidency. They highlighted the economic and social emergency caused by the COVID-19 crisis, condemned unilateral actions by member states when it comes to vaccinations, and asked that recovery plans focus on creating jobs and reducing inequalities. EU aid for recovery should help in the green and digital transitions as well.
The EU-Mercosur trade deal was also raised, with some MEPs asking Mr Costa to give new impetus to the agreement and others asking for it to be abandoned. In addition, Members pushed for the common asylum and migration policy to be finalised, a stronger focus on relations with the eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans, and for the Conference on the Future of Europe to progress.
Watch the video recording of the debate here. Click on the names below for individual statements.