The Portuguese EU Presidency: Time to Deliver

The below text has been provided by the Embassy of Portugal to Sweden

Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery 

The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU takes place at a particularly critical moment. Much of the world is in turmoil, including in our close neighbourhood, and the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences represent an unprecedented challenge for the Union and its Member States, requiring decisive and comprehensive action.

Therefore, it will be important for the Portuguese Presidency to seek to strengthen Europe’s resilience, as well as citizens’ trust in the European social model.

After the achievements of the German Presidency, whose motto was “Together for Europe’s Recovery”, it will now be the time for action, as translated in our Presidency motto: “Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery”

To this end, we will work on three main priorities:

  • Promoting a European recovery based on the engines of the climate and digital transitions
  • Developing the Social Pillar of the European Union as a key element to ensure that both transitions are fair and inclusive
  • Strengthening the strategic autonomy of a European Union open to the world

These priorities will be developed through five action lines:

  1. Resilient Europe: Fostering recovery, cohesion and European values
  2. Green Europe: Promoting the EU as a leader in climate action
  3. Digital Europe: Accelerating the digital transformation at the service of citizens and businesses
  4. Social Europe: Enhancing and strengthening the European social model
  5. Global Europe: Promoting a Europe that is open to the world

Portugal´s task will be to deliver at the start of a new cycle. The focus will be on the entry into force of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, by overseeing the completion of the sectoral EU programmes regulations, as well as on ensuring the approval and implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, through which the NextGenerationEUinstrument agreed at the July 2020 European Council will reach the national economies and citizens. 

More than ever, we must place the European social model at the heart of the EU’s agenda, as further demonstrated by the pandemic and its dire consequences on citizen’s lives.

While pursuing these priorities, Portugal’s Presidency will also work towards ensuring that the vast vaccinations campaign in Europe moves forward at an effective and speedy rate.

The German Presidency was tasked with making efforts to ensure that the main strategic decisions were taken. These efforts culminated in the July 2020 European Council, where European Leaders gave political support to innovative financial instruments to leverage Europe’s economic recovery. The Portuguese Presidency will have the task of putting such decisions into action during the next six months.

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva
  • Resilient Europe: Fostering recovery, cohesion and European values

We will continue to explore ways to enhance Europe’s autonomy through a dynamic industrial strategy, the promotion of European value-chains and by paying attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the deepening of the Single Market and research and innovation (R & I) — for instance, with the launch of Horizon Europe – will also feature prominently during this semester. We will also promote an open Single Market with high social, labour, environmental and safety standards, with a view to exploring complementarities for the benefit of all Member States.

We will work towards reinforcing the EU crisis management system for greater resilience and coordination in disaster response and for the protection of critical infrastructure. This includes strengthening the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, broadening its scope and enhancing its capacity for surveillance and response to infectious diseases.

The Presidency will attach special importance to the fight against terrorism, an all-encompassing phenomenon that affects everyone and undermines Europe’s fundamental values. We will seek to implement the various European counter-terrorism initiatives, including assessment of terrorist and extremist threats. Particular attention will be paid to radicalisation and violent extremism, in its various guises, including online activities.

The EU’s resilience is also based on upholding its fundamental values. Promoting the rule of law and democratic values, as well as the fight against all forms of discrimination, media pluralism and the fight against disinformation will be core priorities.

As regards the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Presidency will make its best contribution to providing an opportunity for an open and broad-based debate, involving the European institutions and citizens, and focusing on the results of European policies and seeking the best means to move forward.

We will follow up on the negotiation of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, with a view to a comprehensive and integrated, European approach, reflecting a balanced vision between the prevention of irregular immigration, the promotion of sustainable channels for legal migration and the integration of immigrants. Cooperation with countries of origin and of transit is a key component of this approach.

  •  Green Europe: Promoting the EU as a leader in climate action

The EU should become a global leader in climate action, by increasing its ability to adapt to the effects of climate change and promoting the competitive advantages of a decarbonised and resilient economic model.

We will prioritise the implementation of the European Green Deal for a sustainable economic recovery, and we will support all efforts to turn Europe into the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 – the core objective of the European Climate Law. In this context, it is crucial to implement the common commitment reached at the December European Council to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 55 % by 2030, compared to 1990.

To this end, the Presidency will organise in April, in Lisbon, a Climate Change Conference, followed by a Conference on Green Hydrogen and Energy Transition.

Energy transition, which is essential to ensure the EU’s long-term objectives, requires the mobilisation of significant public and private investment. We will encourage the design and use of clean energy financial instruments, making full use of the opportunities offered by the European Investment Bank (EIB). We will prioritise, in

particular, initiatives to ensure that environmental and social aspects are properly addressed in private investment decisions.

We will promote innovation, digitalisation and sustainable management of the natural resources of the countryside and will prioritise the continuation of negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

We will value the conservation and sustainable use of the resources of the oceans and seas by organising a High-Level Conference on Sustainable Oceans, in June, in the Azores.

  •  Digital Europe: Accelerating the digital transformation at the service of citizens and businesses

We will prioritise initiatives that accelerate the digital transition as a driver of economic recovery and promote European leadership in innovation and in the digital economy. In this context, attention will be paid to the universal and inclusive development of digital skills, with a view to adapting workers to new production processes (teleworking) and making them benefit from lifelong learning opportunities, as well as to the digital transformation of businesses and digital platforms, the areas of e-commerce, payments and taxation, health promotion and disease prevention, as well as distance learning in the area of education.

We will seek to move forward in the discussion of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, which were presented by the European Commission in December 2020, and represent a comprehensive set of new rules for all digital services, including social media, online market places, and other online platforms that operate in the European Union

We will encourage new digital solutions and strategies for the green transition, in research and innovation (R&I), industrial property, justice and in mobility. Moreover, we will advocate for technological solutions that work for people and a fair and competitive economy that fully respects the values of our democratic, open and sustainable societies.

We will promote a comprehensive digital cooperation strategy aligned with the United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the EU’s role as a global actor and as a worldwide ethical and trusted reference. In this context, the Presidency will co-organise with the European Commission, the Digital Day, in Porto, in March, and the Digital Assembly in Lisbon, in June.

We will focus on the strategic creation of a European Data Entry Platform, based on submarine cables, in particular on links between Europe, Africa and South America, which will contribute to greater European digital autonomy, linking infrastructure and data. In June, we will inaugurate the EllaLink cable linking Portugal (Sines) to Brazil (Fortaleza), reinforcing the ties between Europe and Latin America.

  • Social Europe: Enhancing and strengthening the European social model

The EU must value and strengthen its social model, giving citizens confidence to recover from the crisis and face up to the green and digital transformations, ensuring that no one is left behind. Only a stronger, fairer and more inclusive social Europe will respond adequately to the social dimension of the pandemic, safeguarding intergenerational harmony, a bright future for young Europeans and the well-being of all.

The European Pillar of Social Rights should have a real meaning for citizens’ lives, and it is the Presidency’s wish to use the Porto Social Summit in May to give impetus towards implementing the Pillar and its relevant Action Plan, which the European Commission is planning to publish in early 2021.

The Social Summit will be a central moment of the Portuguese Presidency and will include two key events: a High-Level conference (7 May), with broad participation, and a Leaders’ Meeting (8 May) at the invitation of the President of the European Council. It was inspired by the Social Summit organized in Gotenburg, in 2017, by the Swedish Government, and it will be an opportunity to emphasise the Pillar’s central role in Europe’s recovery and adaptation to the climate, digital and demographic transitions. It will also be an opportunity to strengthen dialogue with social partners and with citizens. The areas of employment qualifications, and social protection, will take centre-stage.

We will pay attention to gender equality and to all forms of discrimination, as well as to policies to fight poverty and social exclusion, including the specific protection of more vulnerable groups.

We will support the creation of a European Union for Health, strengthening the capacity to respond to public health crises and to efforts to produce and distribute safe and affordable vaccines for Europe and the rest of the world.

Global Europe: Promoting a Europe open to the world

Europe’s openness to the world, its commitment to effective multilateralism and its geopolitical position as a lead player in all relevant international agendas requires a comprehensive agenda and a balanced relationship with other international players.

On Trade, we will support the European efforts in consolidating an open and rules-based international trading system, including through a strong and fair trade agenda, both in the context of the modernisation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and through new bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements, as well as the effective implementation of existing ones.

In the European external agenda, where the Presidency supports the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Africa will be a cross-cutting priority for Portugal, as it happened with all our previous presidencies. The relationship between Europe and Africa is of central importance, with both sides aware of the need to maintain a strategic dialogue to address global challenges.

Portugal will co-organise with the European Investment Bank (EIB) an EU-Africa High-Level Forum on Green Economy and Investment in Lisbon, in April, to discuss enhanced investment between the two continents, with a particular focus on green investment and energy transition.

We will seek to give new political impetus to relations with the Southern Mediterranean neighbours, working also on the Eastern Partnership initiative with a view to the next Eastern Partnership Summit . We will also follow-up on the Enlargement process.

We aim to pursue constructive engagement with Latin American partners in the challenges they face, including the consolidation of democratic institutions and sustainable and equitable development.

Mundus International will cover Portugal’s presidency in the February edition of the Monthly Policy Review and the Finland Monthly Brief

Photo: Shutterstock

Jessica Nilsson Williams is the CEO & Founder of Mundus International. She has a long-standing interest in international affairs, having worked in the field for 20 years. She began her career as the political advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, and then worked in the corporate- and NGOs sectors London and Singapore before returning to Stockholm. Back in Sweden, she headed the business intelligence unit for a risk- and security firm. In 2011 she took up a senior role at the New Zealand Embassy before founding Mundus International in 2012.