From the 1st of January 2021, Portugal will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the fourth time. For the six months of the presidency, Portugal has prioritised promoting the resilience of the European economy and the green recovery thereof, strengthening the social dimension of EU policies, the digital transition and enhancing the role of the EU in the world.
Less than a year ago, we could have hardly imagined the magnitude of the challenges that the Portuguese EU Presidency would be facing now. As a result of the pandemic negotiations on the instruments – such as the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework – had to factor in the impact of anti-Covid measures and the urgent need to find the responses for the recovery of the economy. This also happened to other areas, whose institutional framework had to be reviewed in the past months once the current frameworks became outdated. That was the case, for example, with the Cotonou Agreement, the EU Gender Action Plan 2 (GAP II) and other instruments. Consequently, the turn of the decade coincided with the outbreak of a pandemic with devastating effects on a number of fronts and with a moment of transition in several areas of EU action.
While, on the one hand, it was known that during the six months of the Portuguese presidency the ongoing negotiations would come be concluded and the various instruments would start being implemented, the set of priorities Portugal has announced so far has inevitably been influenced by the situation we are facing. Therefore, one of Portugal’s main objectives will be to guide economic recovery in a direction that allows for the consolidation of the economy and will foster resilience to future crises – to which the Portuguese government associates the priorities in the social, environmental and digital dimensions. At the social level, the Portuguese presidency argues that the cohesion of the people – by enhancing employment, fighting poverty and social exclusion and reducing inequalities – is one of the determining aspects of the recovery of the European economy. A Social Summit is actually scheduled to take place in May in Porto, with a view to the approval of an Action Plan for the implementation of the European Social Rights pillar.
On the environmental level, the legislative process linked to the European Green Deal is expected to continue. Here Portugal places the priority on the promotion of sustainability in all European policies and the development of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. As for the digital dimension, the objective is to reinforce the discussion on regulating the virtual space and the economic activity associated with it. In a moment marked by disinformation and the rise of anti-democratic movements founded on strategies of dissemination of content in the virtual space, Portugal will also seek to foster discussions on the concept of “Digital Democracy”.
Although these action areas address matters within the European Union, many have major implication for the external dimension – which Portugal does not forget. The global scope of European action is another priority area of the Portuguese presidency. Here, the challenge will be to breathe new life into multilateralism through the revitalisation of relations with the USA, the relationship with the UK after the transition period, and the strengthening of the Community’s relations with India. Furthermore, since the EU/AU Summit has been postponed due to the pandemic, there is hope that the leaders from the two continents meet under the Portuguese presidency. On this subject, Civil Society – in particular, the Portuguese NGDO Platform– has called to the participation of European and African civil society in the discussion on the EU/AU Strategic Partnership.
The official opening of the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union will take place on the 14th of January, as announced on the official website of the Portuguese Presidency that was launched last week.
Two days before the event, January, 12th the Portuguese NGDO Platform will be holding an event to launch the Project “Towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world”, which is intended to keep up with the Portuguese presidency. The priorities of Civil Society, gathered through the consultation process carried out by the Platform, will be announced then.