Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa welcomed the President of the European Commission to Lisbon. The meeting took place during the visit of the College of Commissioners, which traditionally occurs at the beginning of each Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The Centro Cultural de Belém, headquarters of the Portuguese Presidency, played host to the different bilateral meetings between the members of the Portuguese government and the members of the College, as well as a plenary meeting, thematic group meetings and a meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission.
At the end of the meeting, during a joint press conference, Prime Minister António Costa said that the Portuguese Presidency will be focusing on three fundamental areas:
- The economic recovery. Based on the financial instruments approved during the German Presidency, this implies that each Member State must urgently approve the decision on own resources. The European Parliament must also approve the regulation on the Recovery and Resilience Facility and all Member States must present their national recovery plans to the European Commission.
- The social dimension of Europe. This economic recovery, leveraged by the twin climate and digital transitions, requires the reinforcement of the European Social Pillar as a means of ensuring that nobody is left behind: more qualifications for the people, more innovation for the companies and more social protection for all. Thus, with the Social Summit in Porto – scheduled for 7 May, where the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Member States, social partners, civil society, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will be meeting – the aim is to achieve a firm commitment to support the Action Plan that the Commission will be presenting in March for the development of the Social Pillar of the European Union.
- Reinforcing Europe's strategic autonomy. Making the EU more autonomous, but also more open to the world. To this end, the aim is to reinforce partnerships with Africa and relaunch transatlantic relations with the United States and with our new partner outside the EU, the United Kingdom, as well as to intensify relations with the Indo-Pacific region.
President von der Leyen highlighted the alignment of the programme for the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU with the three central priorities of the work of the European Commission: the European Green Deal, the Digital Decade and the Social Dimension of the recovery. In addition, it was “with great satisfaction” that she welcomed the initiative of the Social Summit in Porto, which she believes will send a very strong signal that the European Union is capable of fostering an economic recovery based on the social pillar.
Reiterating the support of the European Union for its Member States “in every possible way”, Ursula von der Leyen said that the European Commission will be focusing on the vaccination process during the next month, which she believes is “the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic”. However, the President of the European Commission also alerted to the fact that it is necessary to remain vigilant in order to contain the pandemic.
She also appealed for all the countries to ratify Next Generation EU and said she was counting on the support of the Portuguese Presidency to help make this happen. The Commission aims for the funds of Next Generation EU to be channelled to the people and the companies that need it before the end of the Portuguese Presidency.