The first formal meeting of Ministers for European Affairs of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union took place this morning, by video conference, and was chaired by the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias, from Brussels.
The Secretary of State presented the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency: to promote the economic recovery of the European Union through the twin climate and digital transitions, to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights in such a way that nobody is left behind and to strengthen the strategic autonomy of a European Union open to the world.
Preparation for the European Council
The 27 Ministers for European Affairs also looked at the preparation of the informal meeting of leaders on 21 January, to be held by video conference, in order to debate the coordination of the EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ana Paula Zacarias said she expects to see developments regarding mutual recognition of the results of the COVID-19 testing in the different Member States: "The public health situation is very difficult all over Europe at the moment. We need to strengthen European coordination and present a united front to respond to this challenge that is common to us all." Pleased with the results of the meeting, Ana Paula Zacarias highlighted their willingness to fight the crisis together: "Only together can we promote the collective safety of all our citizens and increase people's trust in what we're doing."
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, added that there is no time to be lost in the fight against the pandemic and hopes that the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be able to manage the crisis and lead us towards a sustainable recovery. The Vice-President said "we are counting on the Portuguese Presidency to lead the efforts to apply the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Next Generation EU project", adding that he intends to begin distribution of the funds during these six months.
European institutions negotiate Conference on the Future of Europe
The Conference on the Future of Europe, one of the main issues at this meeting, is being discussed by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, and a joint declaration is expected to be made by the three institutions. Ana Paula Zacarias recognised the importance of "moving forward rapidly and pragmatically to resolve the governance problem" of the Conference, reiterating the Portuguese Prime Minister's desire to see the issue settled in the near future.