“Our priority must be to speed up vaccination.” This was how Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa began his message addressed to his fellow members at the meeting of the European Council, via video conference. The Prime Minister believes that the European Union vaccination priority should have three main focuses: the principle that vaccine distribution contracts must be complied with, the reinforcement of the capacity for production, distribution and authorisation of vaccines in the European Union, and international solidarity.
António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, at a press conference © Official Portuguese Prime Minister's Office
“ It is vital for us to develop mechanisms together for early detection of new variants, in a coordinated, cooperative effort by the different research institutes and health authorities in each of the Member States ”
Prime Minister António Costa, after the videoconference of the members of the European Council
The pandemic has to be eradicated all over the world and, therefore, “international solidarity in sharing vaccines to ensure vaccination on a global scale, and particularly in countries with fewer resources”, is essential for us to be able to eradicate this virus”. In this context, Portugal unreservedly supports the existence of a vaccine sharing mechanism, António Costa explained to his counterparts. In fact, 5% of the national vaccine stock will be sent to the Portuguese-speaking African Countries and to East Timor, in addition to the financial support the country has already provided to help combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in those countries, in the form of medical equipment and training.
“ At the beginning of the Portuguese Presidency, it was not possible to obtain mutual recognition of rapid tests, but it is now vital for us to have this joint capacity for early detection of the variants, so that we can be forewarned and better able to respond to these new realities ”
Prime Minister António Costa after the video conference of the members of the European Council
The preservation of the Internal Market was another of the issues the Prime Minister discussed with his counterparts. António Costa underlined the importance of coordinated action on the borders, ensuring green corridors and the rights of cross-border workers, in order to guarantee normal operation of the Internal Market and freedom of movement in the European Area.
António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, at the videoconference of the members of the European Council © Official Cabinet of the Prime Minister of Portugal
Security & defence and the Southern Neighbourhood on the agenda
On the second day of the meeting, the leaders discussed issues of security and defence and exchanged views with the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg. António Costa argued that the initiatives in the area of European security and defence must be aligned with the EU's level of ambition and should reinforce its complementarity with NATO and its global partnerships.
From a European point of view, Portugal, which holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU until June, believes that the “Strategic Compass” proposal presented by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, is a solid base for working on to develop security and defence capabilities, reinforcing synergies between the civil and military dimensions, and the technological and industrial basis of European defence.
The last item on the agenda dealt with EU relations with its Southern Neighbourhood, and António Costa expressed once again his support for relaunching a strategic partnership to promote prosperity and stability in the Mediterranean, based on concrete projects of common interest.