António Costa had a videoconference meeting with the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups represented in the European Parliament.
In a virtual meeting with the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament (EP), the Prime Minister told the leaders of the parliamentary groups about the goals of Portugal's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is set to begin on 1 January 2021. This was followed by an exchange of ideas between the leaders of the political families and the government.
The meeting ended with a joint press conference by the Portuguese Prime Minister and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, where António Costa outlined the three priorities of Portugal's presidency: “economic recovery, strengthening the social pillar and a more independent Europe that is also more open to the world”.
With regard to economic recovery, the head of the Portuguese government said that it is “time to start approving national recovery plans and putting them into practice. We have the entire regulatory framework of the multiannual budget to underpin the work Europe must do to protect the jobs and incomes of families and companies”.
Strengthening the social pillar
The second priority, which consists of strengthening the social pillar, includes improving qualifications, so that everybody can play an active role in the twin climate and digital transitions, investing in innovation, so that companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, can increase their competitiveness in a global world, and strengthening social protection, so that “nobody is left behind”. In fact, this pillar gains even more importance due to the current pandemic crisis. For António Costa, the European Union must ensure greater coordination in health, with a common policy and vision. The goal is to continue addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to develop a common process for buying and distributing the vaccine to ensure Europe-wide herd immunity.
The third priority
Fair globalisation is the third priority of Portugal's presidency and the Prime Minister called for a reinforcement of Europe's strategic autonomy, while at the same time remaining open to the world. On this subject, António Costa spoke of forging closer relations with the African continent, intensifying transatlantic relations with the new administration in the United States and building a closer relationship between the EU and Latin America. He also highlighted the importance of developing ties with Indian Ocean and Pacific countries, announcing the organisation of an informal meeting of the Heads of State or Government between the European Union and India, scheduled for 8 May in Porto.
The Prime Minister also said that it is “fundamental to reach an agreement that will allow the next multiannual financial framework and the Recovery and Resilience Plan to come into force on 1 January, thus preventing Europe from getting bogged down”, alerting to the fact that this is “the time to deliver what all Europeans demand from their political leaders: rapid solutions to the pandemic, the economic crisis, unemployment, the anguish of those who are afraid of losing their income or seeing their companies fold”.
The Conference of Presidents
The visit from the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, traditionally a face-to-face meeting, is the result of a joint initiative from the European Parliament and the government of the Member State that is about to take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and consists of a dialogue where the political and legislative priorities for the next six months are discussed.