Portugal promises ‘fair, green & digital’ Covid recovery for EU as it assumes European Council presidency
Portugal has taken the reins of the European Council, vowing in its role as president of the group to implement a sustainable economic recovery for the bloc and act as a fair negotiator between the UK and the EU.
Lisbon was handed the rotating presidency by Germany, and will lead the council until June. The leadership role, which is responsible for heading the Council of Ministers, changes hands between EU member states every six months. Portugal’s term officially began on January 1, 2021.
A website dedicated to Portugal’s new role explained that the country was committed to pursuing “a fair, green and digital recovery” as the bloc struggles to rebound from economy-crippling Covid measures, expressing hope that the actions taken over the next six months will “start a new cycle in Europe.”
The ultimate goal will be to ensure that “dual climate and digital transition is achieved in an inclusive way, without leaving anyone behind, whilst addressing the social dimension of the pandemic,” a statement explaining Portugal’s action plan explained.
Specifically, Lisbon said it would push forward with achieving the vision outlined by the European Pillar of Social Rights, which calls for equal opportunity, greater access to the labor market, inclusion and social protection within the bloc’s economic zone.
Portugal’s presidency will support the creation of a European Health Union, which would be tasked with coordinating the bloc’s response to public health crises, and would also produce and distribute vaccines to member states and nations abroad. Lisbon vowed to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are available to all EU members and that the jab is “public and free.”
The presidency will also be used to reinforce “fundamental values” held by the bloc, and will actively oppose “all forms of discrimination, promote pluralism in the media and combat disinformation.”
Navigating relations with the UK following its formal withdrawal from the EU’s single market and customs union is another top priority for Portugal. Lisbon said it would seek “definitive approval” of a provisional trade agreement reached by both parties last week, ushering in a “strong partnership” between Britain and Brussels “in the economic, geopolitical and security fields.”
The coronavirus crisis drove a wedge between many EU member states, who closed their borders and hoarded medical supplies when the virus began spreading across the region. Negotiating economic recovery packages has also been difficult, with some member states expressing reluctance to chip in to provide financial aid to the hardest-hit nations.
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