On 1 January 2021, Portugal took over the EU’s rotating presidency from Germany. The current presidency trio started in Berlin on 1 July 2020, continues until June 2021 in Lisbon and will end in Ljubljana on 31 December 2021.
With the EU facing unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Portugal takes over the wheel in difficult times. The post-COVID recovery plan will be their main area of focus. Portugal will oversee the implementation of an EU-wide vaccination strategy, adapt various national recovery plans, and manage the implementation of the €750 billion recovery budget.
“Time to deliver: for a fair, green and digital recovery”
The Portuguese program largely focusses on (re-)building a resilient, green and digital Europe and they have identified the following priorities: (i) Promoting a European recovery boosted by the green and digital transitions, (ii) Delivering the EU’s Social Pillar as a key element for ensuring a fair and inclusive green and digital transition and (iii) Strengthening the strategic autonomy of a Europe that is open to the world.
The pandemic has shown the importance of the single market and the need for a strong European Industrial Strategy that ensures a level playing field. In this regard, Portugal is committed to removing unjustified barriers to the single market, prioritizing the EU’s new Industrial Strategy and Digital Services Act, and providing visibility to the benefits of protecting industrial property rights. They will host a high-level conference on intellectual property and the digital transition in February, the EU Industry Days from 22-26 February, and the closing session of the Single Market Forum in June 2021. Portugal will also oversee the implementation on the New Consumer Agenda and host the European Consumer Summit in Lisbon in March 2021.
Strengthening the European Social Model
Strengthening the European Social Model is another central theme in the Portuguese Presidency program. Bearing in the mind the social dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lisbon will aim to achieve an inclusive green and digital transition in which no one is left behind. They will host a Social Summit on 7 and 8 May to give momentum to realizing the European Pillar of Social Rights, during which particular attention will be paid to the areas of employment, qualifications and social protection.
European Year of Rail
2021 signifies the European Year of Rail during which the Commission would like to highlight the benefits of rail as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport. Portugal will launch this unique initiative in March aiming to enable the debate to further develop rail infrastructure and rolling stock contributing to the decarbonization, modernization and safety of the European transport sector.
A green and carbon-neutral Europe
Another topic central to the Portuguese Presidency is carbon-neutrality. The Presidency is committed to mobilizing Member States’ support behind the implementation of the European Green Deal and to promoting an innovative and resilient carbon-neutral development model which will ensure that climate policy and the goal of carbon-neutrality are integrated into various sectoral policies. Portugal will aim to secure a joint committee to achieve the 2030 target to reduce CO2 emission by at least 55% and review the legislative framework on batteries to ensure a sustainable battery value chain.
A global Europe
At the global level, the Portuguese Presidency will support WTO reform ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference, monitor agreements with New Zealand and Australia, seek to finalize the EU-Mercosur and EU-Mexico agreement, prioritize the consolidation of trade relations with the U.S., and pay particular attention to the EU’s relations with Africa.
More importantly, Portugal will oversee the repercussions of the UK’s definitive departure. The Presidency’s main priority is the formal approval and implementation of the Brexit agreement in order to consolidate a strong and comprehensive partnership.