2021 began with the usual six-month rotation of the EU Council presidency, with Antonio Costa, prime minister of Portugal, succeeding Angela Merkel as council president. The Portuguese presidency has taken place at a particularly critical juncture for the European Union, with the Covid-19 pandemic itself underscoring the biggest shock the continent has faced since the start of the joint venture and with the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU) also appearing to pose a challenge to the social and economic cohesion of society.
In this context, the Prime Minister stressed, at the time, that “the time for action has come more than ever”, that is, with regard to the “vaccination process”, “economic and social recovery”, “reinforcement” from. The strategic independence of a continent open to the world” and the “climate emergency”, culminating in the slogan “Time to act: for a just, green and digital recovery”.
At the same time, Portugal was expected to favor international relations, at a time when European dominance was still at stake, due to an aging population, productivity problems, some inefficiency in managing the epidemic, and of course the rapid rise of China.
Some files, such as the Community Budget for the period between 2021 and 2027 and the European Union Recovery Fund to counter the economic effects of the pandemic, have proven to be of particular importance in the Portuguese Mandate, as Antonio Costa advocated for a “common European response” in light of the bloc’s successful re-emergence after challenges faced today.
In light of this crucial moment for the future of the European Union, and with the end of the Portuguese mandate at the head of the body, public opinion is divided as to which way to take. While some advocate greater integration, perhaps at the cost of transferring national sovereignty to European institutions, with the aim of correcting flaws in the EU’s structure, others lack the political will to deepen relations within society.
In this chapter, Portugal has been particularly critical in defending risk-sharing among member states, with Antonio Costa welcoming the creation of the aforementioned Recovery Fund, financed by a joint debt issuance, a move that, although faced with strong opposition from a frugal group, did not The European Union has never been willing to deliver before.
Although this is a relevant dimension of disagreement within the European Union, the balance between federalism and state governments is not the only cause of disagreement. Indeed, in terms of foreign policy, there was also some tension during Costa’s leadership, with the leader of the Greens seat in European circulation, Philip Lamberts, criticizing the new presidency’s goal of concluding the EU Free Trade Agreement. and Mercosur, which claims its ability to exacerbate the climate crisis facing the world.
In this context, it should be noted that one of Costa’s priorities will be to rebuild the relationship with India, with the USA led by Joe Biden and the UK in the post-Brexit period, in order to strengthen the geopolitical power of the old continent in the context of the world. It was also interesting to understand the position adopted by the European Union in negotiating international agreements, an area in which some feared a position of submission, which might reduce the importance of the European Union, while others called for more cooperation with strategic partners, with the aim of solidifying Europe’s position. In the world.
Regarding the climate, the Portuguese presidency has been characterized by some difficulties, as it seemed that the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union wanted to move at different speeds. Indeed, while MEPs aim to reduce CO2 emissions2 At 60% by 2030, member states refuse to go above 55%. This also appears to be fertile ground for future debate, and it is pertinent to consider the extent to which environmental policy should be so prominently under the authority of the Community (European Parliament) or national jurisdiction (Council of the European Union).
Finally, diplomatic relations within the community proved to be another challenge during the leadership of Antonio Costa, given the climate of hostility between Hungary, Poland (belonging to the Visegrad group) and European institutions. It must be remembered that the approval of the EU budget and recovery fund was initially blocked by the two countries, and it was not easy to untie the knot. The roots of the conflict lie in the conditionality of European funds to respect the rule of law, a point that raises doubts about the two mentioned countries.
Thus, it can be seen that Portugal implemented a difficult mandate at the head of the Council of the European Union, and it was necessary to manage conflicts of interest between institutions with political intelligence. This was one of the topics under discussion between April 5-9, 2021 in the sixth edition of live economy, which is a cycle of conferences held annually by the Nova Club of Economics (NEC) and the Nova Students’ Union, which you can review now on the official page of Facebook gives NEC.
The exposed article is the result of a partnership between Journal Económico and Nova Economics Club, a group of economics students at the New School of Business and Economics.
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