EU Presidency wants immediate response to crisis, long-term vision

  • Lusa
  • 26 November 2020

The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union wants to prioritize the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union wants to combine the “immediate response” to the pandemic crisis with a “long-term vision” to build a Europe “capable of adapting” and responding “to the expectations of its citizens”.

“Acting on the current situation, giving citizens what they really need and, at the same time, looking to the future and being able to work towards resilience”, the secretary of state for European affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias, said in an ‘online’ conference.

The ‘first priority’ of the presidency’s programme is Europe’s resilience, she stressed, making it clear that it is ‘the ability to adapt, to deal with external pressures, ensuring a response that encompasses the expectations of citizens’ in the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.

The long-term vision, “for the next 10 years”, should combine economic recovery with “climate action, innovation, social cohesion and a coherent external agenda”, an agenda based on “core values”, he continued.

Insisting on the need to launch economic recovery “in a very immediate way”, she admitted that “there is a problem” created by Hungary’s and Poland’s veto on the agreement on the European Union (EU) budget for 2021-2027 and its associated Recovery Fund, worth a total of €1.8 trillion that the 27 need as soon as possible.

“We have prepared a vision together, we have prepared a programme together, but at the moment we do not have the financial instruments to make that vision a reality,” he said, stressing that the impasse must “absolutely” be resolved “by the end of the year.

“Otherwise, it will be very difficult to convince European citizens that the European Union really works. No one will understand” this deadlock, she warned.

She called for the recovery to be built on three pillars: sustainability and innovation, “the famous dual ecological and digital transition”, and “the well-being” of citizens, or the policies that will prevent the negative effects of that transition, “the heart” of the Portuguese presidency.

“It means looking at the European social model and its relevance. Without it, where would we be? It is this model that allows us to have unemployment benefits, measures to fight poverty or inequality, health care”, she stressed, pointing out the European social model as “the distinctive factor” of Europe.

Ana Paula Zacarias spoke today as the main speaker at the conference “Pre-Presidency of Portugal”, co-organised by the Portuguese Institute for International Relations (IPRI), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and the Association for Trans-European Political Studies (TEPSA).