The priorities (and challenges) of the Portuguese EU Presidency

Camilla Palla

On 1 January, Portugal began its six-month presidency of the EU. Portugal last held this role in 2007, the year the text of the Lisbon Treaty (coming into force on 1 December 2009) was approved. The chairmanship was taken over from Germany, which in the last six months has brought home important results – from the multiannual budget to the negotiations on the Recovery Plan, including the agreement on Brexit.

What, then, will be the challenges and priorities of the Portuguese Presidency? Firstly, to promote and support Europe’s recovery through the impetus provided by the green and digital transitions. Secondly, to strengthen the social pillar as a key element to ensure that this recovery is based on inclusiveness, solidarity and cohesion. Finally, a key point is the external dimension of the Union and, more specifically, the willingness to strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy, while keeping it open to international cooperation.

These three priorities will be translated into practice in five different areas of action – Resilient Europe, Green Europe, Digital Europe, Social Europe and Global Europe.


The starting point is undoubtedly to implement all the financial tools made available by the EU and now at the disposal of the Member States – from the new multiannual financial framework to the Recovery Fund and the related Recovery and Resilience Facility. These tools are essential for exiting the crisis and laying the foundations for sustainable growth and that would lead to the creation of new jobs. Here, the national recovery plans will be the first step.

The financial dimension will be complemented by the industrial dimension. The protection and promotion of European autonomy through the development of an industrial strategy that keeps small and medium-sized enterprises at the centre and promotes European value chains are the actions underpinning this objective. The reduction of the EU’s external dependence on critical goods and technologies will have to be achieved through the diversification of internal production and external supply chains. In addition, a key focus will be on the sectors most affected by the crisis, such as tourism and the creative sector.

All of this must take place respecting the EU’s fundamental values, with the continuous monitoring and promotion of the rule of law and democracy in the Union, as well as by ensuring the fight against all forms of discrimination and the protection of citizens. Here it is also important to recall the Pact on Immigration and Asylum approved last autumn, with the aim of creating a European comprehensive and integrated approach fully respecting human rights.


In line with the European Commission’s goals, climate will be one of the pillars on which the continent’s recovery will be based, with the priority of implementing the Green Deal and a carbon-neutral and resilient economic model. The first step will be the approval of the first European Climate Act, which will make Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050, through the first step to 2030, with a reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 55%. The transition aims to achieve a competitive, carbon-neutral economy that promotes innovation and ensures energy security.


Digital will be the second driving force behind Europe’s economic recovery. It is a transition that aims to cut across a wide variety of sectors, from industry to health, from research and innovation to mobility. Protection, increased access and competitiveness are the key words to ensure that citizens and businesses can benefit from digital technologies and make European societies and economies more efficient.


The social dimension is of such crucial importance to the Portuguese Presidency that it intends to organise a European summit in Porto (tentatively next May) to give new impetus, especially from a political point of view, to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its action plan. A minimum wage, development of new skills, gender equality and the fight against poverty are just some of the key actions in this area.


Finally, also in view of recent changes in international policy and challenges in the areas of trade and health, the affirmation of the EU as a key player on a global scale is one of the objectives of the new Presidency. Targets include strengthening partnerships for development, relaunching dialogue with the United States and future relations with the United Kingdom. Furthermore, one of the Lisbon objectives is to intensify the dialogue with India in the political, economic and commercial fields and, consequently, a meeting of European leaders with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been scheduled for next May.


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