On 5 January 2021, President Charles Michel and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa made following remark.
Thank you for the welcome that is reserved for me. My presence here is also a sign of very, very committed support. It’s also a sign of trust. We have known each other for several years, we have been working together for several years and I am optimistic, a bit like the symbol of the Portuguese Presidency, the sun, the light and the hope.
2020 was a brutal year for the world, and for the European Union as well. This crisis, COVID-19, which has struck us, which has shaken us and which has perhaps also been an opportunity to affirm the priorities of the European Union, first of all through the unity and trust that has been needed. Unity is never simple, it works all the time and requires effort, dialogue, mutual understanding and the ability to decide together.
You know, as we know, this Portuguese Presidency starts at the beginning of 2021, whereas the previous year was marked by this shock, and starts when we are not yet out of COVID-19. We are fully mobilised, with the European Commission, with governments and local authorities as well, to deploy vaccines. And we see that it is a huge challenge facing us. We will continue to be mobilized on this subject and it is in this sense that we mentioned earlier that before the end of January, there will again be a video conference at the level of heads of state and government to address once again this issue of the management of this COVID crisis that is hitting us and this important deployment of vaccines. , but also of all the instruments at our disposal to limit the spread of the virus, to take control of the virus, to ensure that 2021 is an opportunity to control this virus.
Moreover, the three priorities expressed very well by Antonio Costa are in line with the European Union’s medium- and long-term objectives. The first point is to succeed in the economic recovery.
New hope, but not only hope, is also the ability to mobilise concrete financial resources: 2020 was marked by two important political moments for the European Union: the agreement of July: four days and four nights, 750 billion euros that were mobilised, a substantial part in subsidies, national plans to mobilise these resources towards economic development , aimed at citizens and above all at the start of two pillars: climate change and the digital agenda. Two pillars that are totally within the priorities of this Portuguese Presidency and for which we have work to do in 2021.
From the first months of 2021, the climate agreements, since we validated in December our ambitions for 2030, after having validated this ambition of climate neutrality by 2050 for the European Union and which makes the European Union a leader on the climate and which makes us an entity that has the ambition to use this climate issue as an opportunity to support more development , more prosperity and a living environment.
The same is true of the digital issue. Portugal, moreover, has an extremely important experience, with a very strong ambition that will certainly be useful at European level as well.
The second point is the social pillar. I like this phrase, which was used by the Portuguese Foreign Minister, who says “this is Europe for people” and we must not forget that the starting point of this European project in the last century is to put at the forefront this European well-being, this quality of life, these conditions of life. Europe is more than a financial project, it is more than an economic project, it is a project based on values. And that is why this moment in May, this meeting which will take place here in Porto, is a moment that we will prepare well, in close cooperation, you can count on all the support of the Council, the teams around me to come in support. For it must be a moment to give this signal in a very, very concrete way that demonstrates the added value of the European project for 450 million European citizens, for their dignity, for their living environment. And this is reflected both through social rights, through access to education, through the fight against all forms of discrimination, against inequality. This is a moment which I am totally convinced will be an important moment for the European project.
And then, the third point, indeed the global Europe, the Europe that takes its destiny into its own hands and The Europe that uses the instruments we have: an internal market, 450 million citizens, an economic force, a commercial force, researchers, a capacity for innovation, also the capacity to express positions at the international level, to work to try to guarantee more security. And this ambition also implies that the European Union fully fulfils its duty as a committed partner for multilateralism. This conviction that international cooperation is the key to addressing the challenges facing the world as a whole, but also some major events that will be important: the meeting with India, an important partner for the European Union, for climate change, for the ability to stimulate investment, to improve the principles of economic fair play, the principles of reciprocity, the transatlantic link , after recent elections in the United States, which are the occasion, we have already had this debate at the European Council level, to mark for the future, priorities, our relationship with this part of the world, not to mention the relationship with Africa, this great continent in the south of Europe for which we also want to commit strongly projects.
And let’s not forget that January 1st is also a date that counts since a country has left the European Union. It is therefore a new future relationship that will have to be implemented as a result of the agreements that were concluded at the end of December with the United Kingdom.
You see an ambitious agenda, in the positive sense of the word, and a fierce desire to be fully mobilized. In any case, I am delighted, in any case, to be able to count on cooperation which, I know, will be very, very close, very strong, because we share these same European convictions. And we believe that in the north, the south, the east, the west, all over the territory of the European Union, we are in the same boat and we have the same conviction that this must be a moment to advance the European Union in the service of the 450 million European citizens.
Source: Intervention du président Charles Michel lors de la conférence de presse avec le Premier ministre portugais António Costa à Lisbonne – Consilium (europa.eu)
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