January marks the beginning of a new Presidency of the Council of the EU. After last-minute negotiations on a wide range of subjects just before the holiday season – such as the long-term budget and Next Generation EU -, or at the very beginning of it (see the Brexit trade and cooperation deal), Germany has now virtually handed the Presidency to Portugal. The country will be presiding over the blocs’ Ministers for the first six months of the year, until 30 June.
This is the fourth time Lisbon is at the helm of the Council. The last time it held the Presidency was in 2007, when the Treaty of Lisbon was signed. Hopefully, this time it can also bring some fresh starting to the EU.
For sure, it will have the hard task to steer the implementation of much of what has been agreed in the past months, including unlocking the money of the Recovery Plan, as hinted by the sun and the helm featured in the Presidency’s visual identity.
The financial tools and the political will to start working on Europe’s recovery are there. “Time to deliver: a fair, green, digital recovery” is the rallying cry of the Presidency.
The Portuguese Presidency is set to organise its programme around five main pillars: Resilient Europe, Social Europe, Green Europe, Digital Europe and Global Europe.
As the social scars of one year of lockdown measures will be difficult to heal, Portugal also plans to take the 2017 European Pillar of Social Rights beyond symbolism. A Social Summit will be organised in the city of Porto in May, to bring together all the initiatives promoting a Social Europe. In this occasion, the role of culture for social cohesion will be highlighted.
Portugal will also have to work towards a meaningful start of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the two-year conference on future perspectives for the EU that was originally foreseen to be launched on 9 May 2020, but was then halted by the pandemic outbreak, as well as some political fights over its leadership.
The Portuguese Minister for Culture will deliver an in-depth presentation of the country’s priorities later this month before the CULT Committee. On top of the list, there is the cultural and creative sectors’ sustainable recovery from the pandemic. The Presidency will also promote a discussion and a thematic workshop on the diversification of sources and mechanisms for funding to safeguard and protect Europe’s cultural heritage. Other focal points will be access to culture and participation in cultural life and the relationship between the arts and education.
A large number of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) programmes, while already agreed by the Parliament and the Council, will also need to be finalised during the Portuguese Presidency. In this regard, the new Creative Europe programme for 2021-2027 is expected to be unveiled in Lisbon in June.
Updates from the Presidency can be followed via its official hashtag on social media: #EU2021PT.