"It was time to act", said the prime minister, António Costa, last week, when presenting an assessment of this fourth Portuguese presidency of the EU.
The goal of having the national plans approved by 30 June, paving the way for the release of the Recovery and Resilience Fund, was announced in December by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, and renewed in April, when António Costa pointed to the approval of a first package of Recovery and Resilience Plans (PRR) at the meeting of Finance Ministers (Ecofin) on 13 June.
Portugal was the first country to formally present its investment plan to the European Commission, but other Member States were not so quick: on 30 April, the deadline for submission, only eight of the 27 had done so and, at the moment, two months later, there are still three countries that have not applied.
Still on the economic front, and having also stipulated the objective of approving all the regulations for the entry into force of the multiannual financial framework, the EU budget for 2021-2027, the presidency negotiated and managed to get virtually all legislation approved, including the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), agreed in recent days.
Portugal defined as the third major objective to reach the end of June with the vaccination process against Covid-19 “well advanced” in all Member States, an “essential element for economic and social recovery”.
A victory in this domain was the Covid-19 digital certificate, adopted “in record time” to facilitate circulation in the EU.
The Portuguese presidency defined as its fourth major objective “a definitive boost” to the realization of the European Pillar of Social Rights, promoting, in Porto, a Social Summit, which brought together decision-makers, social partners and civil society.
This session, the Climate Law was approved - which transposes carbon neutrality into law until 2050 -, the directive on transparency of multinationals - henceforth required to disclose in which countries they make profits and pay taxes - and the Guarantee for Children - which will ensure that 18 million children at risk or in poverty have access to essential services.
Some important impasses were unblocked, such as the one that delayed the start of the Conference on the Future of Europe for a year, but others, such as the new Pact on Migrations, only met technical developments, insufficient to put an agreement in perspective soon, as the Slovenia, which assumes the presidency on Thursday.
On the other hand, and despite Portugal's insistence over the six months on the importance of defending the rule of law in the EU, which included the re-launch of procedures against Hungary and Poland, the presidency ends with a controversy involving fundamental rights.
The “duty of neutrality” affirmed by the Secretary of State for European Affairs in relation to a letter of 13 EU leaders defending fundamental European values, published after the passage in Hungary of a law prohibiting “the promotion” of homosexuality among minors, received strong internal criticism to the government.
Initially planned for different scenarios of evolution of the pandemic, successive waves determined that the rule was often the meeting by videoconference or hybrid, which affected the dynamics of some negotiations, but also, and above all, the visibility of the presidency, with coverage media forcibly hampered.
Now, Portugal passes the baton to Slovenia, which is the second time that this small country of about 2 million inhabitants, takes the helm of the EU.