European Union
European Union

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Monday that global understanding, economic recovery and social support are the main goals for next years in the presidency of the European Union (EU) Council.

In terms of global understanding, the EU’s investment deal with China, which has been under negotiation for seven years, is “very important,” Costa said in an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa. On Dec. 30, 2020, China and the EU announced that they have completed investment agreement negotiations as scheduled.

According to the prime minister, the agreement between Brussels and Beijing “guarantees reciprocal security of market opening” and “investment relations which ensure and respect all security rules on both sides.”

“If Europe wants to be a global actor, as it has to be, its strategic autonomy depends on being able to speak with each of the other global actors. It must relate to the United States, China, Australia and New Zealand, India, Africa,” Costa said.

As for Africa, which will be crucial to the Portuguese presidency’s external agenda, the prime minister hoped that the EU-African Union summit, which was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, would be held “in the spring.”

“I think it would be important at a time when the African Union has signed a continental free trade agreement. This would have been a fantastic time for a meeting of the European Union and Africa,” said Costa.

The prime minister agreed it was fair to say that Europe has given “a rapid and assertive response” and “shown great ability to lead” in this crisis, which can be seen in the “joint purchase of vaccines” and the “giant step” of moving towards a joint issuance of debt to finance the recovery.

Health service, housing, public administration, major industrial projects and digitalization are the priorities for the recovery program supported by the European funds, Costa noted. He also said the development of social Europe is “absolutely essential” for “giving confidence” to citizens.

“This is a critical issue because, as we have seen, the challenges posed by climate change and the digital transition require major investment in training and retraining,” he concluded, adding that solid social protection is needed to ensure nobody is left behind.

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