The corona pandemic has strongly influenced the programme of the upcoming trio Presidency.

UM – 06/2020

When Germany takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July, this will also be the starting signal for the new trio Presidency with Portugal and Slovenia. The Trio last worked together in 2007 and 2008. The programme of the trio Presidency includes commonly agreed objectives which each of the three participating countries will use to draw up their own six-month programme. This is intended to make the political process more stable at European level.

Programme for a strong Europe

The overall aim of the trio of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia in the Council of the European Union is to ensure that Europe emerges from the corona pandemic stronger, fairer and more sustainable. The way to achieve this is set out in a 30-page programme for the eighteen months until 31 December 2021. The COVID-19 crisis has had a major influence on the programme.

Negotiations over Brexit not finalised

Action points to address the COVID-19 pandemic and improve European crisis management were already identified in a Joint Statement of the Members of the European Council on 26 March 2020. Other key tasks include reaching agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 together with the new Recovery Fund, and the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. Key policy objectives of the strategic agenda include the climate (the Green Deal), competitiveness, digital transformation, social policy and Europe’s role in the world.

Social issues are a top priority

The trio Presidency is also to be a social presidency and the three countries agree that ‘more can be done’ for the social rights of people in Europe. Proposals for unemployment reinsurance and minimum income protection are important steps, as is a response to cushion the social consequences of the pandemic. COVID-19 has also put the spotlight on issues such as occupational safety and health; the protection of workers in precarious, non-standard employment; and flexible forms of work. Artificial intelligence is to play an important role in the further development of work; labour policy will be particularly concerned about vocational training for workers. In the future, digital skills will increasingly be necessary. The digital sovereignty of the EU must be strengthened. 

Yes to independence, no to protectionism

European sovereignty will also be promoted in healthcare. The principle of self-sufficiency should be strengthened with regard to the availability of medicines, vaccines and protective equipment, as should cross-European structures such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The impact of the pandemic is also evident in the programme here. There is much talk today about Europe’s strategic independence. It is completely understandable that consideration is being given to greater independence from world markets, more secure supply and provision of products, and access to a COVID-19 vaccine. However, these considerations must not encourage protectionism. This would be extremely problematic in view of the intensive economic interdependence with non-European trading partners.