European Pillar of Social Rights – one of the three main topics.

JS – 01/2021

Portugal holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1st January to 30th June 2021. The motto of the Portuguese Council Presidency is: "Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery".

The programme focuses on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences. The Council Presidency has declared its intention of taking decisive and far-reaching action.

Recovery, social rights and strategic autonomy

The Council Presidency wishes to address three priorities, in particular:

  • Europe's recovery, supported by climate and digital transformation
  • Implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights as a key element in ensuring fair inclusive climate and digital transformation
  • Strengthening Europe's strategic autonomy while remaining open to the world.

These three priorities are to be pursued in five fields of action: a - resilient - green - digital - social and - global - Europe.  

For a resilient Europe, Portugal wants to push ahead with the implementation of the new Multi-annual Financial Framework (2021-2027) and the "NextGenerationEU" instrument with its reconstruction and resilience facilities. Portugal wants to hold a high-level conference on recovery in June. There, the economic and financial situation will be addressed against the background of the national reconstruction and resilience plans.

The EU shall also take a leading role in climate protection and digital transformation. The Portuguese Council Presidency wishes to promote the general development of digital skills, particularly with regard to the teleworking processes now in use. A European data platform is to be strategically established for Europe's digital independence: submarine cables are to be laid to connect Europe with Africa and South America. 

Social Europe

The Portuguese Council Presidency wants to upgrade and strengthen the European social model. This is seen as the only way to counteract the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. The implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights should give it a concrete meaning in the lives of EU citizens.

As part of this, the Portuguese Council Presidency is organising a social summit in May in Porto. The focus should be on employment, skills and social protection. The summit is intended to advance topics arising especially from the EU Commission's action plan for implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. The action plan is due to be published in the coming weeks.


Portugal wishes to develop a European framework for action in the field of healthcare. The aim is a European health union. By implementing the "EU4Health" healthcare programme, the Council Presidency aims to counter the consequences of the pandemic and the resulting pressure on healthcare systems.

The "Portugal eHealth summit" will be held in June and it will cover digital issues such as telemedicine and the interoperability of health records. Other priorities of the Council Presidency are the availability of medicines and access to them as well as the European Cancer Plan: a conference on access to medicines will be held in April and the European cancer research summit will be held in May.

It remains to be seen which projects can be implemented within the next six months. It can be assumed that some of them will at least extend into the subsequent Slovenian Council Presidency. From July 2021, Slovenia will take over the Council Presidency as the third country in the current presidency trio of Germany - Portugal - Slovenia.