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A positive balance

Portugal is ending its Council Presidency.

KL – 06/2021

The Portuguese Council Presidency did not have an easy time in office in the first half of 2021: the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both the economy and society posed major problems for the EU’s member states. The Council Presidency started with the ambitious motto: "it's time to act: for a just, green and digital recovery". As the Council Presidency comes to an end in June 2021, it is time to look back at the beginning of the year and take stock.

What has been implemented or initiated?

A central theme of the Portuguese Council Presidency was the enhancement and strengthening of the European social model. In line with this, the Portuguese Council Presidency has made a special effort to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. The EC published the corresponding action plan (see News 03/2021) in March 2021. In addition, the Portuguese Council Presidency has envisaged the development of a European framework for action on health.

Social summit in Porto

Porto hosted the social summit on May 7 and 8, 2021. In this context, the Portuguese Council Presidency achieved agreement from the heads of state and governments of the EU’s member states in the Porto Declaration about the core objectives of the action plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights and its implementation via the European Semester (see News 05/2021).

Conference on the future of Europe

On the basis of the proposals of the Portuguese Council Presidency, it was possible, with a one-year delay, to give the start signal for the Conference on the Future of Europe on May 9, 2021. This means that Europe should be given a perspective for the next 10 to 20 years with the participation of its citizens. Topics for this dialogue also include health and social justice and employment (see News 05/2021). 

Health

In addition to planned improvements in the availability, accessibility and affordability of medicines, vaccines and medical devices, the Portuguese Council Presidency also pushed for the implementation of the European Cancer Plan (see News 02/2021). A breakthrough was also achieved in the tripartite negotiations about assessing health technologies. After years of tug-of-war, there is now progress on the dossier and a deal could be in the offing sooner than expected.

Digital EU-COVID certificate

An agreement was reached by the member states and the European Parliament on May 20, 2021 to introduce a pan-European digital certificate for proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, negative coronavirus tests and survived coronavirus disease in order to facilitate travel within the EU (see News 05/2021). 

What remains open?

Some of the projects that were put on the agenda of the Portuguese Council Presidency will continue to accompany the subsequent Slovenian Council Presidency for the second half of 2021. In addition to continuing the dialogue of the Conference on the Future of Europe, these would include creating a European Health Union and increasing the capacity and availability of medicines and medical devices.  

During the first half of the year, the Portuguese Council Presidency set a number of issues in motion for the realisation of a more social Europe. This will also result in progress for German Social Insurance. However, it will also be necessary to continue keeping an eye on developments in the pending issues.