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
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).
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
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.