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From Strasbourg, where the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe took place, and after the social summit on 7 and 8 May in Porto, we welcome the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. He talks to us about his idea of social Europe, at the heart of the Portuguese presidency of the Union which will come to an end on July 1, of the management of the pandemic by the European institutions, of its impact on the economies of 27 and international solidarity in the field of vaccines.
Social Europe at the heart of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU
The Porto summit saw “for the first time the Presidents of Parliament and of the Commission and all representatives of civil society commit to implementing the action plan of the European Commission” with “concrete objectives for employment, training, poverty reduction “, according to Antonio Costa, who recalls that” the Member States are committed to achieving these objectives and have given their political support to this action plan “, insisting on the fact that “these objectives must be binding”.
In this context, he wishes to be able to conclude the debates on the European minimum wage but concedes that “it is a difficult debate because the European social model is a global reference, and each country has its tradition”, recalling all the same that “no one is not against the minimum wage “.
Lessons from the past
“In this crisis, Europe has given a completely different response from the one it gave ten years ago.” The Portuguese Prime Minister underlines that “the ECB has been very active in avoiding any financial crisis, the European Commission has been very active in lifting the rules of the Stability Pact”, and recalls this “historic moment” of July 2020 when the 27 have signed the recovery plan.
He also insists on the Sure program, which “has made it possible to finance short-time working and other measures to support companies and workers in these very difficult times of crisis”. He hopes that “the lesson we have all learned during these ten years will remain and that, for future crises, we can still improve the response.”
Solidarity management of the pandemic
Asked about the criticisms of the management of the pandemic, he recognizes “that we can always do better” but wishes to stress that thanks to the joint purchase of vaccines, there was no “fight for sharing vaccines between the 27 and we had the capacity to act jointly and in solidarity “. He is also very proud that the European Union is “the only democratic region which continues to export the vaccines it produces”, among other things through the Covax program.
On the issue of the lifting of patents, Antonio Costa considers that this is a “false debate” and that the “fundamental question is the increase in production capacity”. He assures us that “there is not a big division within the Council” on this subject.
Portugal is in the process of total deconfinement, but some sources of the spread of the virus remain, especially in agricultural areas in the South, because of the difficult living conditions of the workers. Antonio Costa recognizes that “the presence of the Covid has completely changed what was acceptable in housing conditions” and ensures that he is working to “have better housing conditions for everyone, especially better sanitary quality”.
While the green certificate, so desired by the countries of the South to relaunch the tourist season, should be implemented at the end of June, the Portuguese Prime Minister recalls that his country “has one of the best health situations in Europe” but recognizes that we have to be “realistic” for the summer of 2021: “Certainly, this summer will be better than the summer of 2020, which was a disaster, but surely 2022 will be a normal year from a tourist point of view.”
Program prepared by Isabelle Roméro, Mathilde Bénézet, Céline Schmitt and Stéphane Bodenne.