Saturday 10/16/21

How social should the EU be? Leaders to hash out strategy

Prime Minister Sanna Marin held a bilateral meeting with her Portuguese counterpart António Costa on Thursday and will attend EU summits organized by the Portuguese Council Presidency on Friday and Saturday.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) met with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa. Photo: Clara-Azevedo, Portugal Government.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) met with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa. Photo: Clara Azevedo/Portuguese Government.
EU governments on Friday will attempt to hash out the bloc's strategy on social affairs at a meeting in Porto, against the background of the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, leaving thousands of people unemployed.

The EU heads of state and government will meet during a high-level conference on social issues in Portugal's northern city and are due to continue their discussions on Saturday.

Covid-19 has pushed social issues back to the top of the agenda, EU lawmaker Iratxe Garcia of the European Parliament's socialists said on Thursday.

"After years of austerity, the Covid-19 pandemic unveiled the truth: only strong social policies can contribute to facing the crisis. We need a strong social net to take millions of Europeans out of poverty and to ensure decent salaries for the so-called working poor," she said.

The leaders are expected to sign off on a Porto Declaration during their meetings, setting out the bloc's vision for "Europe's digital, green and fair transition," according to European Council President Charles Michel.

However, with social issues mainly handled by national governments rather than EU institutions, several EU officials dampened expectations of a strong declaration.

"Having a statement is really already an achievement," an EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Discussions might also be sidetracked by urgent current affairs issues.

After the US indicated it was open to suspending intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, for example, several EU officials said the matter would also be discussed in Porto.

While many lawmakers are due to attend the talks in person, the German, Dutch, and Maltese premiers will dial in virtually.

Marin met with Portuguese PM

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin held a bilateral meeting with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa on Thursday.

The main themes of their bilateral meeting were increasing economic cooperation between the countries and topical EU issues. Finland and Portugal have traditionally had good relations, which have been further deepened by EU partnership.

Portugal has identified forestry development as one of the key areas of its post-pandemic economic recovery plan. One of the main objectives of developing forest management is to reduce forest fires, which have increased dramatically in Portugal as a result of drought caused by climate change.

Finland and Portugal began their cooperation in the forest sector in connection with a trade mission by then-Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in autumn 2018.

“Finland has leading expertise in the green transition and digital economy, which are of great interest to Portugal. Businesses should seize the opportunity and take advantage of the possibilities offered by the EU recovery instrument. Cooperation between our countries in the forest sector is progressing well,” Prime Minister Marin said.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Marin also addressed the lack of a tax treaty between Finland and Portugal. Portugal has not yet ratified the tax treaty signed in 2016.

Prime Minister Marin’s visit to Portugal will continue on 7 and 8 May, when she will attend the EU summits hosted by the Portuguese Council Presidency.