Portugal: ‘No one is entitled to question country’s position on EU values’ – PM

Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, has said in Brussels that nobody has the legitimacy to question Portugal’s unequivocal commitment to the values of the European Union when faced with alleged opposition to a mechanism on the rule of law.

Speaking at a joint press conference on Tuesday with the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, after a meeting devoted to the six-monthly Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts in a month’s time, Costa reiterated that, for Portugal, the values of the EU are not just a condition for access to funds, they are much more than that, and argued that the issue of the conditionality mechanism for access to funds to respect the rule of law should not be reopened, as it had already been agreed.

Charles Michel was also adamant that there is no shadow of a doubt about the commitment of Portugal and the prime minister to the values of the EU.

He said that no one has any legitimacy to have any doubt about Portugal’s position on this matter, which has always been very clear, Costa recalled that Portugal supported the agreement that was concluded here last July on the EU budget for 2021-2027 and the Recovery Fund, which already included the conditionality mechanism to respect the rule of law and Portugal supports the German Presidency in the agreement it obtained with the European Parliament”.

Costa then spoke about the former Prime Minister Mário Soares, recalling that when Portugal applied for membership of the then European Economic Community (EEC) in 1977, it did not apply for membership of a single currency, which did not even exist, not even an internal market, which did not yet exist, what Portugal asked for membership was a union of values, to consolidate democracy and freedom that we had just regained, pointing out that that was the great vision of Mário Soares in 1977.

“And, as I have said and repeated, the European Union, before a customs union, before a single currency, before an internal market, is a union of values. That is what is fundamental, and that is the unequivocal position that Portugal holds on this matter,” he said.

Both leaders stressed the importance of the blockade by Hungary and Poland on the whole of Europe’s recovery plan being overcome as early as the European Council on 10 and 11 December, and Costa warned all those involved in an arm wrestling that there is no room for a plan B because this matter has to be resolved by 12 a.m. on 31 December and cannot be moved to 12 p.m on 1 January, as the EU would enter a budgetary blockade.

The adoption of the EU’s multiannual budget for 2021-2027 (€1.08 billion) and its associated post-Pandemic Recovery Fund (€750 billion) is blocked by Poland and Hungary, who disagree with the condition on access to EU funds to respect the rule of law, and this issue should dominate the next summit of EU heads of state and government on 10 and 11 December.

Tuesday’s meeting between Costa and Charles Michel took place as part of the preparatory meetings of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which starts one month from now, on 1 January, and was preceded by a meeting of the prime minister with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

António Costa will participate on Wednesday in the virtual ‘Conference of Presidents’ with the political leaders of the European Parliament, also devoted to the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2021.