Europe only strong if citizens’ lot improves – Portugal president

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. [EPA-EFE/MARIO CRUZ]

Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has in the run-up to the European Council of 24 and 25 June described the country’s six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union as a “difficult” stint that involved much work, warning the EU is only strong when it improves the lives of citizens.

“As fate would have it, it coincided with the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union,” he said. “A difficult presidency involving hard-working, in the middle of the pandemic, especially in January, February, March and even April – but during which it was possible to make progress on the climate law, digital, energy transition, and especially on the issue of health.”

De Sousa highlighted the efforts of Portugal during its presidency to “overcome the lack of vaccines, the delay in the supply of vaccines” and also in securing approval for EU financing mechanisms for the next seven years, as translated into the national recovery and resilience plans.

“Europeans, Bulgarians, and Portuguese hope that, after this pandemic, there will be an economic upturn and, above all, a way out of the social crisis,” he said alongside his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev. “That there are better prospects in education, training, but also in health, jobs, wages, housing – in everything that is fundamental to Europeans.”

On this latter theme, the president issued a warning: “Europe is not a theoretical or abstract idea; Europe is only strong if the life of Europeans improves, if the life of Bulgarians improves, if the life of Portuguese people improves.”

In his own opening remarks, Radev had also highlighted the symbolism of this visit, taking place as it was during Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

“We have to highlight the efforts and the results that the Portuguese presidency has achieved in its fight against the pandemic, in the very fair distribution of vaccines, which was favorable to us,” he said, according to the official translation of Radev’s comments, which were made in Bulgarian.

The president of Bulgaria also praised his Portuguese counterpart, describing him as “a visionary person” and “one of the most important European leaders because he enjoys extraordinary authority” due to his knowledge of European and global issues.

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