Need to prioritise dossiers due to COVID

European Council President Charles Michel (L) is greeted by the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa (R) upon arrival for the opening of the official program of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in Lisbon, Portugal, 05 January 2021. [EPA-EFE/TIAGO PETINGA]

The lockdown decreed by Portugal and the various coronavirus restrictions across EU member states reinforce the scenario of a virtual presidency and will force Portugal to prioritise dossiers, officials say.

“I think it is definitely more difficult, if not virtually impossible, to achieve the same level of productivity as ‘normal’ presidencies during a ‘crown’ presidency,” Johannes Greubel, an analyst at the European Policy Centre (EPC), said in an interview with Lusa.

With the lack of “bilateral or small group meetings” on the fringes of the summits, the presidencies are, according to the researcher, significantly limited because “it is at these moments that the crucial parts of the negotiations take place,” said Greubel.

“Experience shows that all major decisions in the Council were basically taken when leaders locked themselves in a room and only left when they reached an agreement. This increases the pressure to reach compromises and this pressure simply does not exist in a virtual format,” he added. (Tiago Almeida,

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