EU member states are divided over Europe’s future, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa told a conference in Lisbon on Monday, where the plans for the country’s EU Council presidency due in January 2021 were discussed.
Diplomats told EURACTIV that Lisbon fears that when it takes over the EU presidency, it will have to deal with the “hot potatoes” of Brexit and the rule of law, considering that both files are close to reaching a deadlock.
Costa said member states that want “common values” are to be distinguished from those that consider Europe’s future from a purely economic perspective. For the socialist leader, the solution to this divide is in “variable geometries” of integration.
In an indirect reference to the Netherlands, according to Lusa.pt, Costa said there are countries which “are also wondering what this future is and some are even founders of the European project, but they were less visible and vocal because they followed the UK wave and are now more exposed”.
With the departure of the UK from the EU, Costa said, “there is no longer a member state defending the [more economicist] positions and there are now several countries defending the positions that only the United Kingdom apparently defended in isolation”.
Costa also warned that the digital and climate transitions will have socio-economic costs and argued that the development of the European social pillar is the way to eliminate the “pasture” for the growth of populist currents.
Contacted by EURACTIV, sources in Brussels expressed surprise at this and pointed out that it was Costa who said in July said the EU budget and rule of law had to be separated while it was Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his Finnish counterpart Sanne Marin who pushed for a rule of law mechanism at the July summit. (Pedro Morais Fonseca | Lusa.pt – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)