In his speech delivered in the European Parliament, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has outlined his vision for the coming Portuguese presidency, including issues regarding migration, the rule of law and tackling the pandemic.
The socialist politician has emphasized what he called a “strategic autonomy” that Europeans must follow, effectively outlining a vision of weaning Europe off a fractured American foreign policy, and also following its own path in finding a strategy to fight the global coronavirus crisis. Although he had referred to the inauguration of US President Joe Biden that was being held almost simultaneously in warm words, he had signaled the formation of a new, more independent EU, that would compete on the world stage with the US and other major powers on equal terms.
In his reference to the question of migration, he has emphasized that Portugal intends to give a “maximum political impulse” to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. In his view, finding legal routes for migrants making their way to Europe must be part of the solution. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is a proposal made by the European Commission that would centralize migration policy in the EU, effectively taking decisions about border controls and long-term society building away from nation-states, and would prevent European voters from having a direct say in these matters.
The proposal still supports “rescue missions” for migrants making their way through the sea, that has been seen by many as a major pull factor for those risking their lives to get to Europe. It also supports the highly controversial “migrant quotas” that would distribute economic migrants among EU member states. Poland and Hungary have been the most vocal opponents of the Migration Pact, but Austria had also opposed its introduction. France’s Marine Le Pen has called the pact the “suicide of Europe” that would add 75 million new migrants to the continent.
In a response to Prime Minister Costa, the Hungarian MEP for the far-left Momentum party, Katalin Cseh, had criticized European institutions for the alleged inaction when it comes to protecting the fundamental values of the EU. In a clear reference to the Hungarian government, she complained that authoritarian regimes are weakening democracy. She had also criticized the Hungarian Foreign Secretary Péter Szijjártó for traveling to Moscow only days after the Alexei Navalny affair.
Kinga Gál, MEP for the Hungarian governing Fidesz party had, on the other hand, leveled a criticism at European leaders for failing to obtain enough coronavirus vaccines, saying that “Europeans would like to regain their pre-pandemic freedom, yet vaccination would be a precondition to this”.
In her opinion, delays in obtaining the vaccine undermines people’s trust in European institutions, and the same applies to tackling illegal migration. Gál also demanded guarantees from the new Portuguese presidency that rule-of-law inquiries will not be used to blackmail member states, and called it unacceptable that the vice president of the European Commission, Vera Jourová, had threatened the Hungarian government with withholding financial resources. Gál also insisted that Article 7 proceedings against Hungary and Poland must be ended.
In his reply to the MEP’s questions, Costa had reiterated that he wants to continue with pending Article 7 proceedings against certain member states because “respect for the rule of law is a necessary condition of belonging to the EU, and the Portuguese presidency will continue with the ongoing processes in this area”.
It is clear that countries such as Poland or Hungary, that have long-standing disputes with the dominant majority opinion in the EU regarding issues such as the independence of judiciary and migration, will have a fight on their hands with the incoming Portuguese presidency. Costa and his ruling Socialist Party government are one of the staunchest supporters of the radical left-wing and pro-migration vision that currently forms the European political mainstream.
Costa’s statement about the principle of rule-of-law, which is a by-word for accepting the ruling globalist and progressive ethos, and its connection to EU membership, is clearly a veiled threat to those still resisting a radical progressive vision of open societies and a strongly centralized Europe.