Friday, July 19, 2024

NEW TROUBLES LOOM FOR PORTUGAL AND THE EU


Portugal and other EU countries are now quietly but increasingly concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump returning as president of the United States and “tearing Europe apart.”

Portugal has always fully endorsed the US and European countries  giving large quantities of weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s occupation.

Portugal has always fully supported the European Union, and also the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), of which it was a founding member.

Donald Trump says he intends to immediately end the war in Ukraine and give Russia victory by stopping support for Ukraine. He has shown little interest in continuing America’s close bonds with the European Union, or with continuing ties with NATO.

The other main worries for Portugal and the rest of Europe are that the US will side firmly with Israel rather than a two-state solution with Palestine, complicated by billions of dollars/euros in cross-Atlantic trade relations, and ignore efforts to counter the climate crisis.

The good news in recent days has been that representatives from Portugal and 50 other European countries attended a private summit in England in which the newly elected British prime minister vowed to “reset” relations with the EU shattered by Brexit.

Also, the moderate Ursula Von der Leyen has been voted by a substantial majority to serve a second term as president of the EU Commission. The former Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Costa, is now well entrenched as president of the EU Council. And in Portugal, the main opposition centre-left Socialist Party has proposed having negotiations with the new centre-right government “in good faith” about next year’s budget.

However, the Europe being “torn apart” prediction is likely to be of increasing worry for Portugal and the rest of the continent. “This is the moment most of Europe’s leaders hoped they would never see,” reports the much respected American digital news company Politico. “The date is November 7, 2024.”

The Politico report continued: “The former reality TV star’s return to power would not only be the biggest test in transatlantic relations in post-war history, but it could also pose an existential risk to European unity as the tensions over how to work with the world’s most powerful country pull the continent apart”.  



Friday, July 12, 2024


 New posts on this site are currently on hold due to temporary unusual circumstances, but we'll be back!

Friday, July 5, 2024

UK may "soften" EU relationship



Keir Stamer, UK's new prime minister


The United Kingdom’s soured relationship with the European Union since the Brexit referendum eight years ago could improve somewhat with Britain’s new Labour government led by Sir Keir Starmer. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the EU’s current relationship with its closest partner, the United States, in the lead up to its November election. 

 

The EU hardly got a mention from either the centre-left Labour or right-wing Conservative parties during the run-up to the British election, which gave Labour a landslide victory. The Conservatives, who had been in power for 14 years, fully endorsed the outcome of the Brexit referendum, which resulted in just short of 52% of voters choosing “leave”. Many do not regret that result even though it bitterly divided the nation, and has led to a serious economic downturn.

 

Portugal, historically the UK’s oldest ally, is an unequivocal supporter of the EU and was shocked by Brexit. While Britain’s Labour Party opposed Brexit, it agreed to “uphold the wishes of the British people.” 

 

Labour avoided the subject during this year’s election campaign and manifesto for fear of upsetting disaffected Conservative pro-Brexiteers they wanted to swing their way. However, Starmer has said that under his leadership he will not try to fully rejoin the EU, but will seek to soften the unpleasant relationship that has developed. 

 

This is viewed as of special importance to the EU as the bloc is still the UK’s largest trading partner. There are common problems too, such as tackling the high rate of illegal immigration. 

 

The EU may not maintain its close partnership with the United States unless Joe Biden steps down and is replaced by a much more competent Democratic Party presidential candidate for the November election. His age and recent follies make him much less likely to win the presidential race against Donald Trump. A return to the White House by Trump is widely predicted to be disastrous, not only for the EU but much of the whole world due to his attitude to such things as NATO, the war in Ukraine and the existential global warming crisis.

 

Friday, June 28, 2024

EX-prime minister Costa now a European president in Brussels

 


Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has been formally appointed to take on the second highest job in the European Union, that of President of the European Council. Ursula Von der Leyen has been reinstated for a second term as President of the European Commission.

 

The nominations were approved at a special summit on Thursday by the chancellor of Germany, the president of France and the prime ministers of Greece, Poland the Netherlands and Spain.

 

The outcome had been widely predicted, though Costa’s forced resignation as prime minister last December raised eyebrows.

 

A lesser-known politician, Estonia’s Kaja Kallas , is to lead the bloc’s foreign policy service. These three key officials are expected to serve for the next five years.

 

The main critic since the first hint of confirmation on Tuesday has been Hungary’s Viktor Orban who believes the results have been hatched by the European People’s Party, with leftists and liberals. This runs counter to everything the EU was based on, says Orban. He insists that the top officials should represent every member state including his own, which is led by right-wing nationalists.

 

 

The main challenges facing the top three leaders and their advisers are expected to be political turmoil at home, and the prospect of a highly divisive President Donald Trump abroad.

 

Von der Leyen is a German conservative Her second term in the number one position places her in charge of the bloc’s executive branch. Costa, until recently leader of Portugal’s Socialist Party, will now be at the helm of the authority which includes the heads of government of the EU’s 27 member states. The two top leaders are generally seen as an appropriate balance in terms of their political and geographical backgrounds.

 

A significant contribution to Costa’s success in his bid for the Brussels job was the unequivocal backing he received from Portugal’s Prime Minister Luis Montenegro, despite the fact that Montenegro heads the centre-right coalition that has long rivalled the centre-left Socialists in Portugal’s national elections.

 

Costa made many key allies when he attended an EU summit in Brussels in January. Yet just a month earlier he stepped down as Portugal’s leader when investigations got underway into alleged irregularities in his government’s handling of several large investment projects. Costa denied any wrong-doing and was never charged.  However, several of his close associates remain under investigation

 

Costa, 62, is believed to have all the right credentials for Brussels, including that of a moderate profile combing socialist democratic values with an orthodox approach to the economy. It is also seen as a “pragmatic negotiator.” His career so far has included working as a lawyer, mayor of Lisbon, and prime minister from 2015 to 2023.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

British troops help troubled Irish homeowner in the Algarve


Orla Dargan

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Former Portuguese PM heads for top European Union job in Brussels



The Portuguese government and Prime Minister Luis Montenegro’s Democratic Alliance party have fully endorsed the bid by former Prime Minister António Costa to become the next president of the European Council.

Costa is the favourite for the job as his nomination is also receiving so much support from leaders in other EU countries, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and even Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban.

Costa made many key allies when he attended an EU summit in Brussels last December. Yet just a month earlier, he had been obliged to step down as Portugal’s prime minister and head of the Socialist Party (PS) as investigations got underway into alleged irregularities in his government’s handling of several large investment projects. Costa denied any wrong-doing and was never charged.

He is expected to soon replace the current European Council chief, Charles Michel of Belgium, who, has served as the top official responsible since 2019 for organising summits at which the agendas are set for the 27 member states. Costa is said to have all the right credentials, including that of a “pragmatic negotiator,” for the task he is hoping to achieve.

Portugal’s two centrist parties have been rivals since the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Yet Luis Montenegro of the centre-right told a press conference after an informal meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on June 17, that acceptance of Costa of the centre left as president of the Council would garner Portugal’s “unequivocal support.”

Montenegro went on to say: “I can also claim following from what I said to my colleagues from the European People’s Party that this nomination meets all the requirements to be accepted and validated in a final decision.”

António Costa, 62, worked as a lawyer before becoming a member of the Portuguese parliament in 1991. His many positions since then have included mayor of Lisbon, elected in 2007, 2009, and 2013. He was  a minister of the European Committee of the Regions from 2010 to2015, adding to his considerable experience with the European Parliament and Council, before serving as  prime minister from 2015 to 2024.

Costa clearly has a long and probably very successful political career ahead of him.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

EUROPEAN ELECTION RESULTS


 

The results of the four-day EU Parliamentary elections across all 27 member states show an overall majority for the centrist parties, despite the predicted surge from the far-right groups. 

The 720 seats in parliament for the next five years will primarily consist of centre-right candidates with 186 seats, and an alliance of socialists and democrats holding 137.

The parliament will be fragmented in that the centrists do not always agree on all matters, and the far-right populists are very much divided in opinions between different countries.

It was a fair election with about 630 million eligible voters. The number of candidates was allocated according to each country’s population.

Portugal has elected its 21 parliamentarians to serve in Brussels The socialist group did best with eight seats, and the centre-right have seven.  The Left , Renew Europe, and the Identify and Democracy groups each have two. Portugal’s far-right missed out altogether. This has been the ninth EU election held in Portugal

Among the exit poll highlights:

The European People’s Party won 186 seats, a gain of 10 over the last parliament.

Socialist groups won 133, down six.

Renew Europe liberals, won 82, down 20.

ECR conservatives and reformists, won 70 seats, up one.

The far-right did especially well in Italy where Prime Minister Giorgie Meloni won a strong majority that boosts her leadership both at home and in Europe.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France produced a historic win. It has caused President Emmanuel Macron to suddenly and surprisingly dissolve the French parliament and call a snap national election.

In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said his country is a beacon of hope for Europe as his centrist pro-Europe Civic Coalition did well in the EU elections.

In Spain, the Socialist Workers Party is vying for first place with the conservative People’s Party. The hard-right is in third place.

 

This summary has been corrected since the exit polls on Sunday night