On 11 December, shortly before the start of the Portuguese EU Council Presidency, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg met his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva for a bilateral exchange.
The meeting focused on the priorities of Portugal’s upcoming EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2021, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with its socio-economic consequences for Europe as a whole:
Portugal is taking over the EU Council Presidency in truly challenging times. The entire continent is currently affected by the second wave of COVID-19 and we have probably only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as the lasting social and economic effects are concerned. But foreign policy developments cannot be slowed down by a pandemic,
stressed Foreign Minister Schallenberg. Austria will do all it can to make the EU Council Presidency a success.
In addition to transatlantic relations between the EU and the USA, the Portuguese Presidency also wants to look south and focus on Africa, said Foreign Minister Santos Silva.
With regard to the Eastern Partnership, Austria with its traditionally good relations can certainly be very helpful.
The EU enlargement process is also important for Portugal and he expects there to be movement here. Foreign Minister Schallenberg underlined the hope that the accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia could finally be opened under the Portuguese Presidency.
In view of the foreign policy challenges facing the Portuguese EU Council Presidency, the two Foreign Ministers also discussed future relations with the United Kingdom, the difficult relationship with Turkey and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as further work on the EU’s Asylum and Migration Pact.
More than ever, Europe seems to be surrounded by a ring of fire. It ranges from Western Sahara, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran to Nagorno-Karabakh and Belarus. Either we succeed in exporting stability and security in our neighbourhood, or we risk importing instability and insecurity,
said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.
He therefore welcomed the Portuguese Council Presidency’s focus on Africa, which is crucial not only in terms of security and migration but also as a partner for innovation, sustainable investment and combating climate change.
We have great confidence in you,
said Foreign Minister Schallenberg to his Portuguese counterpart.
You know how to stay on course and steer the European ship through these diverse challenges. You can count on Austria’s full support. We will do everything we can to help make the Portuguese Council Presidency a success,