The Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, does not want his country to lose community resources when others with greater needs join, nor does he want the European Atlantic axis to be relegated with a future accession to the European Union of Ukraine and other Eastern countries. Before an audience of Portuguese and Spanish businessmen who participated this Wednesday in the first La Toja Forum held in Lisbon, the Prime Minister has conditioned the community enlargement to the reform of the institutions and budgetary policy and has warned about the risks of that the European Commission creates false expectations about Ukraine’s accession, which has sometimes been interpreted as a refusal to join.
From a political point of view, Costa considers it unfeasible to maintain the same voting requirements and community portfolios in a union hypothetically expanded to 36 States, “if it is already a great effort of imagination that the president of the Commission has to make to distribute 27 portfolios to commissioners”. “The Treaty of Lisbon already says that the Commission does not have to have 27 members, but I would like to know which is the first country that offers to resign from sitting on the European Commission”, he stated during his speech at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Costa pointed out that Europe cannot “do without” the debate on its capacity to welcome new members and it should not repeat past mistakes such as those committed with Turkey. “Europe must take seriously the expectations it has created for Ukraine and the Western Balkan countries. The greatest tragedy would be to frustrate those expectations.” And he added: “No one will have much doubt that one of the fundamental causes of the involution of Turkey it has been the frustration of the expectations that had been nurtured for decades about its future integration into the European Union. We do not want to repeat that history, which would be a huge betrayal of the Ukrainians.”
Apart from the political impact, the Portuguese Prime Minister highlighted the economic repercussions that the entry of Ukraine, a world agricultural power, would have on the distribution of the Community Agrarian Policy (CAP) budget or structural funds. “If we want to be serious with these expectations, it is necessary to carry out an institutional reform and a budgetary reform,” he claimed.
The Portuguese Prime Minister also addressed the shift of political power to the East with the entry of new states to the detriment of the Atlantic axis in which Portugal and Spain are part of. For this reason, he defended the creation of a forum of Atlantic community countries that counterbalances this displacement and that, in addition, strengthens relations with Latin America. Costa criticized errors by the European Commission such as not having made progress in the trade agreement with Mercosur which, in his opinion, now have an impact on the political distancing of Latin American countries with respect to the war in Ukraine. “If Europe had gone further in Mercosur, our partners would have had another response. A humble effort is needed from Europe, which has to make an effort to make friends and establish ties with other regions”, he pointed out.
The Portuguese prime minister hopes that the six-month term of the Spanish presidency of the European Union, which begins in July, will allow the agreement to be unblocked, also taking advantage of the coming to power in Brazil of Lula da Silva, who favors the signing. “I am hopeful that the Spanish presidency will promote this agreement with Mercosur, which would be the most economically significant and would create a great Atlantic alliance,” he observed. Such a treaty would place the Iberian Peninsula in a central position, which the Portuguese politician does not want to lose for the benefit of the East.
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The La Toja-Vínculo Atlántico Forum, promoted by former minister Josep Piqué and the president of the Hotusa Group, Amancio López Seijas, was also attended by the Spanish Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, who defended NATO policies as “political of peace”, and the former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who participated in a debate on transatlantic relations together with former Peruvian Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano, former Brazilian President Michel Temer and former Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas.
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