Angela Merkel on Thursday handed over the European Union”s rotating presidency to Portugal and its prime minister, Antonio Costa.
The presidency of the Council of the European Union – made up of leaders from all EU countries – switches every six months.
In a video message, German Chancellor Merkel wished Portugal “every success” and said Germany would “support Portugal to the best of its ability”.
How successful was the German presidency?
The biggest success of the German presidency was keeping the bloc together during the COVID-19 crisis.
It first bridged the differences between northern and southern countries during marathon talks that led to the approval of the coronavirus recovery fund in July.
Then, later in December, it managed to reach a compromise with Hungary and Poland over the €1.8 trillion budget, following their veto threats.
Merkel, however, was criticised over her foreign policy, in particular the handling of the relations with Turkey following the country’s territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean, and the subsequent diplomatic crisis with Greece.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas did try to mediate with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but ultimately failed to get him to have a more collaborative approach.
What’s ahead for Portugal’s presidency?
The biggest issues ahead for Portugal are the implementation of the Recovery Fund and EU budget, as well as the enforcement of the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
Portugal will also be expected to reform the EU’s migration policy, most notably the Dublin regulation.
Another key issue Portugal is expected to deal with is the enlargement of the EU, with talks expected to take place with North Macedonia.
The trade relationship with China, as well as with the newly elected US president Joe Biden will also be on top of Portugal’s agenda.