Portugal Sets Ambitious Goals for its EU Presidency
Portugese Prime Minister Jose Socrates presented his agenda to the European Union parliament on Wednesday. The focus was on ending the impasse over a new EU treaty and appointing a new anti-terrorism coordinator.
Socrates told EU parliamentarians in Strasbourg that his country's tenure in the rotating six-month position would "mark the end of the deadlocks and blockages that have held the European project back too long.
"European citizens demand answers to questions which directly affect their everyday lives and where they recognize that Europe can produce concrete results that make a difference and contribute to improving their living conditions," Socrates said.
Socrates' chief task will be to get all the EU's 27 member states to agree to long-overdue procedural reforms to its basic treaty. But he may find it difficult to deliver on his words.
His predecessor as EU President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made similar pledges when she took office at the beginning of 2007. But she encountered resistance -- in particular from Poland -- to proposed changes and needed a last-minute compromise to engineer any sort of agreement at all at last month's EU summit.
Poland remains unhappy about changes to EU's voting system that would give it less of a say in the bloc's decisions, while France has hinted it wants changes to the EU's guidelines on budget discipline.
Portuguese police stand guard Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Security is going to be one of Portugal's top priorities
One thing Socrates could probably achieve is speeding up the process for the EU to appoint a new anti-terrorism coordinator. The former coordinator, Gijs de Vries, stepped in March, when his three-year mandate expired, but the EU has yet to fill the post.
Socrates made clear that fighting terrorism will be one priority of his presidency. Although some member states have questioned the need for a coordinator, Socrates said that, on the contrary, the position needed additional powers to synchronize the sharing of intelligence across national borders within the bloc.
"Only European cooperation allows us to prevent and pursue terrorism," Socrates told EU lawmakers.
Socrates said other areas of focus would be climate change, illegal immigration and energy security.