PORTUGAL - Diplomacy
António Costa holds a degree in legal and political sciences from the faculty of law of Universidade Clássica de Lisboa and a post-graduate degree in European studies from the Catholic University of Lisbon and is a lawyer. He was Deputy to the Assembly of the Republic between 1991 and 2004. Between 1982 and 1993, he was a member of the Lisbon Municipal Assembly and, from 1993-1995, a councilor at the Loures City Hall. He served as secretary of state for parliamentary affairs in the XIII Constitutional Government between 1995 and 1997 and minister for parliamentary affairs between 1997 and 1999. He was minister of justice from 1999-2002 and minister of state and of the internal administration from 2005-2007. He was mayor of Lisbon between 2007 and 2015.
Portugal’s new government of António Luís Santos da Costa is intent on leveraging the country’s experience with austerity, the pandemic, and rapid growth to meet upcoming challenges and continue on its path of development.
When, on October 26, 2019, the government that ceases its duties today took office, I said: “This is a government for the good and the bad times. […] And the greater the storm, the greater our determination in overcoming it.” When recalled today, those words seemed a prediction of what we would have to face with the terrible pandemic that two months later took over the world and hit us hard as well.
My first words are, therefore, of acknowledgement and profound gratitude to the team that ceases its duties today for the determination with which it braved the storm by: ensuring the NHS’s response capabilities and the success of the vaccination process; ensuring, through an exceptional mobilization of the assistance measures to companies, employment, and income that the economy could resume its growth, that corporate investment and employment are at historically high figures, that public debt is now being cut again, and the deficit is below 3%; and championing at the EU an extraordinary program to assist with investment and the essential reforms to strengthen recovery, via a twin climate and digital transition and responding to the main social vulnerabilities, the productive potential, and our territory.
The storm did not keep us from leading the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of Europe with distinction, from drafting and negotiating the next PT 2030, nor did it steer us away from the major strategic goals we undertook.
These weren’t just years of fighting crises that we faced. They were also years of deep reforms that structurally changed our society and our economy. Today, we are a more qualified, more sustainable, more innovative, and less unequal country. That is why we grew again above the EU average, which is why we multiplied 10-fold our technological balance of payments surplus, why we achieved new records in attracting investment, and that is why the European Commission considers Portugal to be the best placed country to become carbon neutral.
At this time of handing over a new government, I would thank everyone who is now taking on the responsibility of governing the country, as well as expressing my gratitude to everyone who leaves office. We are still facing the pandemic, healing the wounds, and yet we are already countering the effects of the war triggered by Russia by invading Ukraine.
And once more, just as during the pandemic, the Portuguese people have shown their huge sense of solidarity and their capacity to be united and overcome, ensuring the hosting and integration of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. And once more, also, we need to adopt on a national and European level the response measures to this shock, especially ensuring there are no ruptures in supply, controlling the cost of energy and essential raw materials, and helping the companies most in need and the most vulnerable families.
That is what the Portuguese expect from us again: that the government is able to respond day to day to the difficulties felt, without overlooking the building of a better future in the middle and the long term—a government that fixes problems and creates opportunities. The Portuguese people want a government that works hard for the country to protect its citizens, ensure their freedom and safety, and mobilizes them in the collective effort to modernize Portugal. The Portuguese people demand that we make up for lost time due to a political crisis they did not want, continuing on the path we have been on and moving toward a fairer, more prosperous, and more innovative country where everyone feels fulfilled and that harbors hope and confidence in the future.
It is this courage and ambition that this government guarantees. That is the commitment that I and all the members of government take on here, today, before all the Portuguese women and men: working without hesitating, against storms and torments, keeping Portugal on the path of growth and progress it has known over the last six years and facing the four major challenges that the future places on the present: respond to the climate emergency, ensure the digital transition, counter the demographic winter; and fight inequality.
The government’s program is known. It is the electoral program we presented to the Portuguese people and that we shall approve formally in the Council of Ministers, so that we can discuss it in its proper setting—in Parliament. We approved the Stability Program that pursues the trajectory of budgetary balance and sustained cut in public debt, which we have made compatible with economic, social, and environmental ambition. The State Budget proposal for this year is ready, honoring the commitments undertaken, such as the extraordinary rise in pensions with retroactive effects, a cut in income tax for the middle class or the start of free day care for children.
Over the next few years, the country has unique conditions to break away indefinitely with a development model based on low wages, ensuring dignified and quality jobs, increasing the potential of its productive fabric, and breaking down the barriers on economic progress based on innovation, the modernization of administration and justice, internationalization, and leaving no one behind. This is our brand: modernization with social solidarity.
The fruit of years of investment in skills and strengthening our science and technology system, combining structural funds with resources from the RRF, the recovered international credibility for attracting investment. Today, Portugal has the conditions it has never had before to turn the page on a new cycle of sustainable and inclusive development. A new development cycle with an economy that produces greater added value and a fairer sharing of this value with the workers.
These are the conditions that offer us full confidence in the capacity to reach such ambitious, quantified, and scheduled goals, such as the ones associated with the government program or undertaken with the EU.
We must use this stability to anticipate uncertainty, bravely facing the structural challenges ahead of us. We have the duty to innovate, modernize, ensure dignified jobs, and generate wealth to progress together, with inclusion and balanced accounts. This means working together, with democratic humbleness and institutional loyalty, with the engagement of the political parties and social partners to create solutions that help us face the challenges the country has to deal with. Only by committing to social dialogue, mobilizing civil society, and harboring the positive contributions of the other political parties will we be able to move forward.
The international setting is new and places new demands on us. Yet, our path remains unchanged. We have a strategy to implement, commitments to meet, and goals to fulfil. We have turned the page on austerity, we are turning the page on the pandemic, and we will turn the page on the war. Only together will we be able to write the pages of a future we want to be bright.
It is with renewed energy, determination, and enthusiasm that we are now starting this new stage, always with the willingness to serve Portugal and the Portuguese people. Together, we move forward, and we will make it.
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