I am delighted to be back before the joint committee. During the previous Dáil, we had very close relations with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. The committee's Portuguese counterparts paid a visit, as did the Portuguese minister of state with responsibility for European affairs. A visit to Lisbon by members of this committee was on the horizon at the beginning of this year but, unfortunately, it had to be postponed due to Covid. I hope it will take place very soon.
Relations between Portugal and Ireland are excellent and we are trying to give them more content. We are on the same side and share the same position in like-minded groups on lots of topics which tells us that there is a wide scope for co-operation in the future. The first meetings between the two committees on European affairs showed that both sides are interested in dialogue.
That will allow an exchange of views and, more than that, of experience, and the opportunity for each side to present to the other one the specificities that exist on each side.
We hope that there will be an agreement with the UK. Like Germany and Ireland, we are very committed to finding a balanced agreement with the UK. I remind the committee that we are the oldest standing alliance between the UK and another country. The Anglo-Portuguese alliance dates from the 14th century. That is something that has lasted but has had its ups and downs. The United Kingdom is one of our major investors and we have a large community of British people living in Portugal, so it is in our interest to have a close relationship and partnership, but as my German colleague said, in the end there must be a fair agreement and the Irish question must not be sacrificed on the altar of an agreement. Since the very beginning, we shared the Irish concerns and that will continue.
Regarding the Presidency, I will be brief because now the system is that we have a trio of Presidencies. Slovenia, Portugal and Germany established a working programme for 18 months. It will be the second half of this year and the two semesters of next year. We identified a set of priorities which mirror a common vision for Europe. As usual, this programme is a general framework, a document that is established in broad lines and is being adapted, but there is more consensus than usual currently. I know that today my Minister will meet with his counterparts in the Portuguese Parliament to brief them on the progress that is being made and how that reflects on our Presidency. There is very intense dialogue between our government, our Minister for European affairs and our foreign Minister regarding the programme for the Presidency we are preparing, but now we have more question marks. We have a programme but we have a lot of question marks and, as usual, we are waiting to see what happens in the Presidency and after December. I am ready to come next year - I hope it will be on a more sound ground - to tell the committee what our semester will look like.
The stage belongs completely to Germany now and Portugal is strongly supporting it because its success is our success and, as members can see, our priorities are very similar. They are in line and complete each other. Given that, I can state that the future Portuguese Presidency of the EU has established as the main priority for its semester to reinforce the resilience of Europe and to restore our citizens' confidence in the European social model, based on the promotion of a Union that is solidly anchored on shared values of solidarity, convergence and cohesion. Our action plan is structured around several pillars: a Europe of resilience and solidarity that is prepared to face future crises and the reinforcement of investment and the economic recovery will be at the core of our action.
The German Presidency is developing excellent work on this, and preparing the instruments. Afterwards, we will deal with implementation and ensure that all of the innovative instruments that are needed for a successful European recovery and the reinforcement of European resilience are urgently implemented. We will be preparing conditions to promote all the initiatives aimed at mitigating the crisis impacts and to ensure a successful development of the plans for economic recovery, to promote growth and employment and to anchor the recovery on the European climate pact and digital transition.
The reinforcement of European solidarity and European shared values will be another requirement to ensure balanced European construction. We are talking about the reinforcement of democracy and the rule of law, the promotion of human rights and fundamental liberties and the improvement of the European response to emergency situations such as the ones we are facing.
Social Europe will be one of our main priorities. The development of a stronger social Europe in our economic recovery trajectory will be at the heart of the future programme of the Portuguese Presidency, which believes that in a difficult environment such as the one caused by the pandemic, it is more important than ever to reinforce the European social model as the motor for growth and to ensure that social rights are perceived by citizens as a palpable reality, a benefit deriving from Europe. We are always talking about the fact that Europe must reach out to its citizens. If they have palpable proof that it acts positively in their everyday life that will help to solidify our common project. It will entail several actions on a wide range of issues, ranging from mechanisms for the mitigation of unemployment impacts on professional formation and learning, and responding to the social impacts resulting from energy and digital transition because this crisis came at a moment when we were already seeing that the whole world was in a phase of transition and that we needed to ensure that all citizens are on board. That is even more so the case since the crisis. The situation has become more complex and we must look into it. There are also demographic challenges. A very important point that is complementary with the others is the fight against poverty and social exclusion given that now, in this transition phase, the risk of that happening has increased.
A green Europe and the pursuit of economic recovery on a sustainable basis is our second priority. We have our green transition. The other day, President von der Leyen had very nice words for the changes we made. We were very committed to decarbonise our economy and to develop renewables and clean energy and we are quite advanced in that regard. We are to the forefront in Europe and that is one area in our bilateral relations where we have lots of scope for talk and co-operation. We need to improve our capability to adapt to the effects of climate change and promote the benefits of being carbon free and having a resilient economic model. Other measures in that regard include the promotion of the European climate pact, the adaptation to climate change, the preservation of biodiversity, the improvement of forests, water and waste management, to conclude CAP reform, and to promote innovation and digitalisation in the rural world, as well as the sustainable management of natural resources.
This work has been started by the German Presidency and we will follow this work to which we will make our input and contribution.
For a country such as Portugal, which faces the sea, the committee will not be surprised to learn that the development of the blue economy is also a matter we hold close to our heart. This year, we were supposed to welcome the United Nations Ocean Conference but it had to be postponed. We hope it can take place next year and that not only will it be a major political event but it will also gather the environmental organisations that are active on the oceans as well as businesses at the side events.
I mentioned already a digital Europe because it is everywhere and will be important internally and externally. It will also be an important part of our partnership with Africa because we have to enable African countries to manage their own development if we are creating a partnership. I will provide more detail on that later if members want.
On a global Europe, our vision is similar to the one my German colleague expressed. Africa is important. We are committed to creating a true partnership. A summit was due to take place on this but we do not know now when it will take place. Otherwise, we hope it can be done during Portugal's Presidency of the EU. It was established that we would have a business and technological forum so that we can put those worlds in contact with each other and that directly forms co-operation in a sense. The meeting with India will also be important. There is supposed to be a meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the European Council, which we hope will take place. There are lots of other events and international meetings that now have a big question mark over them.
I mention the political neighbourhood, the eastern partnership and the relationship with Asia, mainly China. This will be important, as will the relationship with Latin America, where we have a historical presence and of which we have knowledge. We are keen to bring the two continents closer. We also want to ensure we have a voice in international forums, namely, human rights forums and other forums that are close to the core of our values. That is where we can defend and promote those values and our economic interests. The World Trade Organization is one such forum..