António Costa: From Portuguese PM to European Council President | EU Politics

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Political Career and Achievements

António Costa, born on July 17, 1961, in Lisbon, has had a long and diverse political career:

  • Served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 2015 to 2024
  • Member of the Socialist Party, serving as its General Secretary since 2014
  • Previously held positions including Mayor of Lisbon, Minister of Justice, and Minister of Internal Administration
  • Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2005

As Prime Minister, Costa focused on revitalizing Portugal’s economy post-2011 crisis, emphasizing fiscal discipline, social equality, and infrastructure investment.

Election to European Council Presidency

On June 27, 2024, Costa was elected by EU leaders to serve as the next President of the European Council. He will be the first Portuguese national and the first Socialist to hold this position, succeeding Charles Michel of Belgium. Costa’s term is set to begin on December 1, 2024, for a period of two and a half years, with the possibility of one renewal.

Reactions and Expectations

Costa’s election has been met with positive reactions from European leaders:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated Costa, emphasizing the choice of experience and political balance.
  • Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala noted that Costa’s selection fits the criteria of “political and geographical balance”.
  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed satisfaction with Costa’s election.

Costa himself stated his commitment to promoting unity among the 27 EU member states and implementing the Strategic Agenda approved by the European Council.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite his achievements, Costa’s career has not been without controversy:

  1. Corruption Investigation: In November 2023, Costa resigned as Prime Minister amid a corruption inquiry related to lithium and hydrogen deals. While he denied wrongdoing, the investigation led to his stepping down from office.
  2. Legal Probe: As of early 2024, Costa remained under investigation as part of an influence-peddling probe, though he has not been formally charged.
  3. Anti-Semitism Allegations: During his tenure as Prime Minister, Costa’s government faced accusations of fostering anti-Semitic policies, particularly regarding the Jewish community in Oporto and the implementation of the Sephardic Jewish Law of Return.

Looking Ahead

As Costa prepares to take on his new role, he faces several key challenges:

  1. Implementing the 2024-2029 EU Strategic Agenda
  2. Navigating potential EU enlargement and institutional reforms
  3. Addressing ongoing conflicts, including the war in Ukraine and tensions in the Middle East
  4. Maintaining cohesion among EU member states on various policy issues

Costa’s experience in national politics and his commitment to European integration will be crucial as he leads the European Council through these complex issues.

António Costa’s election as President of the European Council represents a significant shift in EU leadership. His tenure will be closely watched as he navigates the diverse interests of member states and works to strengthen the European Union’s global position.

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