Since 1 January 2021, Portugal has been at the head of the Council of the European Union, under the motto “Time to act: for a fair, green and digital recovery”. The goal here will be to highlight the elements likely to have an impact on the mobility and automotive sectors within the priorities set out by the new Presidency.

Portugal has articulated its priorities for the next six months along several key lines. Firstly, emphasis will be placed on the climate and digital transitions. Then there is the implementation of the European social rights base, as a distinctive and essential element to ensure a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition. Finally, the Presidency will insist on strengthening the strategic autonomy of a Europe that must remain open to the world (in line with the wish of the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, to see the emergence of a “more geopolitical Europe”), as well as on the leading role that the EU has a vocation to play in terms of climate action and digital transformation.

These major priorities will be broken down into lines of action including the challenges of tomorrow’s mobility.

Firstly, Portugal intends to act for “a resilient Europe”. Globally, this will involve promoting recovery, cohesion and European values through the economic recovery plan in response to the current health and economic crisis.

With the objective of reducing the EU’s external dependency on critical goods and technologies by investing in innovation, the Presidency also stresses the importance of defending Europe’s industrial autonomy, based on the development of a strategy that stimulates European value chains and promotes the consolidation of SMEs and the sectors most affected by the crisis.

In concrete terms, the Presidency wishes to diversify European production, external suppliers and the EU’s global supply chains, in order to reduce external dependence, particularly in terms of advanced technologies. At a time when electromobility is developing, Brussels will therefore encourage the maintenance on the European continent of the value chain linked to the manufacture of an electric vehicle.

Secondly, Portugal insists on the importance of a “green Europe” and a leader in climate action. The general objectives of this line of action are to increase the capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change and to highlight the competitive advantages of a carbon-free economic model.

More specifically, the stated objective includes the transition to a competitive, carbon-neutral economy, the circular economy, as well as innovation and security of energy supply. In this sense, the development of zero-emission mobility at European level, as well as the energy transition of vehicle manufacturing industries, will be widely promoted by the EU in the coming months.

Thirdly, Portugal will prioritise the digital challenge for Europe. This will involve promoting new digital solutions and strategies for the green transition, particularly in the fields of health, research and innovation, and mobility.

Intelligent mobility solutions will thus be widely promoted by the Presidency. On this point, it should be noted that Lisbon will host the Smart Mobility Summit 2021 next April, an event designed to highlight tomorrow’s technologies in this area.

All of these priorities were confirmed by the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos, and the Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques, during their hearing before the European Parliament on 26 January. On this occasion, Portugal stressed that tourism and transport are two of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, which is why it will seek to contribute to a rapid recovery and transition of the transport sector, to make it more resilient, environmentally friendly and intelligent.

Both ministers also stressed the implementation of the new EU mobility strategy. The Transport Committee MEPs particularly welcomed the Presidency’s emphasis on sustainable mobility. They asked the presidency to take forward the draft rules about Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF).

In short, the Portuguese government is following in the continuity of its German predecessor, respecting the mechanism of rotating presidencies provided for in the European treaties. In Brussels, the notions of resilience, decarbonisation and digitisation will therefore remain the leitmotifs of the major political trends for the automotive and mobility sector in the coming months.