Portuguese Presidency Ambitions for Digital Recovery amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

on 05.03.2021

It has been two months since António Costa’s Cabinet took over the presiding over the EU Council and announced the delivery of a fair, green and digital recovery as the framework of its programme.

As disinformation continues to proliferate through the EU’s online space, including in Portugal, the new presidency’s “Resilient Europe” action line aspired not only to defend the EU's fundamental values such as the rule of law and democracy but also to tackle all forms of discrimination, disinformation and hate speech both offline and online.

To deliver the fair, green and digital recovery, the Portuguese programme, thus, promised further deepening of Germans’ emphasis on strengthening societal resilience and the battle against disinformation in times of crisis.

Portuguese plans amid the third wave of the pandemic

The January message of António Costa’ Cabinet’s commitment to battle harmful content was clear: Portugal will carry on with the negotiations on the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Law proposed by the European Commission in December 2020.

The arising internal challenges such as the worsening epidemiologic situation have, however, kept most of Portugal’s communication on the economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The debates on the coordination of the agenda in the field of education, health, economy and social affairs have outshined the fight against disinformation in the first third of Portugal’s presidential mandate.

Though, pushed towards the limits of the broader context of other initiatives such as the call for the promotion of active citizenship and the protection of vulnerable adults, the recovery agenda has been not completely silent about Lisbon’s digital recovery ambitions.

Last month, for instance, brought the communicated success of the ePrivacy rules initiative. As a reaction to the recent developments such as the new ways of users’ online behaviour tracking techniques, the EU member states agreed to revise under the Portuguese flagship the existing GDPR rules.

Leading Europe out of the COVID-19 pandemic and infodemic

While the new presidency has been very clear about its goals in the digital sphere, it was not until the 23 February General Affairs Council meeting brought more concrete disinformation-related steps in the 2021 Portugal’s official communication. The session discussed a few ‘firsts’, including the first discussion of the implementation of the European Democracy Action Plan.

The remaining four months will require more than the communication of initiatives such as celebrating the Safer Internet Day and stressing the need for digital literacy.

The message of the Ministers of European Affairs and Secretaries of State’s last meeting could be the right stepping-stone in this process.

The full article was posted by New Europe and can be found here.


Former Project Assistant, Democracy & Resilience



Former Project Assistant, Democracy & Resilience