18 January 2021

Portuguese Presidency to the Council of the EU: opportunity to make mental health a priority

On the 1st of January 2021, Portugal took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). The Presidency rotates every six months among EU Member States and is responsible for implementing the Council’s work on EU legislation and policy initiatives. 


The motto of the Portuguese Presidency is “Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery,” and it focuses its priorities on three areas: 

  • Recovery through climate and digital transition; 
  • The European Pillar of Social Rights; and 
  • EU’s autonomy in the world. 


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a significant challenge for EU Member States and the EU itself, the Portuguese Presidency aims to implement the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Next Generation EU to promote recovery as well as approving and executing the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. Following the European Commission’s commitment to building a European Health Union, the Portuguese Presidency will develop the European framework for action on health to create said Union and enhance the cooperation between EU Member States. 


Another focus for this Presidency will be the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. As stated in its programme: “Only a stronger, fairer and more inclusive social Europe will respond to the social consequences of the pandemic, ensuring intergenerational balance, the future of young Europeans and the well-being of all.” For this reason, the Portuguese Presidency has committed to the ambitious objective of strengthening the EU social model and has announced the Porto Social Summit for May 2021. 


As part of the work to advance the rights of persons with disabilities and implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Portuguese Presidency has also committed to the organisation of a high-level meeting on the inclusion of persons with disabilities, to be held in Lisbon in April. This event will also provide the opportunity to discuss the new European Disability Strategy 2021-2030. 


Given the strong focus on health, social inclusion, and the rights of persons with disabilities, the Portuguese Presidency has promising premises to centre the recovery from the pandemic and way forward on every individual’s well-being and rights. Additionally, these priorities could also provide the opportunity to better mainstream mental health and the rights of persons with disabilities into EU and national policies. 


Therefore, it is in a spirit of cooperation that Mental Health Europe (MHE) would like to renew its commitment to collaborating with the Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Portuguese government. While strongly appreciating the focus and priorities established by the Portuguese Presidency, MHE also believes that its decades-long experience in the European area will be of useful support to successfully complete the Presidency programme and ensure the adequate integration of a holistic mental health approach. 


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