Antonio Costa announcing his resignation

Former Portuguese PM heads for top job in Brussels

The Portuguese government and Prime Minister Luis Montenegro’s Democratic Alliance party have fully endorsed the bid by former Prime Minister António Costa to become the next president of the European Council.

Costa is the favourite for the job as his nomination is also receiving so much support from leaders in other EU countries, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and even Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban.

Costa made many key allies when he attended an EU summit in Brussels last December. Yet just a month earlier, he had been obliged to step down as Portugal’s prime minister and head of the Socialist Party (PS) as investigations got underway into alleged irregularities in his government’s handling of several large investment projects. Costa denied any wrong-doing and was never charged.

He is expected to soon replace the current European Council chief, Charles Michel of Belgium, who, has served as the top official responsible since 2019 for organising summits at which the agendas are set for the 27 member states. 

Costa is said to have all the right credentials, including that of a “pragmatic negotiator,” for the task he is hoping to achieve.

Portugal’s two centrist parties have been rivals since the Carnation Revolution in 1975. Yet Luis Montenegro of the centre-right told a press conference after an informal meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on June 17, that acceptance of Costa of the centre left as president of the Council would garner Portugal’s “unequivocal support.”

Montenegro went on to say: “I can also claim following from what I said to my colleagues from the European People’s Party that this nomination meets all the requirements to be accepted and validated in a final decision.”

António Costa, 62, worked as a lawyer before becoming a member of the Portuguese parliament in 1991. His many positions since then have included mayor of Lisbon, elected in 2007, 2009, and 2013. He was a minister of the European Committee of the Regions from 2010 to 2015, adding to his considerable experience with the European Parliament and Council, before serving as prime minister from 2015 to 2024. 

Costa clearly has a long and probably very successful political career ahead of him.

Image: © Agencia LUSA CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons António Costa announcing his resignation as Prime Minister on 7 November 2023


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