European Law Monitor

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news.gifPortugal takes the political helm

Portugal has ambitious aims on its agenda as it takes the political helm of the EU in July • a new Treaty, preparations for the next round of the Lisbon (growth and jobs) strategy; justice, freedom and security in an enlarged area without borders (Schengen), and relations with the rest of the world, especially Africa.

Continuing the progress made during the German presidency towards a new treaty, the Portuguese government will host an intergovernmental conference on 23-24 July to draft the document. "It will be up to the Portuguese presidency to chair a successful conference," Mr Barroso said. The treaty would then be adopted at an informal summit in Lisbon in October. "A lot of work lies ahead of us, but now we have the conditions to progress. This objective is our absolute priority for the coming months." said Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates.

During Portugal's last presidency (2000), the European Council approved the "Lisbon Agenda" to make the EU "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010". This time round, Portugal intends to lay the foundations for the next cycle of the strategy to help Europe respond positively to the challenge of globalisation.

Portugal will also be looking to enlarge the Schengen area through its "SISone4All" proposal which would abolish border controls between the subscribing countries by the end of the year.

To reinforce Europe's role in the world, the focus will be on Africa in particular. Dialogue will be active, open and equal, encompassing all aspects of EU-Africa relations • policy, trade, aid and development. A joint strategy will be drawn up at the second EU-Africa summit in December to seal the partnership between the two continents.

Relations with Brazil will also be deepened at a summit on 4 July. Brazil is seen as a reliable partner and a stabilising influence in Latin America, and an important player in the biofuels/climate change debate. Mediterranean countries will be back in focus at a number of EuroMED ministerial meetings to look at migration and commerce. In the Western Balkans, the Portuguese presidency will be working to consolidate the stabilisation and association process. Integration with the EU will proceed as reforms get underway to meet the criteria for membership eligibility.

Regarding Kosovo, Portugal will coordinate efforts to deal with the controversy over Serbia and Russia on the region's final status. The EU and the US have expressed their support for sovereignty.