Covid in Portugal, responses to the second wave
The second week of November has so far been the toughest in Portugal since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. After 5 weeks of worsening the data is frightening: a daily average of almost 5,000 new cases (4,867) and more than 50 deaths by average day (51). The daily average of hospitalized patients, including those in intensive care, is fearful of the collapse of the National Health System.
The Government advanced with heavy measures, supported by the declaration of a new State of Emergency, approved by the Assembly of the Republic on 6 November. The Left Bloc abstained from voting due to the lack of definition in matters such as curfew but also so that the Government does not lack mechanisms to respond to the pandemic. The State of Emergency was approved with votes in favor of PS, PSD, CDS and non-registered deputy Cristina Rodrigues, votes against PCP, PEV, IL and non-registered deputy Joacine Katar Moreira.
Among the new measures to control the pandemic, which take effect from 9 to 23 November, the Council of Ministers determined the ban on circulation on public roads on weekdays, between 11 pm and 5 am, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from from 1 pm. The curfew applies, for now, to the 121 counties with a high risk of transmission from Covid-19 and provides for several exceptions.
This disease reminded millions of Europeans of what we hoped would never have to live again: fear. In the face of an unprecedented situation, only the courage of an unprecedented response can protect the lives of Europeans, account for their jobs and incomes and thus protect the future of the European Union (EU) itself.
On July 21, 2020, an unprecedented agreement was signed, at a time when the lack of a response to the peoples would threaten the existence of the union itself. The 27 EU heads of state or government reached a political agreement: the European Commission will issue a joint debt for an overall amount of € 750 billion, which will be the Next Generation EU temporary recovery instrument. This supplementary fund joins the amputated Multiannual Financial Framework, the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027. The total figures are gigantic: more than EUR 1 800 billion, but neither Commission President Ursula von der Leyen nor European Central Bank President Chistine Lagarde hid that they may prove to be insufficient.
In Portugal, as in other European states, the response to the pandemic is strongly conditioned by the expected European support. This is evident in the relevance of these funds to the State Budget, which is under discussion, and by the Portuguese speed in delivering the Recovery and Resilience Plan to the Commission. This dependence is very worrying because the negotiation process, within the complex European political building, is far from over.
On 1 January 2021 Portugal will assume the presidency of the Council, precisely the date on which the new Community budget should enter into force. With a budget strongly conditioned by the demands put forward by the frugal countries and agreed by the others, it is not surprising that we find that there are still crucial decisions to be made in the negotiation.
When an agreement was announced on 10 November between the German presidency and the European Parliament’s negotiating team, the white smoke of successful negotiations was quickly removed by news of Viktor Orbán’s threats to halt the entire process. The Hungarian official disagrees with the connection between the use of European funds and respect for the rule of law. It does not accept the democratic conditionality that has been reinforced in negotiations with MEPs.
Not being able to block the vote on the rule of law, which only needs a qualified majority, Orbán can block its entry into force, and that of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework and that of the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund as well, as there are decisions require unanimity.
In order to finally enter into force, the 27 (27 !!) national parliaments still need to be ratified. It seems that a lot can go wrong.
The lack of concrete scenarios and measures to prevent a situation in which European golden eggs do not arrive, or do not arrive in time to help people and the economy, is the great measure in short supply to respond to the second wave Covid, in Portugal and in Europe.
- Deputy of Bloco de Esquerda (BE) – Portugal
Este artigo está disponível em: Português