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Portugal’s António Costa, The European Council’s Next President

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has been formally appointed to take on the second highest job in the European Union, that of President of the European Council. Ursula Von der Leyen has been reinstated for a second term as President of the European Commission.

Historic moment for Portugal and the European Union (EU)

It was a historic moment for Portugal and the European Union (EU) as former prime minister of Portugal, António Luís Santos da Costa, has been elected as the President of the European Council in Brussels. He became the first Portuguese leader to hold this position, and the appointment marks a significant milestone in European politics. The appointment was “almost” a certainty but was only confirmed during the leaders’ meeting in Brussels.

Who is Antonio Costa?

Born in 1961, António Costa was a lawyer turned pro-politician with a strong socialist background and a member of the Partido Socialista or Socialist Party (PS) of Portugal. During his tenure as the prime minister of Portugal, he carried out packages to revitalize Lisbon and Portugal as a whole. His leadership style combines pragmatism with a commitment to social justice, making him a respected leader both locally and internationally.

Known as Gandhi of Lisbon

Before becoming the prime minister, he served multiple terms as a cabinet minister in Portugal, became the vice president of the European Parliament, and later the mayor of Lisbon. Nicknamed “Gandhi of Lisbon” for his frugal lifestyle and his Indian roots, in 2017, he was presented the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the President of India. He also holds an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.

What does his presidency mean for the EU?

Notably, Costa’s name wasn’t initially on the table. The council chose him despite his absence from the initial list of candidates, signalling a willingness to consider unconventional options and also Portugal’s growing influence in the EU. He considers it a strong sign of European democracy and unity. Diplomatic sources report that the decision was made during a meeting of the European Council in Brussels, where leaders of the European Union (EU) also put forward a proposal for Ursula von der Leyen to lead the European Commission for a second term.

Treaty of Lisbon

The roles of the President of the European Council were established by the Treaty of Lisbon, signed on December 13, 2007. Herman Van Rompuy, also former Belgian prime minister, was the first to hold this position for two terms, from December 1, 2009 to November 30, 2014. Now, the former PM António Costa is all set to succeed the Belgian Charles Michel (in office since 2019).


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