In Lisbon (Portugal)
From our correspondent
To everyone’s surprise, the Socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, resigned on Tuesday November 7. After eight years at the head of government, he threw in the towel, reaffirming his principles of integrity. He is implicated in the so-called green energy affair, relating to lithium mining, green hydrogen and data center projects.
The Attorney General of the Republic has initiated criminal proceedings against him. The court has a wiretap which would suggest a link between him and those responsible for the “lithium” file. At this stage, nothing else has filtered out, and the former head of government claimed to discover everything through the prosecutor’s press release. In the affair, five people are indicted, and not the least: his chief of staff, one of his advisors but, above all, the Minister of Infrastructure, João Galamba, whose name appeared several times in the affair of lithium. A few years ago, Portugal led an international campaign to attract investors for the exploitation of lithium mines. The time was in the economic crisis and the country was under international perfusion from the troika – European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission and International Monetary Fund – which had injected 78 billion euros into the Portuguese economy.
In 2012, the center-right government in place launched Operation Lithium. Despite the many twists and turns – the latest concerns the green light given by the national environment agency last September for the Montalegre mine (central-north of the country) – the socialists who came to power in 2015 embraced the cause of lithium.
Then, then, that of green hydrogen, the government being encouraged by Brussels, which sees Portugal as a good European student with regard to renewable energy. As proof, it once again broke its record for operating on green energy between October 31 and November 6: for 149 hours, it was able to produce more renewable energy than its electricity needs.
As the European Union prepares for its energy transition and its independence in this area, the issue of new renewable energy sources has become essential. An excellent case to put forward in Strasbourg or Brussels, where Costa would seek the post of President of the European Council upon the departure of Charles Michel, at the end of his mandate. Was João Galamba responsible for speeding up the files? This is what the investigation into corruption and influence peddling, which is only just beginning, seems to assume.
Antonio Costa, appreciated by his peers for his pragmatism and his respect for European rules, was beginning the end of his second and final mandate. Aged 62, he already has a long political career behind him. A lawyer by training, former Minister of Justice and the Interior, former mayor of Lisbon, he had not until now been implicated at this level of justice. His resignation “in the name of principles” does not lack panache and was unanimous. But it leaves Portugal in the middle of the ford. With this question in the background: who to succeed the charismatic Antonio Costa?