By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa has picked Fernando Medina, a former mayor of Lisbon like himself, as his new finance minister tasked with reducing the budget gap as the war in Ukraine clouds the prospects of post-pandemic recovery.
Medina, 49, replaces Joao Leao, who had been part of Costa’s minority Socialist government since mid-2020. The new government, this time backed by the party’s parliamentary majority, will be sworn in on March 30.
He is one of 17 government ministers proposed by Costa and accepted by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the presidency said on Wednesday.
The well-spoken economist had succeeded Costa as mayor of the capital city in April 2015, staying in office until last September, when he lost the municipal election.
The final year of his tenure was marred by what he described as a “bureaucratic error” that had led to the city hall sharing data of people staging protests outside several embassies, including Russia’s, Cuba’s and Israel’s, with the targetted embassies.
Before 2011, Medina managed EU funds at the Industry and Development Ministry.
Filipe Garcia, head of Informacao de Mercados Financeiros consultants, said Costa was making a sensible choice by appointing Medina, who has more of a political profile than his two technocrat predecessors, but also solid management credentials.
“Medina kept the Lisbon municipality accounts under control and is aligned with European financial policies,” he said. His task of keeping public accounts on a sustainable footing “won’t be easy … in an adverse external context of the war in Ukraine and a weakening recovery,” he added.
Medina, who plays the piano, is married with two sons and a daughter.
Antonio Costa e Silva, who drew up Portugal’s pandemic recovery programme for the use of 16.6 billion euros ($18.26 billion) of EU funds, will be the next economy minister. Defence Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho, a former EU ambassador to Brazil, will become foreign minister.
($1 = 0.9088 euros)
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Leslie Adler and Richard Chang)