LISBON (Reuters) – Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, chosen to be the next president of the European Council, said on Thursday he will be fully committed to promoting the unity of the 27 member states.

Costa said he will assume the new responsibility with a “huge sense of mission” and added “he will be focused on implementing the Strategic Agenda approved today” that will guide the EU over the next five years.

“As president of the European Council, from 1 December, I will be fully committed to promoting unity among the 27 member states,” Costa wrote on his X social media account.

Costa, 62, stepped down as Portugal’s prime minister last November over an investigation into alleged illegalities in his government’s handling of several large investment projects.

He has denied wrongdoing, was never charged with a crime and will succeed Belgium’s Charles Michel as chair of summits involving the bloc’s national leaders.

Costa was chosen at an EU summit on Thursday in which the European Parliament’s three main centrist groups backed Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as Commission president and Estonian premier Kaja Kallas to be the bloc’s new foreign policy chief.

In his role, Costa – a centre-left moderate Socialist – will have to build bridges between heads of state and government in a fragmented Europe with the far right on the rise.

Costa said he wants to work closely with von der Leyen and Kallas, “in a spirit of loyal cooperation between European institutions”.

Costa came to power in Portugal in 2015 following a 2011-14 debt crisis and has presided over a period of steady economic growth that led to budget surpluses, while criticising the austerity imposed by the bloc on several EU countries including Portugal in 2010-11.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves)