Address by the President of the Republic on Portuguese foreign policy
Ajuda National Palace, 10 March 2016

I am deeply grateful for the message that the Apostolic Nuncio has just presented on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps in Lisbon.

These are words of wisdom and friendship to me and the Portuguese people, which I appreciate.

These are also words by someone who knows the history and culture of Portugal and understands well the universal and humanistic vocation of Portuguese society in general and of our foreign policy in particular.

As he mentioned, I do indeed place the greatest importance on our relations with other countries and international bodies and I am determined to maintain, nourish and strengthen, with the partners of the International Community, the ties of friendship and cooperation that have characterised Portugal throughout its history.

I thank him for his words and encouragement.

Turning now to my own message, I have to say that I have the feeling that all those who know me well, and know my spontaneity, informality and emotional involvement, must have a certain expectation of how I will adapt to a more formal and institutional role.

They probably expect me to break with protocol.

That I will introduce some of my personal characteristics into the way I carry out my role.

Well, I won't disappoint you.

I will indeed remain true to myself and make a slight break with protocol today.

First, because I have decided to innovate and to hold this meeting with all of the accredited Heads of Mission in Lisbon immediately after assuming power, speaking to them about our foreign policy and the significance we give to good relationships with all nations and with their representatives.

Second, because I also decided to invite to this meeting the hierarchies of the Portuguese Parliament who deal most directly with the topics we will be addressing today, that is, the President and Vice President of the Portuguese Parliament, as well as the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Defence. I hereby welcome them and thank them for attending.

I also decided to innovate a little bit more, and bring some special guests, giving them a special emphasis at this ceremony.

They are seated here to my left.

But I'll talk more about them later and explain the reason why I invited them, thus keeping you in a healthy expectation.

So let's get to the heart of what brings us here today, which is Portuguese foreign policy.

For reasons of methodology and ease of communication, I will approach the topic from five angles:

1) First, I will speak about the legal framework surrounding Portuguese foreign relations;

2) Second, I think it is necessary for us to focus a little on geography and history to better understand how these vectors mould our way of relating to other peoples and consequently determine the priorities of our foreign policy;

3) Third, we will see how emigration and immigration, that is, the Portuguese communities scattered throughout the world and the foreign communities residing in Portugal, contribute in turn to the way we relate to others;

4) Fourth, we will look at the geographical areas and multilateral arenas where we concentrate our greatest efforts;

5) Finally, I will touch on how in my mandate as President of the Republic I intend to relate to the Portuguese Parliament, the Government and the foreign heads of mission present here today, which I also take this opportunity to welcome.

1) The legal framework of international relations of the Portuguese Republic

The legal framework of international relations of the Portuguese Republic consists, in brief, of three types of legal instruments:

a) The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic;

b) The international treaties or conventions ratified by Portugal;

c) The Government programme.

Indeed, the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic establishes, in Article VII, how Portugal is oriented in international relations, setting out the principles:

- of respect for human rights;

- of equality among States;

- of the peaceful solution to international conflicts;

- of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States;

- and of cooperation with all other peoples for the emancipation and the progress of mankind.

All of the above in Item One of Article VII. It continues in other Articles, making the commitment:

- to strengthen European identity;

- and to maintain the privileged ties of friendship and cooperation with the Portuguese-speaking countries.

As for the international treaties and conventions ratified by the Portuguese Republic, they commit Portugal to respect and comply with what was timely agreed. This commitment is also established and quite clear in Article VIII of our Constitution.

Thus we have from the start, and regardless of which President of the Republic or Government is in power, a Constitution that guides us in principles and even in certain priority geographical areas in our activity in matters of international relations.

Also regardless of the President of the Republic or the Government in power, Portugal is committed to respect the treaties and conventions it has ratified.

However, not everything is preordained in this domain, since the third element that conditions our foreign policy results from what is approved by the Portuguese Parliament as the Programme of Government. And here, respecting what is established by the Constitution as well as by the international commitments I have mentioned, the Portuguese authorities define the approach they intend to take in each legislature with regard to the international relations of the country.

This is an interesting legal instrument and a guide to our foreign actions which, as you know, does not even exist in all legal systems. We have at this time in power the 21st Constitutional Government since 1976 which has, on pages 246 to 260 of its programme a detailed definition of the objectives for our foreign policy for the next four years.

We also have in the same programme, on pages 27 to 39, the description of the work it proposes to undertake in the context of the European Union.

2) Geography and history are factors that guide national foreign policy

Having considered the determining legal factors that guide our foreign activity, let's now look at the geographical and historical factors that impact on the international relations of Portugal.

Very briefly, we can summarise that, in geographical terms, Portugal is located on the European continent, but at the centre of the connection between the European, American and African continents. Portugal borders the Atlantic Ocean and has to the South a natural connection with the Mediterranean Sea.

Portugal, with 92 thousand square kilometres and 10.5 million people, is a mid-sized country on the European continent.

These are important data from the start, since they also help us understand that historically, for the Portuguese, the Atlantic was never a separation, but rather a bridge and connection to the rest of the world. It was through the Atlantic that Portugal built from the 15th century onwards (and maintains in other ways today) a very strong connection to Africa and America.

We are European and it is in Europe that we have our philosophical references, our paradigm of social and political development, but we have always viewed America and Africa as countries of connection, of commerce and of affection.

Nevertheless, as you, Ambassadors, who spend your professional life gathering information, analysing it and making the proper interpretations on international reality, will know very well, mathematical, statistical or numerical definitions are by their nature not only reductive, but can also lead us to make superficial, and even erroneous, conclusions.

It would be wrong to think that Portugal is just a country with 92 thousand square kilometres and 10.5 million people.

For people to understand us, to know us, and to better interpret us, we must add that this year Portugal completes 873 years as a sovereign state, and that it is one of the oldest nations in the world.

We must have a notion that the Portuguese people and this country have already been through all types of crises, wars and large-scale natural disasters, but that it has always – always – been resilient to adversity and in all circumstances has been able to overcome problems and remain united.

Sometimes, to a more superficial or inattentive observer, we may appear self-critical to the point they feel we have low national self-esteem. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth! Even the most humble Portuguese is proud that Portugal is a nation that made a contribution to the world, on which it left its mark with the changes made in the global context in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Portuguese discovered other peoples for Europe and established connections until then unknown with America, Africa and Asia. The world was one thing before and became something else afterwards. Forgive my immodesty, but not every nation, especially one of the geographic and human dimension of Portugal, has made a contribution to the world of the magnitude of the one accomplished by the Portuguese people.

The conjugation of our geography with our history thus gives us an unshakeable conviction in transatlantic relations as well as in the connection with Portuguese-speaking peoples, and we see the Asian continent not as something distant but as a continent to which we return to negotiate in a spirit of peace and mutual respect, of partnership and mutual advantage. We see in the Muslim world more than a neighbour, an ancestor, with whom, even in eras of medieval conflict, we always maintained specific alliances, exchange of ideas and scientific knowledge and constant commerce.

3) Emigration and Immigration: the Portuguese communities scattered throughout the world, the foreign communities residing in Portugal and the multi-ethnic origin of the Portuguese

Having looked at geography and history, let us now look at the human vector that moulds the definition of the foreign Portuguese activity, that is, its people and the Portuguese communities scattered throughout the world, as well as the foreign communities residing in Portugal.

As you know, Portugal celebrates its National Day on 10 June. On this day we also celebrate our greatest poet, Camões, but we also pay homage to the Portuguese communities scattered throughout the world, since for a long time these communities have had an extremely important role in our emotional imagination.

Almost every Portuguese family has relatives who emigrated. Thus it is commonplace to speak of Portugal as a country of emigrants, as a land of departure.

These communities, even when fully integrated in the countries that received them, and even if they have not visited Portugal for a number of years, generally remain extremely connected to their culture and identity of origin.

They thus make an irreplaceable contribution to boosting the visibility and prestige of Portugal abroad.

My country owes a lot to its communities and Portugal would not be the same without their contribution. We are of course proud of our emigrants and thankful for their work and efforts in spreading our language and our culture.

However, there are other communities that are fundamental to our identity, of which we usually speak less.

We cannot forget that if Portugal has always been a country of departures, it has also always been a country of arrivals and of new communities that have become integrated here, who have struggled here for a better life and who have become Portuguese like those who were here and who together, all together, have contributed to making this country greater and to raising its flag high.

I am very proud of the Portuguese communities abroad!

I am also very proud of the foreign communities who settled in Portugal and who are today as Portuguese as I am!

I believe that valuing and promoting the foreign communities that have settled in Portugal is to value and promote Portugal as a whole.

The Portuguese are all children of Celts, of Iberians, of Greeks and Carthaginians, of Romans and Visigoths, of Suevi, of Alans, of Arabs and Jews, of the most diverse peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and also of Indians and Chinese.

All of these people came here and stayed and the Portuguese of today have their origin in all of them.

By the way, I should mention that the Institute of Pathology and Molecular Immunology of the University of Porto (Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto), headed by Professor Sobrinho Simões, has published a study on the Portuguese Genetic Heritage, which has helped us discover our origins with scientific accuracy via our DNA and hence the history of the peoples that moved to and settled in Portugal.

I am thus not giving you a sympathetic speech on the image of the hospitality, tolerance and multi-ethnicity of Portugal. I am referring with authenticity to something scientific, studied with accuracy, and which everyone can therefore verify as I have.

So, by their geography, history and actual ethnic origin, the Portuguese are at ease in diversity. This implies being at ease with tolerance. It means being open to others and showing respect for others. It reveals cosmopolitanism and a sense of the ecumenical.

However, and to avoid just talking in the abstract, I would like to point out some excellent examples of Portuguese men and women who having been born overseas, or being the children of citizens of other countries, have made an inestimable contribution to flying the Portuguese flag high all over the world.

Mariza: This lady who interprets in a sublime form the deepest expression of the Portuguese soul through music, which is ‘fado’, is a Portuguese daughter of Africa, where she was born, to a Mozambican mother. She is unrivalled in the number of international awards and distinctions that she has received in the dissemination of ‘fado’ overseas.

Francis Obikwelu: Nigerian by birth and Portuguese by choice. He has made the Portuguese proud by becoming European champion in the 100 and 200 metres on a number of occasions and also by winning the silver medal in the 100 metres in the Olympic Games of Athens .

Naide Gomes: Born in São Tomé e Príncipe and naturalised Portuguese citizen as an adult, Naide Gomes was the world champion in Pentathlon various times and in long-jump, representing Portugal.

Nelson Évora: Who cannot be present because he is competing overseas but who I would also like to mention. He was born on the Ivory Coast and is of Cape-Verdian ancestry. However it was the Portuguese flag that was raised when he won the world championship and Olympic championship in triple-jump.

Thank you for honouring Portugal and thank you very much for your presence. Be aware that you are an example and inspiration for all Portuguese people.

4) Priority geographical areas and multilateral fora for Portuguese overseas action

Having looked at the legal framework for Portuguese external affairs as well as the geographical, historic and human factors that condition the way in which we relate to the world, it is now easier to understand that the priorities of Portuguese foreign policy are in practice a result of a combination of all these factors.

Portugal therefore has a vocation of universal external action far superior to that which theoretically one could suppose when only thinking of its geographical and human dimension. We have ancestral links with peoples from all continents and interests that are constantly renewed in all latitudes and longitudes.

But let us begin by specifying our interests in international relations.

It is well understood that European and democratic Portugal is pledged in a resolute form and without hesitation, to the European Union. This pledge was fundamental for our social development, placing us high in the United Nations human development index.

But Portugal’s commitment to the European Union is anchored in a greater ambition which goes far beyond material aspects, however important they might be. Portugal has always seen in European integration, in cohesion, in solidarity and in democracy, a model for our own society Therefore we have always been in the forefront of those who uphold the ambition of achieving an European Union which is more advanced, harmonious, united and with a more cohesive role in the world order.

In this way we are committed to the challenges which arise in the European Union, particularly towards Portugal, but we have also been following with concern and solidarity the dramas that have been experienced with the massive arrival of migrants and refugees to our continent. As humanists, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the tens of thousands of people that go through the drama that we witness on a daily basis. As a Member State we stand together with our partners especially affected by the huge challenges caused by the massive arrival of people who need to be helped and integrated.

We also belong to the North Atlantic and our willingness to strengthen our involvement in NATO is a constant of our foreign action. It is impossible not to be aware of and concerned about the global phenomenon of terrorism. This is a scourge which, precisely because we are humanists, we have to fight with determination and together, for the sake of human life but also against obscurantism and intolerance.

We want increasingly to deepen our relations with our ally the United States of America, a country where a large Portuguese community lives and with which we have enjoyed an excellent relationship since its foundation in the 18th century, Portugal moreover being the second country to recognise its independence.

Our society’s link to the Portuguese-speaking countries may be rooted in history but it is not due to nostalgia that the Portuguese have invested increasingly more in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau and São Tomé e Príncipe. This economic investment demonstrates the confidence of our business leaders in the future of these countries but also, at the same time, reveals a contribution towards the building of a new dawn in the relationship of partnership and mutual advantages between the Portuguese and these peoples.

As a result of the three aforementioned areas, multilateralism has been a constant value of the Portuguese foreign policy. As a Member State of the United Nations we are resolutely committed to helping build a more peaceful world order; one that is fairer, more inclusive, freer and more humanist, defending the rights of peoples and fostering the individual rights of each human being.

Portugal is proud to have been elected three times to the United Nations Security Council, and more recently to the Human Rights Council. On my part, I intend to participate in the General Assembly of the United Nations this year, thereby sending a clear sign of continuity in our commitment to multilateralism.

It is therefore no surprise that Portugal has presented the candidacy of Mr. António Guterres, former Prime Minister and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is a candidacy in favour of all, uniting, based on the extraordinary merit of the candidate and based on the certainty that, should he be appointed, António Guterres will be a brilliant Secretary-General of the United Nations, he will value the UN and will build a bridge between all nations with the intelligence and ability for which he is recognised by all.

Also in the multilateral sphere, Portugal attaches the greatest importance to the development of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries and we will never cease in our efforts to make this Community increasingly more valued within the international context. We will always strive for the CPLP to become a Community of ever increasing new economic and social ties between its societies, without forgetting its founding principles, which are the Portuguese language as a link between all and the respect for human rights as a corollary of all its Member States.

We have in the Muslim world in general, and in the Maghreb countries in particular, a relationship that dates back hundreds of years, one of neighbourly coexistence, of trade and cultural exchange. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia will continue to merit special attention in the exchange of meetings with a view to developing this long-standing relationship.

In turn, India, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, whilst geographically distant, are countries known by the Portuguese and where the Portuguese are well known. They are countries with which we maintain excellent relations and with which we intend to continue to strengthen a very old contact which has always been mutually beneficial and peaceful.

As President of the Republic I will take part in the meetings of the Presidents of the Republics of European States which comprise the so-called Arraiolos Group, whose next meeting will take place in Sofia this September.

I will also attend the COTEC meetings which annually bring together the Presidents of Italy and Portugal and the King of Spain and I will also participate in the Iberian-American Summits, the next being in Cartagena of the Indies, in Colombia. In all these instances I will make an effort to strengthen the links that already unite the participating nations.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the particular case of Spain, our only land neighbour, the main destination of our exports and the first source of our imports. A big investor in Portugal, it is a country with which we have a very deep friendship, with regular contacts and meetings and a great deal of convergence of opinions and actions. Relations with our neighbour will always be a constant focus of our foreign policy.

We would like to strengthen our institutional, trade and cultural relations in an ongoing way with all the countries that I have referred to. But we have exactly the same ambition for all the other nations that wish to develop or create common partnerships and interests with us.

We will always be open, available and interested in forging new friendships and partnerships. Countries where we have a strong presence of Portuguese communities like Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland or South Africa. Major strategic and economic world players like Russia, Nigeria or Turkey. Or even all nations, regardless of their economic or geographic size, but who want to build a mutually advantageous future with us.

5) The relationship of the President with the Government and the Portuguese Parliament in foreign affairs matters. The contact with accredited foreign heads of missions in Lisbon

Finally, and coming to the last part of my speech, I consider it important to bear in mind that the responsibilities of the President of the Republic regarding international relations are also laid down in the Constitution, more specifically in its article 135.

On the other hand, we know that Portuguese foreign policy options have, in their essence, remained the same from the first constitutional government of 1976 to that of today and this regardless of the healthy alternation of political families in the exercise of government that has taken place since then.

Summing up, Portuguese foreign policy has always been a policy of consensus and continuity in which there is a tradition and harmony and fruitful collaboration between the President of the Republic, the Government and the Portuguese Parliament. We’ve always been together.

I will therefore exercise my position regarding international relations in strict compliance with the Constitution and the international commitments we have undertaken. More than simply maintaining it, I will always seek to deepen the fruitful collaborative relationship with the Government and the Portuguese Parliament so that we can thereby reach the goals which are common to all of us in our external action. I will always be interested, available and committed so that together we will go further in the promotion of Portugal on the international scene.

To wind up, I would like to address the heads of mission in Lisbon.

Before being elected I maintained with many of you a relationship of regular contact, and even friendship, which has proved very satisfying for me.

I imagine that many of you will wonder how things will be now that I have been elected President of the Republic and if that relationship will change.

I can assure you that friendship will be maintained and the contact may even be strengthened, and this is because now, as President of the Republic I will have at my disposal a diplomatic advisory team that will help me maintain an even more regular and intense relationship with all of you.

I can even add that I am going to promote, jointly with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and with my diplomatic advisers, meetings with heads of mission in the respective regional groups as they are organised in Lisbon. Which is why you will be contacted in due time by my diplomatic team. We like to hear your opinions and intend to enhance your role as a link between Portugal and your countries.

I know that the task that we are proposing in terms of foreign policy seems disproportionate given our means, almost megalomaniac, but as Fernando Pessoa said:

“Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena se a alma não é pequena.
Quem quer passar além do Bojador tem de passar além da dor.
Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu, mas nele é que espelhou o céu.”

(“Was it worth our plight? Everything’s worth doing if the soul of the doer isn’t small.
He who desires to pass the Cape must a painful price pay.
God to the sea made gifts of danger and abyss
so that it might also mirror the heavenly skies”)