We gather today to mark the 30th anniversary of the entry of Portugal into the European Communities, a key milestone in the modern history of our country. I congratulate the government for the initiative to celebrate the anniversary by organising not only this event, but also several others that will take place over the coming months. It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to close this ceremony and to join in the celebration.
It was on 12 June 1985 that, right here in the Jerónimos Monastery, Portugal signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities. There could therefore be no more symbolic a place to mark this date, underline its significance and reflect on some of the most current and pressing challenges facing the European Union and its citizens.
I would begin by reiterating the recognition due to all those who contributed to the accession of Portugal to the European Communities. The politicians who had the vision, courage and determination to move forward on this path, as well as those who, at a diplomatic or technical level, worked on the challenging negotiations and dossiers to bring this plan to fruition.
This historic step in the consolidation of the democratic process in Portugal came to contribute decisively to the development of the country. We were transformed structurally and evolved economically and socially. We have, since then, adopted new standards and assumed an active role in building the European project.
While it is undeniable that our country has received much from the EU, the truth is that it has also given it much in return. Portugal has brought to Europe the legacy of its history, the mark of Atlantic dialogue, the universalism of its language and its culture.
Our special ties of friendship with Africa and Latin America, the diaspora present in all parts of the world and even the international affirmation of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) are factors that contribute to the overall projection of the European Union and its values.
Portugal is now, perhaps, the Member State that is best placed to promote, within the Union, the strategic triangulation between Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Membership has had profound implications in almost every sector, and has indeed been a milestone in the life of the country. As Prime Minister, I had the honour of participating at the outset of this European adventure. I did it - and please allow me a personal note - with pride but, above all, an awareness of my responsibilities. I remember that on the last day of 1985, I addressed a message to the Portuguese people, stressing the enormous collective challenge that membership represented and the changes that would need to be implemented to make good use of the opportunities for economic and social progress that were opening up to our country.
I had the privilege of witnessing geopolitical changes of historic proportions that have marked our continent – some of them the World - and which influenced the course of European construction.
While many thought that, with the approval of the European Single Act in 1985, the integration process would stabilise for many years, the truth is that, shortly afterwards, in 1989, it would move on apace. The deepening of European integration was thus the way found to respond to the new geopolitical landscape in Europe.
Portugal sought to gain credibility through active, serious and constructive participation in Community life and in deepening the European integration process. There was always a concern to place the defence of national interests within the framework of the Community interest and not along purely selfish or nationalistic lines. Today, with the far-reaching interdependence in economic, financial and policy matters on a global level, this attitude has become even more relevant.
In Parliament, in the debriefing session of the first Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council in July 1992, I had the opportunity to say: “Portugal has shown that it is a modern European country, which knows how to properly seize the opportunities open to it and that can make a very positive contribution to the building of Europe and to the solution of many global problems of our time.”
The same can be said of the Portuguese Presidencies in 2000 and 2007. The fact that we had Dr. Durão Barroso as President of the European Commission for two mandates, besides the recognition of his merits and abilities, was also recognition of our country's credibility.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
30 years on, I believe that the question of whether or not the results are positive no longer arises. The answer can now be given objectively. But I suggest an exercise that may be a good illustration: try to imagine what Portugal would be like today if it had not become a member of the European Union.
Over these three decades, the Country’s economic and social development clearly stands out, to which access to the large European market and the impetus provided by EU funds and the structural reforms undertaken undoubtedly contributed. When we joined, our product per capita stood around 53 per cent of the European average. Fifteen years later, we were close to 75 per cent. Since the Accession, Portugal has benefited from Economic and Social Cohesion, a key value, and, together with the Internal Market, a political pillar of the Union.
It is worth emphasising that a key contribution to the success of our integration was also a broad strategic convergence by the main political parties and the economic and social partners around our participation in the European Union, which was also demonstrated in the cooperation between sovereign institutions.
Portugal has shown commitment and enthusiasm for being at the forefront of those who supported the “little-big steps” of an integration project that always knew how to respond to crises by further deepening and reaffirming its founding principles.
One of the latest examples of this trend has been the political and legislative developments in the economic and financial domains, particularly in regulating the functioning of the banking system, which came in response to the crisis in the Euro Zone.
The sovereign debt crisis has exposed, among other things, the shortcomings in the architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union. Only by creating a true EMU can the ambitious and innovative development of European integration be fully achieved, by deepening economic integration and budgetary coordination and the realisation of the Banking Union.
It should also be noted that Portugal has been able to proactively boost European public policies in line with national interests. It happened with the creation of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy which, following the enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe from 2004, has brought a new perspective on Europe’s sea basins, and particularly the Atlantic basin. Portugal should be proud of its strong national fingerprint on this new European policy and should especially learn to take full advantage of the opportunities that it provides.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The so-called “European option” is at the centre of Portuguese political and economic life and is also, in many different ways, the focus of life for the Portuguese. Portuguese society is strongly pro-European. Despite the difficulties we have encountered along the way, we have embraced the belief that European integration has been a key factor in the development and modernisation of the country and a factor in the openness and affirmation of Portugal in the World.
We are Europeans, not only by geography but also by choice, by the desire to belong to an integrated space of sharing and deepening of common values such as respect for human rights, justice, democracy and social protection, albeit always taking national differences into account.
Over the past decades, as I have said, the European project materialised in an extraordinary political construction and a model for many.
The single market was created. Borders were eliminated, and the free movement of people, knowledge and culture established. The largest economic bloc in the World was formed, together with a common currency. We moved towards economic and monetary union and have made significant steps towards political union. We are a space for human dignity, a destination for freedom and justice that many seek and not just for economic reasons. Today’s Europe is also the natural environment for our young people, who have always sought mobility in an area without borders.
However, and as we were led to acknowledge in recent years, the inspiration and all that was achieved since the time of Europe’s founding fathers cannot be taken for granted. In June 2013, I said to the European Parliament: “(...) Europe’s economic growth is weak and various countries find themselves in recession; and unemployment is a dramatic reality. These are the two greatest challenges that we currently face and for which we have still not found an effective response.” I argued on this occasion, as on many others, for a European agenda that promoted growth and jobs.
Also to the European Parliament, I stressed the need for “a social, cultural and political response that meets the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of Europe, the only way to overcome the crisis of confidence and to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of European decision-makers (...)”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The challenges currently facing the European project are considerable, and they put its robustness and depth to the test.
One of the most pressing is the massive influx of refugees and migrants that Europe currently faces. In this regard, we cannot forget that solidarity and the protection of fundamental rights must remain at the core of the Union's migration policy. It is important to deepen the integration of migrants, promote legal channels for migration and ensure an effective external border control policy but with the respect for fundamental rights.
At the present time, in which security and nationalist temptations emerge, it is essential to ensure that the freedom of movement, a fundamental, innovative principle of European integration which has Schengen as its most tangible manifestation, is not affected by isolationist, xenophobic propositions. The best way to achieve this is to bring the values of solidarity and cohesion to the heart of European policies, strengthening the ties between European citizens and upholding the principle of non-discrimination and equal treatment.
It is with shared solidarity, not restrictions on free movement, that we will meet this challenge. And those, like us, who helped open up “new worlds”, have no desire for “new walls”.
Another major challenge is, as I mentioned earlier, the return to sustainable growth and combating unemployment. The European Union cannot dispense with a greater coordination of the economic policies and choices of Member States, going beyond stronger budget coordination and enabling macroeconomic and competitiveness imbalances to be reduced. The Union also needs investment, to encourage projects that create advantages and improvements in the lives of citizens, and to promote a smarter, greener and more inclusive economy.
In this context, it is worth mentioning the role of the Multiannual Financial Framework. The Juncker Plan provides a response to the crucial need to revive investment and channel additional funds to the economy. Our concern is to identify projects which, by their merit and added value, are able to attract private investment and create jobs.
The connection of this new instrument to Cohesion Policy intervention cannot be overlooked. Economic, social and territorial cohesion is a fundamental principle and a political determinant of the EU.
Only a cohesive Europe will be able to respond consistently to the problems that it faces. And a cohesive Europe means a solidary Europe, averse to the logic of winner and loser countries and able to reduce asymmetries. But also a cohesive Europe in its relations with external partners, with a strong, internationally united voice.
A third key challenge is the containment of climate change. I stress the historic agreement - global and binding - recently reached at the Climate Summit in Paris, that aims at limiting global warming to below 2 degrees by 2050 and whose implementation will require a huge adaptation effort and a fairer distribution of responsibilities.
In the battle for the decarbonisation of our economies, Portugal must position itself to take advantage of the opportunities it brings, building a circular economy by continuing to invest in renewable energy and, above all, by placing an overdue focus on the many promising aspects of the maritime economy.
Terrorism is, of course, at the forefront of the current threats facing the Union. In this context, it is important to act at the level of prevention, to address the problem of radicalisation and recruitment for terrorism that is magnified through the use of the Internet and the social networks. It is essential to step up information-sharing and operational cooperation and coordination, in order to make progress in the fight against illicit trafficking in firearms and to combat the financing of terrorism, as well as to strengthen controls at the external borders of the Schengen Area.
Given these and other challenges the European Union faces, unity is more important than ever.
Only in unity can the European Union respond effectively and with justice to the challenge of migration and the hosting of refugees.
Only in unity can it fight effectively against terrorism, with respect for fundamental rights and the Rule of Law.
Only within the unequivocal respect for its founding principles, namely the four freedoms, can the European Union preserve the integrity of the central project that is the Internal Market.
Only in unity can it continue to play a leading role in the efforts to contain climate change and to implement the historic commitment made in Paris.
With the various enlargements – and ours was the third of seven – Europe has been opening up in successive “embraces” to the countries that wanted, just like us, to solidify the foundations of democracy and the Rule of Law and achieve a new level of economic and social well-being. Even if we do not always recognise it, enlargement, a fundamental aspect of the European Union's foreign policy, has been one of its major successes.
We have come a long way in this project of peace, stability and welfare. We are a Union and not a mere sum of States and markets. It would be a serious mistake and a setback for Europe if we were to abandon the spirit of a union that stands firm in its ideals, responsible in its commitments and united in its foundations. We are a Union, in good times and in difficult times.
A Union which, as we know, has always managed to move forward from crises. Although, at times, we may have preferred the Union to take a more proactive and less reactive role, I am confident that Europe will know how to overcome the challenges it faces and will live up to its responsibilities and the expectations of its citizens.
As Jacques Delors said in this same place 30 years ago, “(...) a successful outcome can be achieved only through a reinforced Europe in which each can find the grounds for hope and more effective action. We shall survive together or we shall founder singly.”
Just as the history of each country is made of successes and difficulties, so too did the Union have its high points, its hesitations and its vicissitudes.
These 30 years of Portugal's active and committed participation in the European project have been a unique opportunity for our development, a remarkable time in our recent history. We are proud of what we have achieved as a Country, and we can say it was worth it.
The values that allow us to aspire to a tolerant and humanist society where everyone can live in security and mutual respect are the hallmark of the Union and must be defended and proclaimed by all European nations, aware that the Union makes them stronger.
So, more than remembering what we have achieved with our integration, we must now celebrate the European Union as a project for the future that is part of our national identity and whose development is at the heart of our strategic objectives. We are and want to continue to be part of this space of freedom, peace and prosperity.
Thank you very much.
© 2006-2016 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic
You have gained access to the records of the Official Site of the Presidency of the Republic from 9 March 2006 to 9 March 2016.
The contents available here were entered in the site during the 10 year period covering the two mandates of President of the Republic Aníbal Cavaco Silva.