Speech by the President of the Republic on the occasion of the ceremony to present New Year Greetings by members of the Diplomatic Corps in Portugal
Queluz National Palace, 13 January 2016

I would like to start by thanking you for your presence here and to offer my best wishes for a Happy New Year 2016, which I extend to your families. I’m grateful as well for the kind words that His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio addressed to me on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Lisbon. I ask you to convey to your Heads of State my sincere wishes for a 2016 marked by peace and prosperity.


Continuing the tradition maintained over the past nine years, this will, as you know, be the last time that I greet you as Head of State at the beginning of a new year and, through you, the countries which you represent here. It is a moment to which I have always attached great significance, also for the very special appreciation I have for diplomatic activity in creating bridges of dialogue and strengthening relations amongst peoples.

2015 presented a serious challenge on several levels.

The international community experienced some painful periods in the wake of several terrorist attacks that caused heavy losses of human lives and targeted values that we hold very dear.

The terrorist threat is not new, but there have been increasingly worrying developments. It is necessary to strengthen the concerted efforts of all States and international and regional organisations in a firm and determined fight, on several fronts, against all forms of terrorism.

Another pressing challenge is the massive influx of refugees and migrants with which Europe has been confronted. Solidarity and the protection of fundamental rights must be at the heart of EU migration policy. On the basis of these principles, it is important that the migrants be integrated, that legal migration channels be promoted and an effective external border control policy be assured. At a time when hard line and nationalist temptations emerge, it is essential to ensure that the freedom of movement in Europe is not jeopardised by isolationist and xenophobic propositions.

The waves of refugees and the demanding economic and financial environment in which we live are therefore testing our solidarity, as well as our commitment to democratic values. The answers cannot be found in walls or in self-imposed isolation. It is essential to cooperate with the countries of origin, transit and destination most affected by migration issues, and address the root causes of these phenomena.

Even so, the year just ended also brought us positive signs. In Portugal, economic indicators have shown a gradual improvement. Our economy is more competitive and our businesses more entrepreneurial, gaining new market shares. Portugal's election to the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organisation is a signal of our dynamics in a sector where we have achieved excellent results. We have improved the terms of our balance of trade and our capacity to attract foreign investment.


Over the ten years that I have had the honour of holding the office of President of the Republic, I have made 80 visits abroad and received numerous dignitaries from other countries, on bilateral as well as multilateral occasions, including in major international summits that we have hosted here during this period.

Let me stress the fact that, on every visit I have undertaken, I have made a point of meeting with the Portuguese Communities living in your countries. I have noted with pride their vitality, their successful integration, the strength of the ties that bind them to Portugal, and their contribution to the economic and civic life of the countries where they live.

Your Excellencies are well aware of the soundness and continuity of the direction of our foreign policy.

Our firm commitment to multilateralism is one of the main lines of our foreign policy, and this has guided an important part of my presidential diplomacy activities. I remember, for example, the biennium 2011-2012, in which Portugal assumed its mandate in the UN Security Council: it was a point of honour for me to chair the first open discussion organised by Portugal. As was our participation in the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 and again in 2015, when we marked the 70th anniversary of the UN and 60 years of Portugal's accession to that organisation.

In fact, our commitment to multilateralism takes very concrete forms, such as the participation of detachments of the Portuguese Armed Forces in various operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, currently numbering about 500 personnel, as well as air force and naval resources.

The Oceans have been one of the issues that, from the start, have been a priority in the exercise of my duties. The Sea is, for Portugal, a strong element of identity and I was pleased to see its importance recognised in the economic development plan and as a key piece of domestic and foreign policy action.

I recall the opportunity that we had last year to host and organise the Blue Week, an international event that brought together more than seventy countries and international institutions.

The Portuguese-speaking world and its multilateral expression, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, have seen a growing interest from other partners, as I have witnessed over the five CPLP Summits that have taken place over the past decade. This is proof of the vitality of a strategically important Community: for its size, the richness of its resources and the firmness of the cooperation that has been established in it.


1 January 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of Portugal's accession to the European Communities. Three decades of enormous changes, and active participation in the deepening of the European project.

Some of the challenges the European Union has been facing in the past year had been evident for some time; others took on new urgency in 2015 and will continue to demand our attention in 2016. In addition to the issues of refugees and migrants, the fight against terrorism and the situation in the Ukraine, I am also thinking of sustainable growth, job creation and the decarbonisation of the economy.

Given these and other matters, I would say that the unity around the founding principles is, and will be, more important than ever.

In 2015, Europe was again the destination of some of my visits. In Spain, I visited the city of La Coruña with His Majesty King Felipe VI, which was an important moment in the context of cross-border cooperation between our two countries. I travelled to Paris, a trip that included my first meeting with President Hollande and the first visit by a Portuguese Head of State to the OECD.

I made an official visit to Norway, where I had an intense, varied schedule, with a strong component linked to the sea agenda; and I undertook State Visits to Bulgaria and Romania, reviving our relations with these partners of Portugal in the European Union and NATO. I also had the opportunity to participate in the meeting of the Arraiolos Group in Germany and the 10th Meeting of COTEC Europe, which took place in Italy.

I would like to mention to the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe. I welcome its renewed vigour, with the ability to attract new Member States. The Centre, with its experience and the relevance of its values, plays a key role in promoting dialogue and cooperation opportunities that deserve to be valued.


The transatlantic axis is another fundamental aspect of Portuguese foreign policy. I always attached great importance to bilateral relations with the United States. We agree on concerns and interests, and here too, of course, a concerted effort is essential to the solution of common problems.

Within the Atlantic Alliance, Portugal remains an active and committed member. Last October and November, together with two other countries, we hosted NATO's High Visibility Trident Juncture 2015 exercise.

With South America, too, Portugal maintains a unique relationship founded on historical ties of friendship and cooperation. We have political, cultural and economic affinities, but also an emotional connection. They are countries with which we have substantially strengthened the level of relationship over the past few years and with which we are committed to identifying and enhancing opportunities for cooperation.

In this area, I must make a special mention of Brazil. I would like to express my satisfaction for the intense agenda of bilateral visits and hope it will be possible to agree very soon a date for holding the XII Luso-Brazilian Summit.

Our companies greatly favour the American Continent in their process of internationalisation. We would like the growth achieved in recent years to continue.

Moreover, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should enable the Euro-American space to re-emerge as one of the most important axes of innovation and growth. I also believe that the conditions are right to give a new impetus to the EU-Mercosur negotiating process which will greatly benefit our economies.


We share many centuries of history with the African Portuguese-speaking countries, and a deep friendship and continued cooperation. These are special relationships, too, founded on a broad mutual understanding and respect; relationships that go beyond changing circumstances and reassert themselves in times of major challenges.

It is in this spirit that we reaffirm our commitment to strengthening the mutually beneficial relations with Angola and deepening the bilateral relationships with Cape Verde, Mozambique and São Tome & Principe. We will seek to boost international support for Guinea-Bissau, in the hope of consolidating constitutional order there.

Like so many other Portuguese, my own personal history is linked to Africa, and I have been pleased to see, over the years, a renewed interest in the continent. We have also reinforced our relationship with other sub-Saharan African nations, such as Senegal and the Ivory Coast - but more needs to be done, both bilaterally and at regional level.

I note, too, as a positive example, the commitment that Portugal has made to the international coordination of security in the Gulf of Guinea, with the intention of contributing to the capacity building of the region’s States and organisations. In 2016, the Presidency of the "Extended G7 Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group" falls to us.

We also have historical, affective and linguistic ties to Asia. The economic and strategic importance of the continent invites us to redouble our efforts to keep the bridges we have built strong.

We have placed the political, economic and business relationship with several Asian countries on a new level; we have established a mutual, dynamic interest in the respective markets and investment destinations; we have encouraged collaboration in academic work and in research.

We remain, of course, very committed to deepening our special connection with East Timor. There is still a lot of scope for growth in the region, making historical ties meaningful today, like those that are celebrated this year: 500 years of friendship with countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

The relationship between Portugal and China has, in turn, taken on a strategic character, with both countries continuing to be intent on expanding areas of bilateral cooperation. My visit there in 2014 was unquestionably significant, and we hope that the political contacts at the highest level recur regularly.


In our southern neighbourhood, the threat of Daesh and other terrorist groups is at the top of our concerns. The fight against this phenomenon should also focus on sources of funding and tools promoting Islamic radicalism and the recruitment of new members. Strong cooperation is needed with the countries most affected by terrorism, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

We will monitor very closely the situation in conflict areas such as Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, hoping that the ongoing efforts towards dialogue can create the foundation for the desired stability. A spirit of openness is required of all the actors so that effective solutions for peace might be found.

I remind you that the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize recognised the merit and the decisive action of the National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia for the peaceful construction of a plural democracy there. I take this opportunity to, once again, congratulate the Tunisian Government for this award, which is an inspiring example for all.


I cannot, of course, fail to mention the visits made to Portugal in 2015 by the Heads of State of Mozambique, Senegal, Bulgaria and Ireland, which are clear evidence of close bilateral relationships. It is worth remembering that State Visits are the greatest signal of a mutual commitment to an open and structured dialogue.

The times in which we live are increasingly speedy in the circulation of information and the demand for answers, but we must not lose sight of the need to allow time for the dialogue, for patient labour of diplomacy.

An example of this was the adoption of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the negotiations on the environment and climate change. In Paris, 195 countries adopted a global and binding Agreement to save our planet, a starting point for a new stage in the fight against climate change. I welcome these signs that it is possible to devise global responses to equally global problems. But in fact our real work begins now.

Similarly, the significant progress made in the peace agreement in Colombia has proved the importance of political willingness for dialogue and to seek negotiated solutions. Portugal knows this and I dare say has known it for a long time. We are, after all, a nation that, early on, opened itself to the diversity of people and enriched the world with our ability to promote dialogue and the confluence of different cultures.

The challenges ahead are, as I have said, enormous, severe and urgent. But we do have some signs that we can work together to address them; signs that give us added encouragement in our commitment to make 2016 indeed a year of renewed hope, peace and prosperity.

These are the wishes I would like to express to all of you.

Thank you very much.