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Speech by the President of the Republic on his visit to the Portalegre Training Centre of the National Republican Guard (GNR)
Portalegre, 11 February 2016

I am visiting the High Alentejo to pay a tribute to the National Republican Guard, an essential body for the Internal Security of our Country and an institution that, from its own name, from its permanent presence in our daily lives and from the ceremonial duties it performs, we often associate with our existence as a Republic.

As I stated last week, in my visit to the Police Training School, I wished to carry out, at the end of my mandates as President of the Republic, a farewell visit to the Security Forces, as a sign of recognition for their constant and faithful contribution towards Portugal being a State truly governed by the Rule of Law.

Here, in the Portalegre Republican Guard Training Centre, I was able to become closely acquainted with the training model of the women and men who will shortly become a part of the cadre of the GNR.

They will comprise one of the visible features of the State’s authority, joining a complement of thousands of servicemen, who are entrusted with demanding tasks in the maintenance of public order, protection and safety of people and goods and of road surveillance.

The stake placed on strict multidisciplinary training, aiming towards the acquirement of not just tactical and physical skills, but equally cultural and behavioural competences, is an inevitable result of GNR’s investment in proximity to the people.

The constitution of a relationship of trust with the Portuguese implies, more than ever, that GNR servicemen become prepared for much diversified situations. It implies their being able to answer, with the necessary promptness and rectitude, not only to actions of criminals and lawbreakers, but to all those who may be in need of them, within an approach that is ever more preventive and closer.

The presence of GNR in an enormously wide area of national territory and namely in all the Country’s interior renders it a core institution in the combat against peoples’ isolation and a guarantor of social and territorial cohesion. It should be stressed, for instance, that the fact that the aged are the most vulnerable in our society, it is undisputable that the aged that live away from urban centres are those that most require being looked after.

This social duty of the GNR is probably, nowadays, one of the most relevant and irreplaceable features of its mission. GNR’s territorial structure is thus of primary importance, even due to the pedagogical action it exercises with the people, alerting them and collaborating with municipal authorities and with religious and social institutions. It is this direct approach to the Portuguese that requires an ever more demanding and continuous training.

The missions it has fulfilled abroad, representing Portugal with the deployment of well-prepared effectives, which were comprised and invested in dialoguing with local forces, rendered GNR great respect and prestige. This was the case with special cooperation in East Timor, where GNR servicemen fulfilled a crucial role in keeping public order and in the training of the staff of the Timorese Security Forces.

The dignifying of the careers of the GNR servicemen must correspond to the strictness demanded from them in the exercise of their duties and to the risks to which they are daily subject to. The improvement in the conditions of the territorial stations and in the equipment at their disposal must also be a constant concern of the Government

Madam Minister of Internal Administration,
Madam Mayor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in a Country that, under international standards, is safe and peaceful. Portugal is more than ever sought, not only by tourists to spend their holidays, but also by foreign citizens who have chosen us for residential purposes. And if it is true that we can mention natural conditions and climate as factors contributing towards such decisions, it is also doubtless that safety and peacefulness are contributing components in that choice.

We tend to forget that we owe our Security Forces our way of life, which we value above all, when the news leads us to make comparisons with happenings in Europe and throughout the world. How we live and exercise our freedom, placing our trust in the protection assured us by the State, makes us debtors to our Security Forces.

In addition to combating criminality, GNR is entrusted with a great number of duties, such as the control of the whole extent of our coastal areas, which it exercises through the Coastal Control Unit, and the prevention and supervision of contributory, fiscal and customs and excise offenses, through the Fiscal Action Unit, a primary component in the fight against counterfeiting and smuggling. Technological development has also brought on new challenges and new fields of action for GNR, with the increase in criminality connected to the use of the Internet.

But is probably due to the action of the National Traffic Unit that the greater number of Portuguese are acquainted with the GNR. There will still be too many who view the presence of the GNR in our roadways as a limitation to their freedom.

It is important to recall that this presence corresponds to the social demand that many more lives should be saved through the prevention of traffic accidents and that the pedagogical action in which the institution has been investing, through sensitivity campaigns, has been rendering results.

The military condition of GNR provides its being attributed missions within the scope of National Defence, in cooperation and, within exceptional circumstances, under the command of the Armed Forces. This justifies the preferential relationship with the military institution, exemplified in the training system of the staff of this Security Force.

In the uncertain times in which we live, with threats hovering over Europe and over our way of life from extremists and radicals, we must salute the preparation and the permanent availability of the GNR servicemen.

Madam Minister of Internal Administration,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout the exercise of my duties I was able to witness the merit with which the National Republican Guard conveys dignity to the ceremonies of the Republic. The drive and the keenness with which the servicemen of the State Security and Honours Unit carry out their ceremonial functions in the State’s eminent events should bring pride to the whole institution.

I would stress the role of the Presidential Squadron, which guarantees security in the external perimeter of the Palace of Belém and accompanies the President of the Republic in the more relevant ceremonies, from his Empowerment to the reception of Ambassadors and foreign Heads of State. The Presidential Squadron is viewed in the Palace of Belém, not only due to the sentinels on their daily rounds at the Palace Gates, but also by the Solemn Changing of the Guard which, however ceremonial, dignifies the Presidency of the Republic and has become a traditional event that is nowadays part of the Lisbon tourist circuit.

I had the opportunity, whilst President of the Republic, to twice decorate this institution, once in 2010, with the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator, and once again in 2011, on the centenary of its Foundation as National Republican Guard, with the Order of Freedom..

Throughout the last ten years I have witnessed GNR’s commitment to public service, with the cause of freedom, with guaranteeing the rights of the Portuguese.

I thus wish, upon terminating my mandates, to render public tribute to each of the men, sergeants and officers who daily fulfil their mission to bring freedom and peacefulness to Portugal and contribute to its becoming a better country. The National Republican Guard brings prestige and dignifies the Portuguese Republic.

In this sense and wishing that this gesture be taken as a recognition of all the GNR, I decided to avail myself of this moment to stress the contribution of lieutenant general Manuel Mateus Costa da Silva Couto as Commander-in-Chief of the Guard and am exceedingly pleased to award him the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator.

Thank you very much.

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