It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that we welcome President Michael D. Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins to Portugal, as well as the entire delegation accompanying them on this State Visit. You are very welcome!
I hope you are enjoying your time with us, in what is President Higgins' first official trip to Portugal, and that the visit will be beneficial for relations between our two countries.
Portugal and Ireland have a long tradition of bilateral relations, and the ties of friendship between our two peoples are centuries old. The first contacts date back to the remote past. During the medieval period, there was an increase in commerce between our peoples that extended into the cultural, religious and intellectual domains. Contributing to this proximity was the fact that many Irish families moved to Portugal.
We share numerous affinities. Starting with geography: situated at the extremity of Europe, we are peoples with a strong maritime vocation, facing the Atlantic. We are open to the World and to new experiences, and we are very familiar with emigration. Today, we also share the common project that is the European Union, to which we are firmly committed and that constitutes a central axis of our relationship.
We admire Ireland, the warmth and generosity of its people, the creativity of its musicians and writers – one needs only to recall the names of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett or Seamus Heaney – the beauty of its countryside, the enormous dynamism shown in reinventing itself as a "global island" and achieving a level of prosperity and development that are enviable in every respect.
It is in the interest of both countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Bearing in mind our long standing links, our excellent political understanding and the potential that exists, I am certain that we can do much more.
I am referring, for example, to commercial trade, to reciprocal investment and to tourism. In particular, I think of the sectors in which our countries have distinguished themselves in recent years, such as information and communication technologies. Portugal is a country that invests overseas and that, due to its history and legacy, is also a natural partner for joint ventures in other regions, namely Africa and South America.
Similarly, the ties between peoples are strengthened through the reciprocal understanding of their culture, heritage and arts. I hope that more and more Irish citizens come to visit Portugal, and get to know Portuguese heritage and culture, its gastronomy, wines, music and literature. There is a great deal to discover and enjoy in this Atlantic country to the south.
Today there are a considerable number of Portuguese in Ireland. The majority are young employees working for multinationals based in Dublin or other Irish cities. This community, well integrated and respected, is also an invaluable factor in the furthering of relations between our two countries.
As we well know, the last few years have been particularly difficult for our countries. Very heavy sacrifices were demanded of our populations, with all the consequences that they entailed.
Today, having turned the page, and fulfilled the demanding and rigorous Programmes of Economic and Financial Assistance, Portugal and Ireland have recovered their access to the markets, and boast more competitive and sustainable economies that are integrated in the global economy. Signs of recovery in economic activity are visible, especially in Ireland, but also in Portugal, with effects on reducing unemployment.
Conversely, these were - and still are - times of enormous challenges for Europe.
The international financial crisis exposed fragilities and imbalances at various levels, revealed the difficulty of responding adequately, and made evident the high level of economic and financial interdependence between Member States, particularly those of the Eurozone. I have steadfastly defended that national efforts for reform and fiscal consolidation should be accompanied by a strong European agenda targeting growth and employment.
Today, Europe and the world are also confronted with unprecedented challenges in the area of migration and the fight against terrorism, for which I urge that common responses be found, based on European principles and values that we share.
The long political career that has brought Your Excellency to the high office you now hold, is an example of dedication to noble causes, such as the defence of human rights and of solidarity between peoples, the protection of the most vulnerable, love for your country, and its customs and traditions: An example that we admire and that deserves recognition.
We know that the Portuguese and the Irish are two peoples with shared references and values, with a mutual understanding and appreciation. There can be no better basis for developing our commercial, economic, scientific and cultural relations, so that we can build an even more fruitful, solid and deep-rooted relationship.
It is in this spirit that I ask all of you to join me in a toast to the happiness and health of President Michael D. Higgins and of Mrs Sabina Higgins, to the prosperity of our friends, the people of Ireland, and to the future of relations between our two countries.
© 2006-2016 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic
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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.