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Cerimónia de Homenagem aos Combatentes, por ocasião do 50º aniversário do início da Guerra em África
Cerimónia de Homenagem aos Combatentes, por ocasião do 50º aniversário do início da Guerra em África
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Speech addressed by the President of the Republic at the Military Ceremonies of the Commemorations of the National Day of Portugal, Camões and the Communities
Porto, June 10th 2006

Today we celebrate the Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities in Portugal and in the various parts of the world where there are Portuguese communities.

It is a milestone of the re-encounter of Portugal with her history, with the values and traditions that have moulded the Portuguese soul and feeling. It is a celebration of Portuguese culture, for it is culture that marks the character and identity of a people in an impressive way.

But it is above all a sign of our determination as a People, of our unshakable will for Portugal to continue sovereign and independent, of the confidence in our collective future, of our will to build an increasingly just and prosperous country, one that will play an active and credible part on the international stage.

To commemorate is also to celebrate our greatest and the excellence and magnitude of their work, the nobility and dignity of their character. And, among them, the Portuguese in uniform are naturally to be found, those who for their military deeds are covered in glory and those who distinguished themselves and provided relevant services to the country in the fields of science, the arts and letters.

As this day is also a day of tribute to the most illustrious of our poets ¬– Luís Vaz de Camões – who, besides having left us the greatest epic poem ever written in Portuguese, was himself a soldier of great patriotic bearing, I decided that it would be appropriate and of the greatest justice that this ceremony should constitute one of the high points of these commemorations.

I therefore want to underline, as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the eminently national nature of the Military Institution and to express to it before the Portuguese and the topmost hierarchy of the State, on this the greatest day of the Portuguese way of being, our recognition and profound respect for the action undertaken over the centuries in defence of our sovereignty, for its notable regard for the most noble ideals of service to the country and for the excellence of its performance.

The history of the Armed Forces is for ever intermingled with the history of Portugal.

It was so when the kingdom was founded and it was so during the period of its expansion and during the epic of the Discoveries. It was so in the Campaigns of the Restoration, in the commitment and sacrifices of the First World War, on the fields of Flanders, and in the enormous efforts made during the wars in Africa.

It was so in the involvement of our Armed Forces in the process that, on April 25th 1974 and then on November 25th 1975 brought to Portugal democracy, freedom, rule of law, the respect of the international community and full integration into the European space to which we belong.

It was an arduous path of sacrifice, bravery and victorious fighting by the Portuguese people, a path of success in the fight for independence and for the consolidation of Portugal’s borders, frontiers whose stability is unmatched in this world of ours.

In is in this context that I consider June 10th to be the appropriate date to pay tribute to the country’s most exceptional institutions, in which the Armed Forces unquestionably play an outstanding role.

Within the scope of the State’s permanent and vital objectives, the main mission of the Armed Forces is the defence of the integrity of the national territory, of the safety of its peoples and of the regular activities relating to sovereign functions

In carrying out their missions, the Armed Forces are a fundamental institution of the State, a structural part of the national identity and an instrument of public expression of the will of the Nation to assume and ensure respect for its independence and to defend its common future.

Their character indissociable from that of the Nation and the fact that the Nation cannot do without them fully warrant the general national consensus that they will continue thus in the future, so as to ensure the necessary internal cohesion and the indispensable connection between the Armed Forces and the Nation, a factor determinant to effective fulfilment of their missions both at home and abroad.

Not always is the contribution made by the Armed Forces to the development of society through tasks essential to the wellbeing of the people given the disclosure and recognition that it merits. In addition to missions of sovereignty and others of public interest in the service of the citizens, to the readiness and training of forces and units to be committed to missions abroad and to co-operation with friendly countries, the Armed Forces also carry out activities in the fields of scientific, cultural and economic teaching, research and development through centres of excellence that have made their mark. These activities must be emphasised and extolled.

Abroad, within the scope of the international organisations and alliances of which Portugal is a part, our forces have played an active role in the shared efforts to bring peace, security and stability to several regions of the world. These are relevant actions in support of the foreign policy of the Portuguese State that contribute to the preservation of peace and to the affirmation of the values of justice, freedom, and regard for human rights, and also strengthen the country’s prestige on the international stage.

Just recently, during my first visit as Supreme Commander to our forces stationed in the territories of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, I was personally able to see the spirit and the professional competence demonstrated by the Portuguese forces in the performance of these missions and their high standards of performance, which were highly praised by the foreign political and military authorities that I had the opportunity to contact.

It is also comforting to see the exemplary relationship with and the esteem of the local populations. I know that this is also true in other theatres, such as Afghanistan.

We live in times of profound, fast transformation, in which globalisation enlarges the framework of relations between states and heightens the importance of policies of co-operation.

Of necessity, internationalisation covers the areas of Security and Defence, and it needs the adaptation and re-equipment of the military apparatus to provide the capabilities and areas of expertise required for the continuation of proper fulfilment of the missions with which they are entrusted. In this connection, the Military Programming Bill was recently approved, a document that reflects a major effort by the State, bearing in mind the country’s real difficulties at this time. It is only fair to underscore, in this connection, the dedicated and competent contribution of the military leaders, confirming their profound sense of service to the country and to the higher interests of the State.

Service men and Women,

The most valuable asset of the Military Institution is its human resources.

Hence the priority that is given to enhancing their training within a framework of values that has been constituted and consolidated, directed at providing the Armed Forces with well-prepared men and women, motivated, proud of their mission, united by a strong, enlightened sense of national unity.

The importance of the mission of the armed forces and the particular demands in its fulfilment have determined the specifics of the military profession, of which the most important hallmarks are hierarchy and discipline, values that the military assume and cultivate in their own different way in which they exercise their rights.

The military condition, with all its specifics and nobility, is the essence of the Arms. Their comprehension and exaltation are fundamental to the national interest.

This ceremony is the occasion to underline the significance of the action of the Armed Forces and to provide the Nation with information about it, contributing to a full understanding of their purpose, to their prestige and to the recognition of the relevant contributions they have made to the country.

Service Men and Women,

The State’s ultimate objective is to ensure the security and wellbeing of its citizens. This objective requires a complex, integrated process that will provide conditions favourable to the country’s economic, social and cultural development. It will be successful only if it is underpinned by the solidity of the basic foundations of the democratic state, such as security and defence.

The Armed Forces are a fundamental part of national sovereignty and an instrument essential to the external component of the defence policy.

As Supreme Commander, I would like to express publicly my recognition and profound regard for the role that the Armed Forces have played in the preservation of the national values and of our identity as a nation.

I therefore exhort you to contribute with all your dedication, wisdom and professionalism, as has been the tradition of the Military Institution, to the preservation of the cohesion, credibility and effectiveness of the Portuguese Armed Forces. Portugal’s vocation is fulfilled through the defence of its territory, for, in the words of Miguel Torga, “the Fatherland is a hand span of land that is defended”.

However, this is also Fernando Pessoa’s fatherland, one that is fulfilled through the defence of that common heritage which is our language, the expression of our values and of our identity, of this our universalist, solidary vocation of openness to the world; of this our pride and of this our determination to be Portuguese and to embrace a project that is at one and the same time a project with a future, one of hope for Portugal.

The Nation counts on your best.

© 2006-2016 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic