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Visita ao Instituto dos Pupilos do Exército por ocasião do seu 100º aniversário
Visita ao Instituto dos Pupilos do Exército por ocasião do seu 100º aniversário
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Speech by the President of the Republic In the Military Ceremonies of the Celebrations of the National Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities
Guarda, 10 June 2014

In this city that carved in granite its body and soul, which was attributed the noble duty to defend the Nation that was then being forged, we celebrate today the National Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities.

The toponymy of Guarda, Visigoth in origin, means lookout and sentinel. That was the great mission it was in charge of during centuries, since the dawning of nationality.

Its relevance, quickly recognized, unleashed a number of decisions on settlement and fortifications that reveal, at the time, a notable strategic vision, mustering the will of a people determined to keep its land under the kingdom’s tutelage. A will and determination that were always confirmed throughout our History.

This year, we evoke the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. It is important we should recall all those that fell and sacrificed themselves on behalf of the Nation in the fields of the Battle of Flanders, in Angola and Mozambique, but there is equally the need the reflect over the circumstances that surrounded our participation in the conflict.

Recall understanding the generations that preceded us, the reasons for their strife, the paths they tread and the options they took. Recall to learn with our feats and with our errors, because the Country that ignores History, that does not recall or learn with its past, has the tendency to repeat the same errors in the future.

The Great War was preceded, in Europe, by a period stamped by technological progress and by artistic and cultural innovation. Some termed it as “the golden age of security”. In a short while this situation changed with the unleashing of a worldwide conflict that was astonishing due to its brutality and destruction, dilapidating people and countries.

The development of this conflict found an extremely weakened Portugal. Internally, it was in the midst of severe political, economic and social crisis and, externally, it was facing threats to its overseas territories and with the need for the international recognition and legitimization of its new republican regime.

The decision to join the war was taken with the required consensus and without taking into account the existing weak military capability.

A then combatant pictures well the reality of the times: “launched, unexpectedly, in a War it was far from foreseeing, the country saw itself in great difficulties, with an army destitute of any organization, with no uniforms, no armament, no ammunition, no transport and no money”.

The Country’s lack of precaution to take on such an important commitment was reflected, on the one hand, in the hurried preparation of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps, which became known, suggestively, as the “Miracle of Tancos”, and, on the other, in the lack of capacity to support the Portuguese Forces in France and Africa, leading to their total relinquishment

There was carelessness in preparation, neglect in execution and unconcern in regression. Decisions taken in the Lisbon chancelleries were not revealed as adjusted, the prudent military opinions were ignored, interfering abusively in the action of the commanding structure.

It can be said that the soldiers that went to Flanders and to Africa had nothing else but courage.

And it was only the courage, the valour shown by the soldiers in the War Zone that allowed honouring Portugal with the march past of its contingent, alongside the allies, in the Victory parade under the Arc du Triomphe and that permitted the safeguard of the overseas possessions.

The memory of the Great War must be held as a tribute to sacrifice, to the valour and the character of the Portuguese combatant who, in France and in Africa, and in the “trenches of time”, gave all to their Country.

Portugal and the Portuguese have a debt of gratitude and may not, cannot, forget those that, throughout almost nine centuries, battled and died on its behalf.

Combating is a supreme act of citizenry. It is never excessive to recall it. This is the reason why, once more, in the celebrations of the National Day of Portugal, we render tribute to the former combatants who are present here, publicly testifying the regard and respect they deserve from us.

This centenary must also be considered by Europe and by the World as a moment of reflection on the courses and options which are taken daily.

We are witnessing today a harmful unconcern in the face of relevant security issues, neglecting the causes that generate conflict, especially the increase in nationalisms and the outburst in separatist trends.

Recent events in the World and particularly in Europe can be taken as evidence.

The thought that this page in our History deserves, is that security and peace cannot be taken for granted. These depend upon the will and decision of third parties and of the confluence of diverse circumstances.

In national terms, the existence of Armed Forces ready and properly prepared to serve the Country is crucial, with an adequate capability to respond, based on the effectiveness of the organization, on the quality of the hardware and on the motivation of its staff and troops.

The complexity of the process requires a rigid and lengthy preparation. Armies are not improvised. They are made ready.

Today’s Portugal continues fighting on behalf of the values of Peace, Freedom and Democracy and to carry abroad the code of ethics, the skill and the professionalism of the members of its military institution, qualities that have been widely recognized and praised by our partners and allies, and as such a factor of credibility and prestige for the Country.

Although the primary mission for the defence of Portugal and the Portuguese still continues, the security and interests of the State are currently asserted, far from the traditional borders, in the alliances and in the international collective security organizations, a reality that brings us accrued responsibility.

Under pain of becoming a superfluous partner and irrelevant in the international stage where our future and development are being risked, our participation requires the existence of means and resources that avoid the degrading of the existing capabilities and that allow ensuring the required operational levels.

In this framework, and as I have recently stated, two important areas of action can be identified.

Firstly, the safeguard of operational capability. Portugal requires credible Armed Forces, cohesive and trained, capable of ensuring compliance with missions within and without national territory.

Lastly, the people. Because it is in them that the strength, the determination and the cult reside of the national values of the Armed Forces.

The responsibility for the exercise of their duties resides upon them, and that is where the greatest difficulties are felt. This is the reason why command must be centred on persons, with special regard given to the soldiers’ material issues.

Due to its relevance and its reactions on cohesion, ethics and discipline, the soldiers’ expectations concerning the process of installation of the Armed Forces Hospital are legitimate, as well as the joint preparation, between the military chiefs and the tutelage of the proposal for the revision of their Charter.

The high sense of duty, the spirit of service and the full availability of the Armed Forces in complying with their missions honour their past and their traditions, considering them as one of the most prestigious national institutions and one of the most trusted by the Portuguese.

As Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, I reassert to the Portuguese, my confidence in the men and women that serve in the Military Institution. I encourage you to share your strength, your vigour and enthusiasm, on behalf of a future of hope.

Portugal has need of all. Portugal has need of its Armed Forces.

Thank you.

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