Sa Carneiro

Prime Minister of Portugal

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 21 April 1980

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the first time that I have had the honour of addressing an international assembly as Prime Minister of Portugal. And, as the President has just pointed out, my presence here follows closely on the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Council of Europe member countries in Lisbon on 10 April.

This meeting was of great importance for Portugal, for it bore witness to the support shown by the member countries of the Council of Europe for democratic Portugal.

It was also an opportunity to demonstrate, through the presence of almost all the Foreign Ministers, that the Council of Europe was capable of bringing these Ministers together in the capital of a member state to take decisions of paramount importance for the future of a European policy co-ordinated not only in terms of Europe, Atlantic partnership and democratic solidarity, but also as a means of facing up together to the risks that threaten countries sharing the same values of culture and civilisation.

I am therefore most glad of the opportunity given to me today; but I must remind you that this is not the first time the voice of democratic Portugal has been heard in the Council of Europe. In 1977, Mr Mario Soares, then Prime Minister, made democratic Portugal’s voice heard within these walls when he expounded our country’s European plans.

I am also glad, as newly-elected Prime Minister, to observe that these views on Portugal’s European option are widely shared; for despite political and ideological divergences and differences of programme, Portugal’s socialist governments have succeeded in establishing a consensus on European policy, a consensus which at present allows a continuity in European terms – I would even say Atlantic terms – to be expressed. There is no difficulty on this point.

However, and I say so most sincerely, Mr Soares and his governments did not succeed in establishing the same consensus in internal affairs. It would be hypocritical of me to say that I regret this failure, because if Mr Soares had achieved this same consensus in domestic policy, it would have been he, not I, who had the opportunity of addressing the Council of Europe today.

The fact that all Portuguese parties have shared the same, clear-cut European option ever since the beginning of Portugal’s present democratic period represents a great asset to the cause of peace and to the cause of a united Europe.

I must confess, however, that this European option is a source of some problems for us, because we reject the idea of Portugal entering the European Economic Community with the status of a less-developed country possessing, admittedly, a privileged climate and fine beaches but lagging behind other European countries in its development.

Portugal’s integration into Europe means that European solidarity must work in our favour to help us bridge this tremendous development gap. This at least is what we hope, because there is no question of our joining the Common Market blindfold. The terms must be favourable, and Common Market membership must help to set Portugal rapidly on the road to development.

I shall quote just two figures from which you will appreciate the scale of our economic and cultural backwardness: our annual output per inhabitant is 2 000 dollars, and we have an adult illiteracy rate of about 30%.

Within the Council of Europe we have already been assisted by the other member nations. To achieve rapid development our country will be relying heavily on similar support for some highly practical projects, for such assistance should be provided not only in the short term but also for wider-ranging plans.

What are these plans? Among our priority aims is one which forms the cornerstone of our foreign policy: preserving peace and building security through co-operation. The policy which stems from this objective is probably common to all West European countries.

First, an observation: in the present circumstances the major threat to peace, co-operation and security comes from imperialism, from hegemonism – the expansionist hegemonism and imperialism of the Soviet Union. This is the foremost risk faced by our generation.

A second risk results from non-observance of the rules of the international community.

Two recent events prove that both these dangers are real ones; they should prompt us to immediate demonstrations of solidarity. These two events are the invasion of Afghanistan and the taking of hostages at the American Embassy in Teheran.

The invasion of Afghanistan has turned into the wholesale massacre of a peaceful people, to which the international community should not remain indifferent. Immediately my government was formed on 3 January 1980, I solemnly and firmly condemned the Afghanistan invasion. My government was the first to recall its ambassador for consultations. We took concrete steps by denouncing, in particular, the cultural agreement between Portugal and the Soviet Union. When human rights are trampled upon in this fashion it is no longer possible to maintain such cultural agreements after they have been made valueless by the Soviet power’s violation of the Afghan people’s rights – amid, incidentally, the greatest indifference. We trust that the West European community will condemn this invasion in a pragmatic manner so as to be really heard by this hegemonic power.

Another source of anxiety is the hostages affair, which has already been emulated in Latin America and elsewhere. This affair is a grave breach of international and diplomatic laws. And unless it gives rise to a reaction, the international community will be in danger of being transformed into a jungle where might is right.

Unless nations’ rights, the laws of the international community and human rights are respected, peace will not be possible. And if we are to live in peace, we must create security through co-operation. That is why Portugal’s European option, with its Atlantic vocation and policy, is a major asset and should form part of a joint European policy.

Political co-operation in Europe possesses, in the form of this Assembly, a privileged means of action. Here there are no economic problems, no budgetary obstacles, no disputes about mutton. It is our duty, as members of this Council, to make full use of the instruments at our disposal in order to build a joint European policy. Solidarity between members of the Council of Europe and among the whole European community means adopting joint positions on such important and tragic events as those I have mentioned – the invasion and massacre in Afghanistan and the Teheran hostages affair.

We believe – and this is the basis of certain priorities in our foreign policy – that this European solidarity, in order to be truly Western, should be co-ordinated with the policy of the United States. It is in Europe’s best interest to co-ordinate its policy with the transatlantic countries – the United States, Canada and certain Latin American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela.

During these times of such gravity for our nations, the United States Government is not in need of our criticism, even if it is well-founded, but of our support. It is for this reason that my own government, without awaiting the joint resolution of the European Economic Community Foreign Ministers, decided to show support for the United States with regard to the economic sanctions to be imposed on Iran.

Although Portugal is a small, impoverished and dependent country, we believe that for solidarity’s sake our own economic interests must be sacrificed.

That is why, last Thursday, we decided to impose a total embargo on Iran. (Applause)

Today peace is at stake throughout the world: numerous events are taking place, simultaneously, all over the globe. We can no longer afford to hide our heads in the sand and go on living as before. Peace is in jeopardy in many parts of the world. Only co-operation between Europe, the Atlantic countries, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East can succeed in establishing worldwide solidarity to face up to the risk of hegemony and imperialism.

This is the reason why Portugal is simultaneously developing preferential contacts with Europe and the European Economic Community, with the United States, with Latin American countries, with Africa, with Middle East countries and with China. It is our belief that this is not only in our interests as a small country, but also an international requirement. The only way to build a sound peace is to found it not on constant concessions and retreats but on firm measures; the surest way to avoid another cataclysm is not to move backwards into war but resolutely to combat, even with strong measures, the threats to peaceful coexistence which are springing up in certain regions in every continent.

It is not an easy task, but it is, if I may say so, our generation’s “job”. When one sees world leaders discussing whether the present situation is more like the situation that preceded the 1914-18 world war or the Second World War, it is impossible not to be deeply concerned, because between two such alternatives of war no choice is possible. No, one must seek a different alternative, based on a theme for which the Council of Europe has played and will always play a vital role: that of human rights and the development of nations. The principles of representative democracy, the rule of law, solidarity and shared responsibility should be brought into play not only for the developed countries but for all countries.

And here we find a further cause for concern. The economic and social situation of the developing countries, of the third world countries, is worsening dramatically because of the increase in oil prices and hence in the prices of manufactured goods. The less developed countries are today in a worse situation than three or five years ago. A head of steam is building up, tremendous pressure is being exerted, and if nothing is done it will blow the fragile lid off the enormous international community boiler with its internal tension.

It is up to us, and above all up to you, the more developed countries – although you should at the same time heed the words of less developed or developing countries – to make a point in this North-South dialogue of going beyond a mere dialogue, for a dialogue is words, and what is needed is solidarity translated into concrete terms. When one sees, for example, the great concern felt by certain developed countries at the prospect of losing export markets in the Soviet Union that were acquired during the so-called détente, one dares hope that replacement markets will be found. The third world countries could provide such an alternative outlet; but the terms should be favourable to them rather than to the exporting countries so as to promote the third world countries’ economic development, on which international peace and survival depend.

Present-day democracy signifies not only liberty and representative democracy, but also social justice, a social justice which the developed countries have created for their own peoples inside their own borders, but which they have yet to pass on to the less developed countries, which still make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.

Because of these preoccupations, my government, as I stated earlier, does not limit its foreign policy to the European context. Portugal would lose one of her most important dimensions if she gave up her interest in Africa, an interest which is of course of an entirely different kind from that shown before the Revolution of 25 April 1974. Today, co-operation with the young African republics, Portugal’s former colonies, is being conducted on a basis of mutual dignity, non-interference, respect and co-operation.

It is also our desire to broaden the scope of our foreign action to the Middle East countries and, if possible, contribute to the best of our ability to resolving the Palestinian problem, which is casting a shadow on the whole Middle East area and jeopardising its future.

The Palestinians’ right to a homeland is undeniable, but so is the right of the Israeli people, of the State of Israel, to secure frontiers and to survival as a nation. It is to be feared that, despite the avenues opened up, which should be further explored, certain powers may do their utmost to prevent a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem.

Turning now to Africa, one sees hopeful signs, concrete events which lead us to believe that in Africa, south of the Sahara, a reconciliation is possible. I am referring to the solution of the Zimbabwe problem and the moderation shown by Mugabe. The success of this policy is vital, not only for the future of Zimbabwe but also for co-operation between Southern African states; for I hope that, if granted a certain period, the Republic of South Africa will accept a similar solution for Namibia and that, internally, South Africa will eventually evolve towards a less questionable form of government than at present.

In the final analysis, all the Western countries are faced with a challenge in conjunction with the Middle East and Far East countries. It is a challenge of generations, as I said earlier, a challenge which lays tremendous responsibility on our shoulders, and it is disturbing to note the widening gap between public opinion in the United States and in the European countries. This development, to my mind indisputable, is a recent trend, and is very harmful to European stability and the cause of peace.

It is for this reason that we have endeavoured to clear up this misunderstanding, and we thus hope that the Europe of the Nine will rapidly take decisions showing the American nation and its public opinion that the Atlantic alliance, the alliance between Europe and the United States, is not a hollow concept and that Europe does not want to leave the task of providing a deterrent to the United States in order to benefit alone from détente.

Showing solidarity means courageously bringing alliances into play, accepting the risks involved and above all putting principles before economic and short-term interests.

Europe and the West – even the East – can no longer live from day to day. They must think ahead to the medium and long terms in order to avoid the catastrophes which would otherwise occur and which would be more dire, destructive and dangerous for the human race than the conflicts of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

Before drawing to a close, I should like to raise a point of great importance to Portugal, that of emigration. From 5 to 8 May the Council will be holding a conference, the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs. We attach the greatest importance to this subject, and I hope – indeed, I am sure – that this conference will not be a mere formality but will enable joint policies to be drawn up. For, at present, European economies are largely dependent on the contribution of migrant workers; and one of the foremost workforces, without which Europe’s present prosperity would be non-existent, is the Portuguese one.

Portugal is now a small country of 90 000 square kilometres, plus the Atlantic islands. Yet she is much more than that, and is trying to organise herself as a nation on this small territory, but with an immense people scattered over all the continents, whose major workforce is here in Europe.

Other countries are in a similar situation. These situations call for joint policies designed to ensure that migrant workers’ social rights are fully respected and that the work they perform in favour of countries other than their own is given proper consideration.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have already mentioned human rights and the Council of Europe’s fundamental task of furthering them. Human rights form the foundation of our civilisation, a personalised civilisation which accepts the human individual as its underlying philosophy, as a basis for all its action and as its ultimate aim.

I shall conclude with a quotation which seems to me to put the problem of human rights in a nutshell. Let me quote Benjamin Constant who said:

“Real beings are sacrificed to the abstract Being, and the holocaust of individuals is offered up to the people en masse.”



Thank you, Prime Minister, for that most interesting statement. As we are running rather late and as the Prime Minister has indicated his willingness to answer questions, we have decided to limit the question and answer session to about half an hour. The first question will be put by Mr Munoz Peirats.


(spoke in Spanish; as no translation of the speech in one of the official languages or additional working languages has been supplied to the Secretariat by the speaker, the speech is not published here, under the terms of Rules 18 and 22 of the Rules of Procedure).

Mr Sa Carneiro, Prime Minister of Portugal

(spoke in Spanish; as no translation of the speech in one of the official languages or additional working languages has been supplied to the Secretariat by the speaker, the speech is not published here, under the terms of Rules 18 and 22 of the Rules of Procedure).

Mr BRUGNON (France) (translation)

Until now, Portugal refused to recognise and accept the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. What exactly is the Portuguese Government’s position on this problem? According to recent reports in the French press, you stated that your country should “resign itself to Timor’s forced integration into Indonesia”.

Mr Sa Carneiro, Prime Minister of Portugal (translation)

I have already denied these statements, which I never made – I have not even met the journalist in question – and which were put into my mouth by a French daily newspaper. I believe you are referring to Le Matin. These alleged statements are in no way a reflection of the Portuguese standpoint. We are partially responsible for the situation in Timor. Under our constitution, it falls to the President of the Republic and to the government to resolve the question of the determination of the people of Timor. Steps will be taken to fulfil this joint obligation.

You will be familiar with the development of this matter. Within the United Nations an increasing number of countries accept Indonesia’s domination of Timor. While respecting our constitution’s provisions regarding the determination of the people of Timor and taking measures in keeping with the people’s desiderata, we have a duty to give precedence to solving the human problems which arise and which take priority over any political solution. That is the position of my government.

Mr CARVALHAS (Portugal) (translation)

Prime Minister, what action does the government intend to take in its foreign policy to prevent the repatriation of Portuguese emigrants, following the economic crisis and the Stoleru and Bonnet laws?

In the same context, is it certain that the solutions to Portugal’s foreign policy problems are to be sought in connection with her emigrants?

And was is not according to the principles of direct and active participation that the Assembly of the Republic passed the act on consular committees for migrants? For what reason is your government not putting this act into effect?

Further, you have spoken here of peace, but you have publicly declared yourself, both in Portugal and abroad, to be an opponent of détente. How do you reconcile this stance with the Helsinki Final Act and the Portuguese Constitution?

Mr Sa Carneiro, Prime Minister of Portugal (translation)

The Honourable Member began by expressing the view that the Portuguese Foreign Minister had spoken here as Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister of Portugal was speaking as Foreign Minister. Even if that is the case, I am glad of it. We belong to the same government and share its political leadership, for the Foreign Minister is also Deputy Prime Minister of the Portuguese Government; we speak the same language and share the same objective and the same policy; and if we do have points in common, then that is something in our favour and not an argument for attacking us.

The first question raised by the Honourable Member concerned the measures my government was examining to prevent the repatriation of emigrants, following the economic crisis and certain French laws.

First, it is fortunate for us that the Portuguese emigrants work and live in West European countries and not in East European countries; European solidarity is thus acting in our favour. (Applause)

This European option of Portuguese workers was exercised long before the democratisation of Portugal, and forms one of the cornerstones of our European policy. Our present contacts with European governments, including the French Government, and the contacts established by previous Portuguese governments, as well as the President of the Republic, with the French authorities reassure us with regard to the risk of repatriation.

Obviously, if Europe’s economic difficulties worsen and unemployment increases, we will be faced with this problem. But who will not have an unemployment problem in a recession which could be a structural disaster for Western economies? We will face these difficulties together and try to find joint solutions. That is the true European spirit, the spirit of the Council of Europe.

The Honourable Member also asked why my government is not applying an act, passed before the last elections, on consular committees for emigrants. This is a problem which deserves to be examined and which will be examined and, if necessary, put to the majority for parliament to decide, but that is a mere detail. We are far more concerned with a policy that takes account of our people’s dispersal. Our fundamental concern in this respect is a new nationality law which will give Portuguese emigrants the right, if they so wish, to keep their Portuguese nationality even after becoming naturalised citizens of the country in which they live or work.

In addition, we are about to lay before parliament a new electoral act under which emigrants will be more broadly represented. At present, Portuguese emigrants can elect four out of the two hundred and fifty MPs. We want this figure to be doubled, or even more than doubled, so that a country with two million citizens working in Europe, America and Africa may have a proper system of representation in parliament, and so that a country which lives to a great extent on the foreign currency sent in by its emigrants – amounting last year to several thousand million dollars, the equivalent of our oil bill – will think of its fellow citizens not only as a source of currency but as an integral part of the same human entity, the same nation.

According to the Honourable Member whose last question concerned my manner of defending peace, I am an opponent of détente. Let me qualify this as follows: yes, I am opposed to a certain conception of détente, détente as envisaged by the Soviet Union and certain European communist countries closest to the Soviet Union, which view détente as an opportunity to expand the Soviet Union’s imperialism and increase its hegemony. Détente cannot be an end in itself. It is not an end in itself; it is a means of building peace.

Over recent years Western countries have accepted world-wide détente and observed détente on all the continents, whereas the Soviet Union has observed détente in Europe only, taking advantage of the wider-ranging détente practised by Europeans to pursue its expansionism. A case in point is the invasion of Afghanistan, which was a breach by the Soviet Union of world-wide détente. We do not want détente to be a tactical weapon. What we do want is that the possibility of using European tactical weapons, if necessary, to protect détente and peace should not be forgone in the name of détente itself. And if détente is not observed, is not accepted as a means, a universal means, of establishing peace, then it is our right to state quite solemnly that it is the Soviet Union which has harmed détente, failed to apply it in good faith and thus dealt it a fatal blow.

One must face up to reality, and not accept the scenarios fabricated to further the cause of a certain hegemonic imperialism. It is our responsibility to declare to our fellow citizens and in international assemblies that it is the Soviet Union which has derived the principal benefit from détente, even if the economic ties formed during the period of détente have made it more dependent on European countries than it previously was. It is this new reality which should prompt us to adopt a new conception of détente and practise it differently. I trust that Western countries will come to the Madrid Conference with common standpoints, knowing what they want, and that they will leave the conference with clear-cut decisions, not allowing themselves to lose their cohesion in a series of decisions that are too vague and general to be of any real effectiveness, as was the case in Belgrade.

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

Prime Minister, I cannot conceal how impressed I was after your statement, not only by its courage but also, as a Frenchman, by the quality of your elocution and your mastery of our language.

You are aware of the importance attached by the Parliamentary Assembly to reducing North-South imbalances within Europe. I should like to ask you what policy you believe Portugal can implement in order to narrow the economic gap between Portugal and the North European countries, and what aid Portugal expects both from the European Economic Community countries and the Council of Europe countries in order to achieve its objectives, and, on a more general level, what political contribution Portugal intends to make to the North-South dialogue between industrialised countries and third world countries in view of Portugal’s particular situation in Europe.

Mr Sa Carneiro, Prime Minister of Portugal (translation)

Portugal is looking to the Common Market, the European Economic Community, to provide support in the form of partial financing of joint projects. When a delegation headed by Mr Natali visited Lisbon, a plan was put forward dealing with regional policy, vocational training and small and medium-sized industries. In the direct contacts we are at present pursuing between the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the Nine, we are trying to demonstrate that financing by the Community fund of 40% of this plan is essential in order to close the gap between Portugal and the developed countries. The plan is to be carried out over a period of three years. We place great expectations in it, and the Community authorities have already agreed to finance certain development schemes.

Some projects have also been financed by the Council of Europe’s Resettlement Fund. All these plans are under way, and it is hoped that despite international economic difficulties they will be successfully carried through and even expanded. Regarding the North-South dialogue and third world countries, our contacts with the Latin American and African countries, especially our former colonies, will be a means of intensifying this dialogue and action.

We are perfectly willing and fully determined to help to reduce inequalities between North and South. To achieve this object, Europe should practise with regard to Africa and Latin America a more consistent and effective policy than at present, and we are willing to participate in the drawing up and application of such a policy.

Mr BACELAR (Portugal) (translation)

Mr Sa Carneiro, I greet you as Prime Minister of my country, brought into office by democratic elections, even though I myself belong to the opposition and am a member of the Socialist Party.

I should nevertheless like to ask you two questions.

First, I am glad that you paid tribute to Mr Soares, your predecessor, and that you stressed the continuity in our European and Atlantic policy. However, certain distinctions should not be overlooked, and in this respect I should like to return to your statement, with which I was not familiar before this sitting as the text had not been distributed.

Prime Minister, you have just said that our government is pursuing, first and foremost, a policy of European integration, but such a policy would require some consequential action in the affairs you spoke of, the Afghan and Iranian affairs. Would this action be co-ordinated with the European positions, after those adopted by the United States?

In the Afghan affair, the Portuguese ambassador in Moscow was recalled and a cultural agreement totally irrelevant to the problem concerned was broken off in the name of this West European unity.

In the case of Iran, we imposed an embargo on trade that is non-existent, even in the highly important sector of oil.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Bacelar, would you please restrict yourself to asking a question rather than making a statement.

Mr BACELAR (translation)

I shall ask some questions, then, Mr President, so as to comply with your instructions.

I ask therefore:

First, whether this policy, in the European context, is in line with the European solidarity which must exist, even for these problems.

Second, whether this policy, for it would seem that it is being pursued, will help to increase Europe’s independent role and build a truly united Europe with a policy of its own in the European institutions or whether it will not rather lead to the under-organisation of our country and at the same time a deterioration in the dialogue with our former colonies, whose policy is one of identification with the opposite bloc, the Soviet bloc. Is this policy likely to contribute to an understanding with the former Portuguese colonies – a relationship which would be of greater value to Europe and world peace? Is your policy not linked with a return to the cold war?

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Bacelar, I must ask you to conclude, for democracy requires that I give other members an opportunity to speak.

Mr BACELAR (translation)

Prime Minister, you announced an electoral law, saying that emigrants were under-represented.

But elections were held in Portugal two months ago; other elections – intermediate ones – are to take place next September. I ask you – you who were made Prime Minister by elections recognised by the opposition as democratic – whether this new electoral law is really designed to favour emigrants, or whether its real aim is not rather to perpetuate your government by burying in the near future the rules of the game which brought you to power?

Mr Sa Carneiro, Prime Minister of Portugal (translation)

I mentioned the continuity in the European policies of my own and preceding governments. The Honourable Member preferred to stress the divergences. So as not to detract from this continuity, let me say that distinctions do indeed exist: between words and deeds, between a clearly-defined position and confusion.

Our policy is perfectly clear. In no way does it harm the European cause. On the contrary, it furthers it. Solidarity is one matter, independent stances adopted in international assemblies and on one’s own are another. The stances we took on the events in Afghanistan and in the Teheran hostages affair fit into the broader framework of a European and Atlantic policy, and help to further the cause of peace. But we have taken the risk, still a real one, of harming our own economic interests. However, I trust you will understand that when principles and the future of the international community are at stake, economic interests must be considered of secondary importance.

To reply to your last question concerning the electoral law, I shall simply remind you that the rule of representative democracy is that the will of the parliamentary majority shall be accepted. For the remainder, I hope I shall have the opportunity to debate this topic with you and your party in our own parliament, rather than in this Assembly.


I consider it very undemocratic not to be able to give the opportunity to all those who have asked for the floor to ask questions of the Prime Minister. It is very democratic, however, to allow each speaker only one question, because had I allowed a supplementary question, only half the number of speakers would have been able to ask questions.

May I, Prime Minister, thank you again. Tonight I hope to be able to address you at greater length, but now, because of the shortage of time, I shall limit myself to thanking you very much for coming here. On behalf of the Assembly, thank you for answering the questions that we put to you.