Cavaco Silva

Prime Minister of Portugal

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 3 May 1988

Mr President, Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be speaking in this Chamber in response to your kind invitation, Mr President. I am conscious of the prestigious history of this Assembly, which was the first forum to bring together parliamentarians from various countries in an institutionalised manner, thus acting as the pioneer of European construction to which we are still today devoting our greatest endeavours.

Throughout this century, Europe has undergone troubled times, endured the terrible consequences of two world wars, witnessed the emergence of deep political divides as a result of opposing ideological systems, suffered the impact of several decolonisations and experienced economic crises and social disruptions. But, during the past forty years, Europe has succeeded in admirably demonstrating its qualities and vitality, especially through the protection of human rights and the preservation of the values of the free and democratic societies which we are all defending within the Council of Europe.

Europeans have a history stretching back several thousand years, which is identified with Western civilisation and its worldwide influence. I feel able to claim that the role played by my own country in Europe and the world forms part of the history of mankind.

In 1987, Portugal began to celebrate the cycle of its maritime explorations which started 500 years ago and will go on being celebrated up to the year 2000. Portuguese maritime explorations were an unparalleled adventure for European humanism and the essential link between the Middle Ages and modern history.

Above all, they played a decisive role in relation to Africa, Asia and the Americas as an important means of bringing different peoples and cultures together, advancing the knowledge of mankind and promoting international trade and economic relations.

The maritime explorations of the fifteenth century helped to universalise the world. We in Portugal do not have a Eurocentric vision of history, and it is perhaps for that reason that we consider the essence of European civilisation to be its universal character and its constant striving to remove barriers between people and achieve the advancement of man himself in economic, social and scientific as well as ethnic and cultural matters.

As the end of the twentieth century draws near, it is permissible to wonder what role will be played by us Portuguese, us Europeans and us members of the Council of Europe. How are we to prepare the future for posterity and what should our priorities and values be?

In the Portuguese elections of July 1987, one political party obtained a clear majority of votes – more than 50% – for the first time since the restoration of democracy. Consequently, after years of political instability due to the situation of economic crisis, a government is now able, with a prospect of stability for at least four years, to carry out a series of reforms essential to the modernisation and advancement of Portuguese society.

We still have before us the great goal of 1992, the year when the internal or single market will take shape within the European Community area. On 1 January 1986, Portugal joined the European Community. This accession, which was preceded by lengthy negotiations, reflects a clear European option by the Portuguese, justified not only in economic terms – for it was with the EEC countries that we conducted most of our commercial, financial and technological transactions – but above all in political terms. Portugal’s entry into the European Community denoted the permanent choice of a democratic and pluralistic type of society.

Simultaneously with the last enlargement of the European Community, some important qualitative changes have occurred, confirming the Single European Act and its implementation thanks to the Delors Plan, approved in February this year. For the first time, the Community’s objectives have been clearly set: the creation of the great internal market by 1992 will go hand in hand with economic and social cohesion in the Community area, with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, with the establishment of new arrangements regarding the Community’s own resources, with new concepts in the EEC budget and with increased participation by the European Parliament in the drawing up and execution of common policies.

For Portugal, a developing country still well below the European average, the challenge is enormous: the various physical, fiscal, technical and administrative obstacles in the way of free movement of goods, services, capital and people will be abolished; Europeans will be free to buy, sell, produce, circulate and obtain information in any EEC country. Portugal will need to carry out some structural reforms essential for its modernisation by 1992, so as to ensure that the impact of the interior market does not damage its economy but rather stimulates further progress.

However, 1992 concerns not only Portugal and the other members of the European Community. I would say that all the countries represented within this Parliamentary Assembly will, in one way or another, be affected by the internal market, so great is the impact and importance of the EEC in economic relations at not only European but also world level.

The goal of 1992 will be a maturity test for the new Europe we wish to create, which should not stop at the frontiers of the European Community. When Lisbon played host to the 5th European Ministerial Conference on the Environment in June of last year, I had occasion to express the view that the European Community and the Council of Europe were two complementary organisations, each acting within its own framework and according to its own procedures but both involved in the process of constructing the future Europe in its manifold aspects and both placing their experience at the service of Europeans.

It would, I believe, be of the greatest possible value to all of us Europeans if your deliberations always took into consideration the new prospects opened up by the Single European Act and the consequences of 1992. Freedom of movement for persons, businesses, goods, services and capital within the Community area will undoubtedly have immediate repercussions for the other European countries, not only in the economic sphere but also in social, environmental, cultural and legal matters as well as in relations with other continents – which are, in fact, the main activities and concerns of the Council of Europe.

Portugal’s accession to the European Community served to strengthen the priorities of Portuguese external policy and, at the same time, adds a further dimension to European political co-operation by virtue of our Atlantic situation and our special relations with Africa and Latin America, particularly Brazil.

Portugal’s Atlantic vocation, which has characterised its history and national identity for eight centuries, is now the subject of a clear geopolitical option manifested by the country’s active participation in the political and military structures of NATO.

As a member of the Atlantic Alliance, Portugal’s position is particularly clear in the present state of East-West relations: we welcome the agreement concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union on intermediate nuclear forces; we support the continuation of negotiations aimed at a reduction in the strategic nuclear arsenal, while at the same time insisting on the need for a decrease in the imbalances in conventional forces and the elimination of chemical weapons, which will condition progress in other sectors. In my Government’s view, a third way between the Soviet Union and the United States is not feasible, but it is essential – for the European members of NATO – to reaffirm expressly the cohesion between the allies and the reinforcement of the European and American pillars of the alliance. These were the concerns that exercised the last NATO summit two months ago, which clearly reaffirmed its support for the negotiating positions of the United States and unambiguously expressed the West’s firmness.

Portugal’s special relations and high level of co-operation with the African countries where Portuguese is the official language makes it a pre-eminent, I would even say an indispensable, partner in relations between Europe and Africa. Portugal has special historic responsibilities in southern Africa, which it is shouldering with an increased capacity for dialogue and understanding. We subscribe to the view that the primary condition for a solution of global peace in this part of the world is the abolition of the apartheid system, one of the gravest violations of human rights. But it is also necessary, in order to reduce the level of tension in southern Africa, to put an end to outside interference, whatever its origin, as such interference is itself a cause of conflicts.

There is a need for peaceful solutions that will permit the self-determination of the people of Namibia on the terms laid down by the United Nations and ensure the development and progress of such countries as Angola and Mozambique. Portugal supports the negotiations being conducted between the various parties involved in the conflicts of southern Africa, as only such negotiations can lead to genuine solutions which can be implemented in the medium term.

Another example of a serious violation of human rights that particularly concerns Portugal is the situation in the eastern part of Timor, of which Portugal is the administrative power according to international law and the United Nations. Finding a solution to this problem is, indeed, one of the priorities of our foreign policy. The tragedy of the people of Timor has been well known to everyone ever since the invasion by the Indonesian forces in 1975, which caused almost 200 000 deaths and thus wiped out a third of the population of the eastern part of the island.

Since then, the future of Timor and its people has been in the hands of the international community, which, by a series of resolutions approved by the United Nations, has made the United Nations Secretary General responsible for seeking a solution.

What does Portugal want? Portugal wants nothing more than respect for the free expression of the will of the people of Timor and respect for its cultural and religious identity. Portugal does not, of course, have any neocolonialist ambitions. We merely want to ensure that human rights – indeed, I would say the most elementary of human rights – are respected in Timor and that the people of Timor is allowed to choose its future political status freely.

As a Euro-Atlantic country, Portugal maintains special relations with the Latin American countries, particularly with Brazil, where 130 million people speak Portuguese – the very language I am using at the moment in addressing this Assembly, which is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world.

The same influence, both historical and cultural, is also evident in Africa and Asia and is decisive for the actual expression of the foreign policy of my country, whose interests and objectives go beyond the European and Atlantic area.

For that reason, one of the Council of Europe activities to which Portugal attaches the greatest importance is connected with the climate of co-operation between the North and the South. I would emphasise the value of the European Public Campaign on North-South Interdependence and Solidarity, the idea for which was opportunely mooted by this Assembly in Lisbon in 1984 and which particularly brings out the need for international solidarity. The success of the recent colloquy in Lisbon on interdependence and cultural development augurs well for the outcome of the forthcoming parliamentary conference in Madrid.

I am sure that the meetings which this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers will be having in the meantime with political figures from the South will also contribute to the success of the campaign.

But I believe that there would be clear advantages in ensuring the continuity of this initiative by institutionalising a centre entirely devoted to the evaluation of the themes of North-South dialogue, as is being done during the campaign.

I should like to say forthwith to this Assembly and to the Council of Europe that my Government is ready to accommodate such a centre in Portugal by providing the necessary facilities for the functioning of an institute mainly concerned with problems of development and North-South relations.

My country’s historical and political vocation is a further argument in favour of setting up a centre of this kind, as the idea is to bring peoples throughout the world closer together. A decision by the Council of Europe on the creation of a pragmatic and flexible structure would be evidence of a special dynamism regarding the reactivation of the North-South dialogue, to which we Europeans cannot and must not remain indifferent.

In Europe as well as in the rest of the world, the Council of Europe’s image is closely associated with respect for and protection of human rights.

And this Assembly, which was responsible in the first instance for the European Convention on Human Rights, cannot allow itself to have the slightest doubt about the protection of those very rights, which are at the same time the essence and ultimate goal of democratic institutions as conceived of in Europe and the Western world.

As we can see, the populations of Eastern Europe are unfortunately deprived of full respect for human rights. In my view, the present political stance of the East European countries should be viewed with caution. We should encourage all reforms aimed at greater pluralism in the East European societies and avoid closing the door on any positive signs, but we should also make a point of distinguishing between propaganda campaigns and acts which can herald greater open-mindedness in the field of human rights.

For, however right it may seem to take advantage of situations where co-operation is possible, we cannot allow ourselves to prejudice the global perception of relations with the Eastern bloc or the security of the Western world.

We must ensure that the European ideal transcends the geographical boundaries of Europe and be concerned to spread the essential ingredients of the pluralist parliamentary democracy we uphold.

The important series of conferences on parliamentary democracy which periodically bring several hundred parliamentarians from forty or so countries throughout the world together in this Chamber in order to debate topics of parliamentary interest is a good example of this concern. And for that reason these conferences have become a mainstay of the Parliamentary Assembly’s activity.

The Council of Europe’s activities are so numerous and diverse that it is impossible to analyse them in full. But I should like to refer in particular to the Council’s action in favour of European culture, a long-standing activity which has a special nobility because it concerns a fundamental sector of our society.

Culture is the only means of ensuring the quality of life to which we aspire, as well as the training of young people, the assimilation of displaced persons, the plenitude of the family as a pre-eminent institution and the preservation of the historical heritage and the environment itself.

The Council’s efforts on behalf of migrants also deserve our fullest attention in view of the number of Portuguese living and working outside Portugal. While keeping their original nationality and maintaining their bonds of loyalty with the mother country, these Portuguese are also nowadays true citizens of Europe by virtue of the manner in which they work and are adjusting to their host societies.

The Council has wide experience in the field of migration, and the measures it effectively proposes in the social and educational fields contribute to the search for solutions of great value not only to governments but above all to migrants themselves. Portugal fully appreciates the work of the Council of Europe’s Resettlement Fund, a financial organ which truly fosters solidarity among its members and from which my own country derives considerable benefit.

In the same field, I would also emphasise the importance of the drawing up of the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers, a legal instrument which we would like to be ratified by other member states.

Young people are our greatest hope. They are our main cause for joy but also a source of concern with regard to the future we are helping them to build.

The trust placed in young people is perhaps one of the aspects of my Government’s activities to which I accord the greatest significance. I should therefore like to emphasise the Council of Europe’s action in this field, while appealing to young people to help to prepare their own future. The European Youth Centre, which I intend to visit this afternoon, will, I hope, become a model for the national activities of member states.

My Government is highly gratified by the excellent relations and collaboration existing between Portugal and the Council of Europe.

The Portuguese delegation to this Parliamentary Assembly is selected by our Parliament in such a way as to honour the representation of Portugal. Figures from Portuguese political life take part in the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. We regularly play host to Council of Europe events: in 1987, three ministerial conferences, this year the Colloquy on Interdependence and Cultural Development, and soon the Conference of European Ministers of Justice.

My Government considers that the Council of Europe is at present performing tasks which do it honour and testify to the lucidity with which it approaches its role of European unification. In order to avoid overlapping with other organisations, we are considering the possibility of rationalising its structures and concentrating its activities in a hard core where the Council’s vocation, experience and proven competence give it incomparable advantages. We are aware of this effort in Portugal, and I should like to express here my esteem to the Secretary General, Mr Marcelino Oreja, as well as to the Council’s organs and services for the work they are doing in order to achieve these objectives.

I should like to end with a profession of faith by saluting the Council of Europe and the efforts it is making for the benefit of human rights, pluralist parliamentary democracy and the European ideal. Above all, I should like to express my confidence that the Council will succeed in demonstrating its ability to revitalise and modernise itself and contribute to the construction of Europe’s future – a future which we all hope will be one of peace, progress and rapprochement among peoples, a future synonymous with hope for the young people of today.