Ramalho Eanes

President of Portugal

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 9 May 1984

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, addressing this Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to say what an honour and pleasure it is for me, personally, to speak to you, the legitimate representatives of the democratic nations of Europe, and to emphasise, on Portugal’s behalf, the great importance we attach to the presence of our country in the Council of Europe.

As one of the oldest European nations, precursor and initiator of the historic movement which led to the spread of our continent’s influence to other continents and civilisations, the Portuguese nation shares all those essential and unchanging elements of civilisation and culture which have given Europe its characteristic stamp and greatness.

Our integration into the Council of Europe is a very natural consequence of that set of historic principles and ideals which we all share and which are closely linked with the origins of this Council, ideals and principles which make up that “common heritage” of our nations referred to in Article 1 of the Council of Europe Statute, and which are clearly based on an essential respect for the fundamental human rights and rights of the citizen guaranteed by the type of democratic and pluralistic society that we defend.

Our late entry into the Council of Europe was thus due to circumstances which were foreign to the fundamental and unchanging elements of our culture and of our civic system.

Portugal’s stance as a democracy is centuries old, and defence of the great principles of democracy is a tradition deeply rooted in our people.

Thus, Portugal is able to make its contribution to the great objectives of co-operation in economic and social progress and in the defence of citizens’ rights, for the sake of which the Council of Europe is pursuing the achievement of that “closer union” between European nations, so desired by us all.

Mr President, after being honoured by your presence at important events recently organised by the Council of Europe in Portugal, we have the pleasure of meeting once again today someone whom the Portuguese have come to hold in high esteem.

The long career of President Karl Ahrens as a distinguished parliamentarian of a country closely linked with ours, which has played a fundamental part in strengthening European unity, is deserving of our highest regard.

Speaking of the always highly stimulating meetings which I had with you, Mr President, I must add that I was also fortunate enough to make the acquaintance recently in Portugal, of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Franz Karasek.

The Council of Europe was conceived, created and put into operation to fulfil a fundamental ideal: European unity.

For the pursuit of that ideal, the organisation enjoys special conditions which confer on it special responsibilities.

A supranational institution specifically devoted to intergovernmental co-operation in the most diverse spheres, and endowed by the European Convention on Human Rights with highly effective machinery for defending and safeguarding human rights, the Council of Europe plays a leading part in creating and propagating a new European consciousness in the legal and political fields, as well as in social and cultural affairs.

As a forum where all the democratic nations of Europe meet, irrespective of their position in relation to those two great organisations today pursuing the process of European economic integration, the EEC and EFTA, the Council of Europe can play a fundamental part as a catalyst in consolidating that ethical and cultural unity on which the formation of a European political will should be based.

Thus, in the process of European unification, the Council of Europe, it seems to us, has a key role to play in propagating and consolidating a truly supranational consciousness and spirit among the citizens of Europe.

It is this new European spirit that the numerous initiatives taken by the Council are designed to vitalise, and that the many conventions concluded under its aegis, and already in force in the majority of its member states, have concretised.

In the present political situation, to a great extent discernible since the 1950s, but rendered evident after the oil crisis, progress in European unification also implies encompassing other areas and new forms of cooperation.

Here, it is not a matter of cultural, economic and political policies which can be planned and put into effect by isolated measures. This is a field where concerted, organised and coordinated action by European countries can have significant and rapid effects in regions and countries looking to Europe for that coherence practised in the defence of its constituent values.

Thanks to the structure and functioning of the Council of Europe, it has been possible to press ahead with slow and laborious harmonisation necessary in so many sectors of European life, from law and education to social security and health, while improving co-operation in such vast domains as art and culture, preservation of the architectural heritage, environment protection and scientific research.

Thanks to all this work, carried out by the most highly qualified experts and technicians, the organisation’s political bodies are able to prepare conventions, protocols and other agreements, as well as recommendations to governments, an activity which has benefited recently from the healthy impetus given to it by specialised ministerial conferences, whose conclusions provide a first-class basis for the preparation of the Intergovernmental Programme of Activities.

For their part, the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights, through their reports and judgments, are instrumental in modernising and improving the member countries’ legal systems, since their judicial decisions usually inspire states to reappraise their own domestic legislation.

In the creation of a new European citizenship, the Council of Europe is thus playing a leading and effective role, because it is founded on concrete action immediately productive of practical results.

However, unlike the work of other organisations, whose activities are better known to the public because they are more apparent and produce more immediate and visible results, the Council’s work is conducted in a long-term prospective and in a studious and discreet atmosphere.

Aiming constantly at achieving maximum effectiveness, the various Council organs must take the necessary steps to keep abreast of events and changing situations.

Thus, following a proposal tabled in the Committee of Ministers by the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs in December 1982, the working parties, appointed to consider a Widening of the political dialogue in the Committee of Ministers, relations with the Communities, cultural cooperation and ways of giving fresh impetus to the Council of Europe’s human rights activities, have already submitted their conclusions.

The same concern is reflected in the progress already being made in the important sector of local and regional government in Europe.

In this specific domain, the Portuguese experience in planning and developing autonomy for the Azores and Madeira islands undoubtedly provides a very positive indication of what can be done, and this without any weakening of the bonds of nationality, which are strengthened rather through a multiplicity of institutions adapted to regional requirements.

The establishment of democracy is inseparable from the strengthening of local government, when it is understood in the sense of direct participation by citizens and social groups in the management of public affairs. Democracy is the means whereby institutions can constantly be reformed by the dynamism of the society they serve. That is why it seems to us so important that Europe, the cradle of representative democracy, should be able to meet the challenges to democracy presented by today’s technological, social, and, in the last instance, cultural changes. That is why we want Europe to keep “reinventing” democracy.

I am pleased to note that the Council of Europe, like other European organisations is concerning itself with one of the most serious problems of our times, the rising level of unemployment resulting from the recession which has hit our present-day industrial system and consequently the whole world economy.

The Council of Europe, adopting a global approach to the problem of unemployment, has strongly urged courageous concerted action, alone capable of ensuring the success of the measures taken, including increased provision of occupational training, especially for the young.

These problems were discussed in depth both at the Conference of European Ministers of Labour held in Paris in May 1983 and at the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration Questions held in Rome in October of the same year. To prevent the risk of more and more categories of workers being excluded from the labour market, it was contemplated extending occupational training schemes for both national and migrant workers and introducing specific schemes for the resettlement of migrants in their countries of origin, where possible with the help of the Council of Europe Resettlement Fund. Such schemes are of special importance for a traditionally emigration country like Portugal, which is already beginning to benefit from them.

To us, the Council of Europe’s great contribution to fostering the ideal of European unity is obvious, whether it be in the cultural sphere—and here I am bound to mention the important exhibition recently held in Lisbon, “The Portuguese Discoveries and Renaissance Europe”; I say “important” because it illustrated what we regard as our most grandiose, historic contribution to Europe—or in that of political dialogue or the harmonisation of legislation, or in the establishment of supranational machinery for the protection of the rights of citizens vis-à-vis states.

With regard to this latter aspect, it is important to mention the establishment by the European Convention on Human Rights of a supranational court to which individuals may have direct recourse against any violation of the convention by a signatory state. This is something quite new, which adds to the formal recognition of the great ethical and cultural protection of those rights by supranational judicial bodies.

But it is important to ask ourselves now what kind of Europe we want, what our idea of European unity is, how we are to apply our founding principles in a world undergoing increasingly rapid changes.

It is patent to us all, alas, that Europe, as such, has failed to produce an appropriate, new and bold response to the present world crisis.

The emergence of new technologies, the out- dating of a type of intensive industrial growth which in a short time has become an anachronism necessitating painful conversion; the shift of world economic centres to new geographical areas—mainly round the Pacific; the persistent impasse in the North-South dialogue which is preventing any chance of recovery from the recession through market expansion, and increasing the dependence and poverty of the so-called Third World—all these factors combined have affected Europe’s role by curtailing its scope for manoeuvre in an increasingly aggressive competitive framework and in a context of unprecedentedly intensive technological changes.

Inventors of democratic values that we were, it is in our continent that the majority of pluralist democracies in the world are concentrated.

But we must not forget that, for the first time since the beginning of the industrial era and the spread of democratic concepts to the whole of Europe, democracy today faces a future, not of easy growth, but of scarcity, which means that the connection between democracy and development will have to be radically rethought.

If Europe is to resume its rightful place at the top “in this invention of humanity as a whole which has constantly to be invented anew”—to quote a Portuguese poet—it is urgent for it to assert its unity in the face of lesser divisive interests; for it to defend its autonomy in a context in which the antagonism between the superpowers is tending to override the diversity of sovereign states which is so desirable; for it to revitalise its democratic tradition and to restructure its systems of production in order to meet present-day challenges; and, finally, for it to adopt a new approach in its relations with the developing nations of the South.

I must mention here the conference recently held in Lisbon on the role of Europe in the North-South dialogue; the speech I had the privilege of giving there was addressed to this Assembly.

Portugal’s commitment to this vital objective of contemporary policy is dictated by the clear lessons that history has taught us.

Despite the paucity of its material, financial and human resources and the fact that Portugal was neither the centre nor a beneficiary of the industrial revolution, we have bequeathed to Latin American, African and Asian countries patterns for development which have proved effective and have helped those peoples to progress and to create modern political institutions.

Unduly influenced, in geostrategic debates, by arguments about military superiority and the importance of alliances, we often lose sight of the importance of the human aspect which is always present in relations between peoples.

Within its family of nations, Europe possesses all the human knowledge, technical means, talent and expertise necessary for the establishment of continuous programmes to promote cooperation and support for development in other continents.

No other world power today can be compared with Europe in this field.

The choice of Lisbon as the venue for the conference on the North-South dialogue constituted clear recognition of Portugal’s importance as a link with other continents and other civilisations, and of Portugal’s potential role in the dialogue between Europe and the developing countries, and especially in the Eurafrican dialogue.

The final declaration approved in Lisbon at the end of that conference was a highly significant demonstration of the political will of the parliamentarians of the Council of Europe member countries to work out a new system of relations between industrialised Europe and the developing countries, designed to strengthen Europe’s role in the international sphere.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would not like to conclude without mentioning an aspect of the Council of Europe’s work which undoubtedly represents the greatest investment for the future of Europe and its citizens – youth activities.

Only through an intimate experience of the working of democracy and a full realisation of its essential values will young people acquire the capacity to preserve, through the generations, the values we are defending today.

If our young people are to adopt these democratic values, it will be our task to demonstrate what democracy represents in terms of its capacity for change, for dynamic action, of the ability of societies constantly to reorganise and restructure themselves – as against an excessively static or formal conception of the democratic system – without any questioning, of course, of the basic principles of representative democracy, the only system of government capable of absolute respect for human rights and freedoms.

It will be our task, too, to progressively prepare young people to face up to and turn to account the changes taking place in technology, in economic and cultural life, and in the most diverse areas of human and social activity.

In order that future generations may meet the challenges involved in this whole complex of change, opportunities must be provided for discussion, research and the comparison of experiences and ideas, possibly in the form of open institutions in which young people may study the whole problem of our future thoroughly and critically.

With a view to strengthening Europe’s role in the North-South dialogue, it would be highly desirable for European youth to play a bigger part in co-operation with developing countries. To that end, it would be worthwhile considering, in the Council of Europe framework, ways and means of encouraging young people to undertake various forms of co-operation and aid to development, in conditions which would be strictly supranational and truly European.

I would like finally to express to this Assembly and also to the Committee of Ministers, represented here by its Chairman and by the Permanent Representatives of the member countries, to the European Court and European Commission of Human Rights, and to the Secretariat of this organisation, my complete confidence in your capacity to help overcome the crisis besetting us.

I wish all of you every success in the pursuit of your activities, so that Europe may continue to pride itself on those values with which it is identified, and may become the cradle of new forms of international relationships, of justice for all and of peace. Thank you for your attention.