EU

President of Portugal: too early to talk about EU borders

When Portugal first became the president of the European Union in 1992, Anibal Cavaco Silva was the Prime Minister. Then, there were only 12 of them, the states that signed the Maastricht Agreements, and these agreements caused a lot of controversy. Fifteen years later, Cavaco Silva, as President of Portugal, arrived in the European Parliament to urge the 27 EU countries to overcome the crisis around the European Constitution. Kawaku Silva spoke about his vision of the problems of the European Union in an interview with EuroNews.

EuroNews:

What were the first months of your country’s presidency of the European Union for you, the president of Portugal?

Anibal Kawaku Silva:

Portugal does its job, trying to do it seriously and efficiently. In the first months of Portugal, the EU-Brazil summit was held — I think this is a very important event for building strategic partnerships between the European Union and Brazil.
We are working on the organization of an Intergovernmental Conference on the harmonization of a lightweight version of the European Constitution. And at the same time, we are preparing summits with China, India, Russia, Ukraine, as well as a European-African summit, which will be at the end of our chairmanship.

EuroNews:

Africa is undoubtedly one of the priorities of the Portuguese government in the EU. What tasks in this area do you set for yourself this year?

Anibal Kawaku Silva:

Africa should be a priority of European politics. Europe has come to look at Africa as a neighboring continent and develop a strategy for this continent. Portugal attaches great importance to the upcoming summit. China, Japan and other countries are also preparing to hold summits with Africa. Europe cannot ignore such a partnership: we have many common interests in the fields of security, energy, the environment and the fight against terrorism. I think that Europe will make a big mistake if it drags out dialogue with Africa. It is time to stop talking about the problems of Africa, it is time to move on to dialogue with her.

EuroNews:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to gain a foothold on the world stage. At the same time, Portugal was trying to bring the EU constitutional treaty to the right harbor, which France obviously tried to sink. What do you think of this French protagonism?

Anibal Kawaku Silva:

Portugal very much appreciates President Sarkozy’s contribution to the unblocking — let’s call it that — of the constitutional process, which stopped when France and the Netherlands said no to the constitution in referenda. His contribution was more than positive, and who better than I, who received it in Lisbon, should know how much President Sarkozy is doing to reach an agreement on the final text of the constitutional treaty in preparation for the EU summit to be held in Lisbon in October.

EuroNews:

In a world of globalization, where there is a rapid growth of fundamentalism, where in countries not so distant from Europe — for example, Russia — human rights are constantly violated — how do you see the future of the European Union and European values?

Anibal Kawaku Silva:

Europe will never forget about the basic values ​​of its civilization — human rights or democracy. And in dialogue with other countries it is impossible to avoid discussing the issue of respect for these values ​​and rights, even if it is known that in some countries these rights are still not respected. You can’t turn your back on countries that have realized that the basic values ​​that Europe protects must be respected. In dialogue, on the political agenda, human rights issues should always be taken into account. For example, when talking about managing the country’s resources, the authorities should not ignore the principle of the rule of law. I believe that the main values ​​of Europe do not survive the crisis, on the contrary, they are in the process of expansion around the world.

EuroNews:

Speaking in the European Parliament, you said that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting deeper and deeper. What can Europe oppose to this trend?

Anibal Kawaku Silva:

The principle of solidarity should remain the basis of European humanitarian projects. Europe must maintain social integration, the fight against poverty and social exclusion among its priorities. Because Europe, which allows deepening unequal access to resources; Europe, where the benefits are available to some, while others are excluded from it, and where some of the citizens are expelled from society and live in poverty — such Europe cannot attract people’s attention to its policies, it is subject to social instability. That is why, despite the important role of individual EU member states, the fight against poverty should become an absolute priority in the common policy of the European Union. These tasks are already set by Europe and, I hope, will continue to do so in the future.

EuroNews:

And the last question. After the enlargement of the European Union, amid the fact that Turkey is literally knocking on the door, the countries of North Africa have also begun to look at membership in the bloc. How far do you think Europe is ready to go this way?

This only proves the success of the project of creating the European Union. When Portugal arrived, there were only 12 members in the bloc, today we are 27. Most of today’s difficulties of the European Union are connected with the consequences of our own success. We attract different countries — here you are talking about Turkey, but we must also remember about Croatia, Bosnia-Herzigovina and other countries and even continents. For example, about Africa, which is becoming closer and closer to Europe. But I think that, of course, the time has not yet come to discuss the borders of the European Union.

euronews.net, 07.09.07

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