Visita de Estado à Irlanda

01 de Junho 1999

Prime Minister,

I would like in the first place to thank you for your kind hospitality and the warm welcome we have received since our arrival in Ireland, which has touched us greatly.

I have brought with me a significant number of people including several distinguished members of the Government, members of all the political parties with a seat in Parliament, researchers and academics, administration officials, artists, businessmen and journalists.

Their presence here testifies on the one hand to the nature of our relations and on the other to the desire we have to deepen our understanding and cooperation in many different areas, within our common European background.

Although it is true that we have no bilateral problems, that our relations have developed constantly and harmoniously and that the reciprocal knowledge of our human, cultural, economic and social realities has increased, we must acknowledge that a lot remains to be done to strengthen that mutual knowledge and understanding in order to deepen our cooperation in a whole range of sectors.

All important political, economic, cultural and scientific relations are based on personal acquaintance, the human factor, the individual perception of ways of life, the motivations, the capacities and the interests of both parties.

It is my intention with this visit precisely to contribute to increase the mutual knowledge between the Irish and the Portuguese, affording both myself and those in my party a better idea of the realities of your beautiful country, its rich culture and how the Irish have so successfully faced the challenges of modernity and progress.

Ireland and Portugal have obvious affinities: we are two countries at the westernmost points of Europe, facing the sea, who experienced similar vicissitudes, zealous of our freedom and independence, with original cultures and strong identities. Two countries that have operated profound economic and social transformations in the last two decades and are now actively engaged in building an increasingly united and prosperous Europe of solidarity.

This afternoon I will be participating in a meeting about Ireland's model of development. I believe that as regards investment, scientific and technological research, development of human resources, and industrial sectors based on advanced technologies, the Irish and the Portuguese have a wealth of areas in which to exchange ideas and experiences and develop new forms of cooperation.

In addition to strengthening and diversifying our bilateral cooperation, promoting trade and economic exchanges, two-way tourist flows, and cultural and scientific initiatives, the construction of Europe occupies a central place in our relationship.

We successfully complied with the calendar of the third phase of Economic and Monetary Union and now Ireland and Portugal are among the founding members of the single currency, solidly anchored to the core of the new phase of European integration. A phase that will be as demanding as all the previous ones. We must enlarge the borders of the Union and at the same time deepen the integration process, reinforcing cohesion and solidarity among the Member States.

We must also, clearly and determinedly, assume the political dimension that is inherent to the European project. I do not believe that the integration process can advance unless this dimension is increasingly and effectively affirmed. Only thus will we be able to ensure the conditions for progress within the European space, guaranteeing a greater projection of our own identity on the international scene and more efficiently defending our common interests.

In all these fields, Prime Minister, there are many areas of mutual agreement between Ireland and Portugal, identical or similar viewpoints, objectives and principles we wish to assure. It would be useful therefore if we continued to develop our understanding of the issues that will mould the collective future of Europe.

In a little over six months' time Portugal will assume the Presidency of the Union. We are conscious of the added responsibilities this will bring us. We will act as we always have since our accession: honestly and firmly, enhancing solidarity and all that unites the European peoples.

Prime Minister,

Last night, at the official dinner given by President McAleese, I expressed our solidarity with the Irish as they seek a political solution to the situation in Northern Ireland. We admire the tenacity, perseverance and undeniable personal courage of all those who are engaged in creating conditions so that, after decades of fratricide conflict, the communities of Northern Ireland may enjoy the peace to which they are entitled. All of them deserve our recognition.

The Good Friday accord completed last year provides the essential political framework within which to achieve those objectives and embark on a new era of peaceful co-habitation that respects the Irish of different beliefs. As such, it was supported by an expressively clear majority of the Irish population and the implicit hopes and promises of peace cannot be frustrated.

Defending democracy and human rights, freedom and the rule of law constitutes, Prime Minister, an essential mark of the European project and the civilisational matrix of Europe.

Both inside and outside Europe we have nevertheless witnessed situations in which human beings' fundamental rights are daily violated.

Kosovo immediately comes to mind, the humanitarian catastrophe we are witnessing, the thousands of innocent victims.

If we must respond to violence with force, then through political channels we should attack the causes behind this situation. A political solution for the conflict based on the premises defined by the Atlantic Alliance, the European Union, the UN Secretary General and the G8 is urgent, and it is essential that President Milosevic is aware that this is the only course open to him.

We are also, Prime Minister, thinking of East-Timor and its people's fight for freedom and self-determination. The East-Timorese cause is one with which the Irish are familiar and we are grateful for the important support granted by the Irish authorities.

We recently signed an important agreement on the free and democratic consultation of the East-Timorese people. It constitutes an extremely important step in the process of self-determination of the territory. Nevertheless, all the parties concerned and the international community must redouble their commitment to ensure that it takes place under the necessary conditions, freely and without violence. I am sure that Ireland will continue to give the East-Timorese the support they have never denied in the past, particularly during this phase which is vital for their future.

Prime Minister,

Thank you once again for your hospitality; from our talks I know that our countries are stirred by the firm purpose of reinforcing their understanding and cooperation in various fields. That was the main purpose of my visit.

I would ask you all to raise your glasses in a toast to the personal happiness of Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and to the increased prosperity of Ireland.