Visita de Estado à Irlanda

31 de Maio 1999

Minhas Senhoras e Meus Senhores,

Your Excellency,

On behalf of my wife, of myself and the people in my party, I would first of all like to thank you for the warm welcome we have received since arriving in your beautiful country.

I would also like to thank you most heartily for your kind words about Portugal and the Portuguese.

As you know Prince Henry the Navigator, who was the driving force behind the Portuguese discoveries, sent a lion captured on the African coast to a friend of his in Galway. History has left us no trace of this feline but such a fine original gift is surely a mark of particular esteem and consideration!

Indeed, the Irish and the Portuguese have long been acquainted and their affinities are obvious.

We share identical historical, cultural and civilisational roots. We are both small countries with a strong and original cultural affirmation, conscious of our freedom and independence; the sea is a constant presence in and an intimate link of both our countries, moulding our way of life and giving us very particular characteristics within Europe.

Over the centuries, for many reasons and on different occasions, thousands of Irish and Portuguese departed for other lands in search of their livelihood, freedom of expression, better living conditions for themselves and their children, more in keeping with their personal beliefs.

This is yet another link between us, one that has provided us with a special way of looking at the world. Many Irish came to Portugal to escape religious intolerance, creating in our country schools and other institutions that enjoy well-deserved prestige. Even before that, however, our relations included important commercial and regular personal exchanges, encouraged by the enterprising Irish community living in Portugal.

All this helped to cement the mutual understanding that finds new and broader areas of affirmation, in the framework of the construction of a more prosperous Europe of solidarity to which we are jointly committed today.

Madam President, I am particularly pleased to have accepted your invitation to visit Ireland, a country in which I have always been interested. I know that this pleasure and interest are shared by all those in my party, which includes various members of the Government, members of all the political parties with a seat in Parliament, academics, researchers, artists, businessmen and representatives of the major Portuguese media.

We are pleased but also curious: to learn more about your country, its culture, its concerns, the unique way in which Ireland was able in less than two decades to complete a far-reaching economic transformation, as it stands today as a successful model of progress.

Madam President,

For almost fifty years Portugal was removed from the concourse of the democratic nations of Europe by a dictatorial, arbitrary regime, and it was kept at a distance from the great post-war transformations in Europe, deprived of the conditions of political, economic and social progress.

A few weeks ago we celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 25th April Revolution, our re-encounter with freedom and democracy which opened the doors to our full integration in the Europe to which we had always belonged.

The profound changes operated in my country in the last fifteen years are obvious to all who visit us. Today we are a modern country which has largely been able to overcome the structural backwardness inherited from the past. Like Ireland, and as a result of a serious effort implying unstinting sacrifices, we belong to the founding group of countries within the single currency.

Having successfully completed the third phase of Economic and Monetary Union and decided on the financial perspectives for the next six years the European Union must overcome the other demanding challenges it faces, at the same time pursuing the enlargement of its institutional borders to the democracies of central and eastern Europe and deepening its integration process.

Enlargement is without a doubt the most important challenge we are facing and which requires from us all a strong will and political determination to overcome concrete obstacles and difficulties.

At the same time, however, the European process must constantly be deepened, harmonising its economic, social and financial dimensions to guarantee real convergence, increased social and economic cohesion, and progress and stability within the European space as a whole.

Europe must advance towards new levels of political integration in keeping with the degree of integration already achieved and the shared sovereignty that this implies. Failure to integrate Europe more politically will imply failure of a credible and efficient common security and defence policy, and Europe will be unable to play a more active role in defending its own interests.

We are living through particularly difficult times, as dramatically evinced by the crisis in Kosovo.

We are aware of the limitations of the use of force. We know that only a political solution will resolve the causes behind this conflict and that this solution must be based on terms agreed by the Atlantic Alliance, the European Union, the UN Secretary General and the G8.

This solution must be found urgently, given the scope of the humanitarian catastrophe, the growing number of innocent victims, the risk of destabilisation for the other countries in the region.

The Balkans as a whole cannot continue as a rejected region, excluded from the European concert.

The indispensable elements to guarantee peace and progress in a region on whose stability Europe's security depends, are consolidation of democratic frameworks and practises, respect for human rights and for cultural and religious beliefs, and the creation of conditions for economic and social development.

Madam President,

My former functions in the European Human Rights Commission aroused my direct interest in these problems which unfortunately still affect the peace and harmony of Northern Ireland.

I am honoured to count Nobel prize winner John Hume as one of my friends. Allow me to say here to him and all those who have not wavered in so many years defending peace, human rights, peaceful co-habitation of the communities, and respect for individual beliefs, how we sincerely admire them for their singular courage and abnegation.

Madam President, you yourself are particularly and directly concerned about the situation in Northern Ireland and are naturally one of the vast number of Irish who continue to struggle for the primacy of dialogue over violence, tolerance over blindness, democratic values over injustice and fanaticism.

We all welcomed the Good Friday peace accords completed last year with well-founded hope, and the possibilities that they encompassed of breaking completely with the cycle of violence, creating the bases for a return to democratic normality, reconciling the communities. These accords were expressively supported by a clear majority of the population.

This hope cannot be frustrated, nor can the majority of the Irish population be stripped of their trust in a new era of peace, inter-community reconciliation, democratic living, progress and well-being for all.

Madam President,

Promoting increasingly tighter mutual links between the Portuguese and the Irish, seeking new complementarities, exploring convergences, aiming for the constant deepening of the European project, increasing its political meaning and solid dimension, are ways in which we can efficiently respond to the aspirations of our peoples and the challenges of European construction.

The European project must be built on values that make European culture an on-going, open and creative work.

These values are willingness to understand, critical appreciation, non-conformity, universalism, freedom and tolerance. Whenever these have been cultivated Europe has advanced and progressed.

When denied, Europe has denied itself and retreated.

Ireland and Portugal who have James Joyce and Fernando Pessoa as the incomparable precursors of European modernity in this century, know that only the bold affirmation of free, creative thinking can lend projects the grandiosity that will make them enduring, consistent and mobilising.

Europe must take diversity and dialogue between cultures and make it a practise and a motive of enrichment for all its peoples.

The art exhibition with paintings by five Portuguese women painters, now showing in Dublin on the occasion of this visit is meant to a certain extent to be a symbol of that dialogue which we wish to deepen between our cultures.

I would like to end by thanking Ireland for its strong support for the cause of the people of East-Timor. The agreement recently signed under the auspices of the UN Secretary General on free and democratic consultation constitutes an extremely important step in the process of self-determination of the territory.

But all the parties concerned must be committed to fulfilling the provisions of the agreement to guarantee the conditions needed for the consultation to take place freely without violence.

It is vital within this framework to have the redoubled commitment of all who share those same values of freedom, justice and human rights, to guarantee the conditions for a free and democratic consultation. I am convinced that Ireland will, as in the past, continue to show the East Timorese its active solidarity in a phase that will be decisive for their collective future.

I would ask you all to raise your glasses in a toast to the health of the President and Dr. McAleese, to the growing prosperity of the Irish people and the increased friendship between the Irish and the Portuguese, within the framework of a more united Europe of solidarity.