|Israel Saraiva joined Portugal's
Foreign Service in 1997 and spent his first few years working in Lisbon specialising in
the Middle East Peace Process and on Portugal's relations with the Maghreb region. This
involved in particular its summits with Morocco, then later on Iran and Iraq. In
London now for four years, he had been closely involved in the work of the EU Presidency.
At a sociable lunch held in The Dining Room of Purchases in Chichester, Israel
Saraiva, First Secretary of the Portuguese Embassy in London, described some of
the key issues during the six month period of the Portuguese Presidency of the
European Council, which was to finish at the end of 2007.
The challenges are not the
same today as they were after the Second World War when the European Movement was founded.
But the willingness and full co-operation of all member states are still required to face
the challenges of the 21st century: globalisation, climate change, energy security,
economic prosperity and stability in Europe.
After the recent wave of accessions from the East, Portugal continues to believe that
eastward enlargement is a strategic as well as a moral duty. The EU has already initiated
serious negotiations with other countries. In the case of Turkey, the Portuguese
Presidency understands that Turkeys accession to the EU should occur as soon as the
stated criteria have been met in full. We are not there yet, but we have to keep the pace.
The credibility of EU as well as the stability in its neighbourhood depends also on its
capacity to continuing acting as a role model. The reference to role model for
Europe is not mine. It was mentioned by UK Secretary of State David Miliband in his recent
speech in Bruges, at the College of Europe.
The view that Europe should continue to play a vital role in the world is widely shared
and has been the cornerstone of the third Portuguese Presidency, now in its final phase.
It has been part of an 18-month co-operative plan which started in January this year with
the preceding German Presidency and will end on 30 June 2008 with the Slovenian
There has been a long list of achievements, and three main areas can be the focus:
the Treaty of Lisbon
the Lisbon Strategy
External relations, in particular the
Future of the Union
The top priority of the Portuguese Presidency was to reach an agreement on the future
institutional framework for the Union. The task handed over on 1 July was to transform a
clear and complete mandate into a Treaty aimed at reforming and amending previous
Treaties. It began quickly with the Inter-Governmental Conference and continued with
steady work on the text.
It was actually in the early hours of the 19th October that the Heads of State and
Government reached a political agreement on the text, bringing to an end 6 years of
deadlock in the European Unions institutional debate. The next step is the signing
of the Treaty, in Lisbon on 13 December. This must then be followed by a ratification
process in all 27 countries. It is expected that the new Treaty should come into force
before the next European Parliament elections, scheduled for June 2009.
Some areas to highlight are:
||It creates a full-time President
of the European Council for a term of 2½ years, renewable once, replacing the
current 6 month rotating Presidency.
||It creates a High Representative
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy merging two current roles, to preside
over an external action service.
||It reduces the size of the
European Commission. From 2014, the number of Commissioners will be reduced,
capped at two-thirds of Member States. A principle of rotation between Members States will
||It extends qualified majority
voting to new policy areas. From 2009 Justice and Home Affairs matters will be
dealt with like normal EU business, thus streamlining and speeding up decision-making. The
UK has negotiated an opt-out from all JHA policies (immigration and borders, extended as
from 2009 to policing and criminal justice co-operation). The Reform Treaty clearly
safeguards the UK position.
||It introduces a new system of
majority voting. Under the new double majority voting system, (i) a
minimum of 55% of the member states, (ii) representing a minimum of 65% of the EUs
population, must vote in favour for European legislation to be passed.
||It incorporates the Charter of
Fundamental Rights into EU law and makes it legally binding on European
legislation. For the UK, a special arrangement was put in place: a protocol equally
legally binding underlines that the charter does not create new social or labour rights
and cannot be used to strike down British laws.
||It gives national parliaments a
greater voice in contributing to European laws and, for the first time, the right
to challenge a piece of EU legislation that they consider unnecessary.
continued in right-hand column
from column 1)
Lisbon Strategy and the challenge of globalisation
Europe must lead and shape globalisation in accordance with its principle and values. In
this context the EU has been renewing and updating its internal policies to ensure that
Europe can respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Competitiveness, sustainable
development, energy security, and respect for the environment should guide economic
reforms as well as social cohesion.
Shortly before the Informal European Council in October the Commission issued a
communication called The European interest: succeeding in the age of
globalisation, indicating where Europe was intending to move in the
international scene. In its final part, this stated that The EU must be in a
position to present to its citizens a compelling vision of how a global Europe is adapting
to new needs while protecting their interests, reforming its economic and social
governance to ensuring prosperity, solidarity and security for the next generation as well
as todays citizens.
Acceleration of reforms must be a priority. The EU has global responsibilities and
therefore needs to reinforce from within to face globalisation. Measures are needed to
deal with changes in demographics, public finances and their sustainability in the longer
term, the labour market, employment, social cohesion, competitiveness, research and
innovation, energy and climate change, as well as education and training.
The Treaty of Lisbon should be signed on 13 December, and just one day later, at the
European Council meeting in Brussels, an EU declaration on globalisation should also be
signed - a proposal presented in October by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Europe and the World
Brazil, Russia, India and China
Relations between the EU and other strategic partners have been
high on the agenda of the Portuguese Presidency. In July came the first EU-Brazil Summit
in Lisbon. Brazil is a crucial strategic partner for the EU on key areas like trade,
energy and climate change. There was also a summit with Russia in October, and at the end
of November summits with China and India. This has been the first time the EU has had a
complete series of summits with the BRIC countries.
Similarly an EU and Africa Summit has been planned to take place in December. The project
has focused on moving from development aid to a new level. An EU Strategy for Africa was
approved in December 2005 during the British Presidency and the Lisbon Summit endorsed
three projects: the EU-Africa Joint Strategy, the Action Plan and the Lisbon Declaration.
The Joint Strategy identifies four medium-term interlinked common interests: (i) peace and
security; (ii) governance and human rights; (iii) trade and regional integration; and (iv)
The Action Plan sets out the partnership arrangements within the next 2-3 years - covering
energy, climate change, migration, and information, science and technology.
The Lisbon Declaration will be a short document mainly aimed to public opinion. It will
stress the strategic change in the EU-Africa relationship and illustrate some measures to
which both sides are committed.
The aim for both sides is that the Lisbon Summit should mark the beginning of a new
EU-Africa relationship based on strategic dialogue.
The Mediterranean has always been a top priority of the EU as well as for Portugal and has
remained so during our Presidency. Portugal has always been in favour of any initiative or
proposal that could strength and deepen the bonds between the two shores of the
Mediterranean. A policy debate has been re-launched, particularly on the issues of
development and migration.
Israel Saraiva concluded by emphasising that for Portugal the
European project over the past 50 years remained a success story.
A new sense of urgency has been calling for a stronger EU to match with the challenges of
our times, better equipped in terms of rules, policies, instruments and own resources.
Europe must build a political model which reconciles freedom, economic growth, social
justice and preservation of the environment in a spirit of partnership, co-operation and
Portugal had been holding the Presidency at a complex moment, and knew that Presidencies
do not resolve all the issues. A stronger Union for a better world has
been the motto of the Presidency, encouraging a sense of shared responsibility to tackle