PORTUGAL : MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS VISITS RUSSIA

Dr. Jaime Gama, the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in Moscow for talks with Igor Ivanov and Mikhail Kassianov on an “economic diplomacy” mission which intends to increase relations between Moscow and Lisbon, and decrease the distance which separates the easternmost and westernmost capitals of Europe. The Portuguese mission intends to boost the Agreement for Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation which has been signed by the two countries. Dr. Gama intends to foster a real relationship with Russia and said recently he does not want a ritual of visits by specialists but prefers an active working relationship. The team accompanying Dr. Gama on this important visit, which occupies prime space in the Portuguese media, are general directors responsible for the areas of External Policy, Bilateral Relations and Multilateral Affairs. The Portuguese team considers this visit fundamental towards the preparation of Lisbon hosting the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Presidency in 2002 and also for the preparation of Portugal’s candidacy for the presidency of the Pan-European Organization. Portugal has a population of 10 million, with the same number spread around the world in the Portuguese diaspora. Although it is a small country, Lisbon’s influence transcends the country’s frontiers, since it maintains a close and special relationship with its former colonies in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and St. Thomas/Principe), Asia (Timor) and South America (Brazil). Portugal is integrated in NATO but has had a delicate relationship with this organization since it refused to take part in the attack on Iraq and although Portuguese forces are present in the Balkans, the population showed itself to be very much against the bombing of Yugoslavia. The Portuguese respect the Eastern Europeans (there are currently 50,000 immigrants from this region in Portugal) and although the USA is not seen as an enemy, the Portuguese have been more cautious in their relationship with Washington than other members of the EU.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Lisbon