Portugal reinforced its position of friendship towards Eastern Europe in general and Yugoslavia in particular, this time, with a visit of Dr. Jaime Gama to Belgrade to discuss bilateral relations. During the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, the Mayor of Lisbon, Dr. Joao Sdoares, son of former President and Prime Minister, Mario Soares, visited Belgrade to express his solidarity. The Portuguese public opinion has never been behind NATO’s campaigns and indeed Portugal refused to take part in the Gulf War against Iraq. Dr. Gama’s is the first prolonged visit by an EU minister to Yugoslavia. He is expected to visit Kosovo and Montenegro, as well as Serbia. In his meetings, Dr. Gama will discuss issues such as Yugoslavia’s integration into the OSCE and EU assistance to help Yugoslavia rebuild its economy. The Yugoslav authorities welcomed the Portuguese initiative : “All the Minister of the Economy and the Portuguese business sectors have to do is to come here, because the door is open for them”, said a diplomatic source in Belgrade. Portugal is probably the only country in western Europe that understands minimally the experience of people in the east, due to its similar political history (for different reasons) and economic experience. Portugal is a country which has managed to adapt from a controlled, planned economic model to being considered a good student by the EU, making the transition in 10 years. Cooperation with Portugal does not bring with it the political baggage which other larger and more powerful nations bring…signing a contract can turn a country into a colony. The Portuguese are genuinely interested in helping their Eastern European neighbours in a spirit of collaboration more due to feelings of solidarity than to those of financial gain.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON
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