Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the Portuguese capital Lisbon on 27 and 28 May. In addition to political talks with his counterpart Rui Machete as well as the Portuguese President and senior representatives of the government and opposition, he took part in the 3rd German-Portuguese Forum.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed the “greatest possible respect” for Portugal’s “impressive reform programme” on Wednesday (27 May) during his visit to Lisbon. Steinmeier stressed that the crisis years had “not been easy” for Portugal during a press conference with his opposite number Rui Machete. He went on to say that Portugal was an “exemplary case” which showed that such efforts were worthwhile.
Steinmeier added, “We in Germany will demonstrate our solidarity as Portugal’s friend and do whatever we can to support its efforts.” Germany has been a key partner for Portugal within the EU during the financial and economic crisis.
Important bilateral partnership
During his two-day visit to Lisbon, Foreign Minister Steinmeier first of all met his counterpart Rui Machete for talks on Wednesday. The Ministers discussed how to further develop and strengthen the good bilateral relations and close cooperation between Germany and Portugal – among other things, by concluding an agreement to step up funding in the film industry.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier also talked about current political challenges such as the refugee crisis, the situation in Libya and the Ukraine conflict while in Lisbon. The German Foreign Minister stated on 27 May in an interview with the Portuguese online portal “Observador” that there were “no easy answers” in the Ukraine conflict:
Within the European context, we have brought political and economic pressure to bear on Russia and will not ease our efforts until Moscow returns to the path of peaceful conflict settlement in line with the criteria set forth in the Minsk Protocol. At the same time, we must ensure that our channels of communication with Moscow don’t break down.
Other issues discussed were relations with those countries in Africa and Latin America with which Portugal has especially close relations – above all the Portuguese-speaking countries Brazil and Angola.
Focus on European solidarity
On Thursday (28 May), Steinmeier had talks with President Aníbal António Cavaco Silva. In the interview with “Observador”, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that the EU had made good progress in the last few years as it endeavoured to overcome the financial and economic crisis: “The level of debt is falling, while growth is increasing. We all gain from this. We in Europe can only take the decisive steps towards stabilisation if we act together and remain engaged in an ongoing dialogue.” With regard to the situation in Greece, Steinmeier stressed:
We want Greece to remain in the eurozone. That’s our aim. (...) That will only be possible if Greece plays its part.
He went on to say that there would be “no winners” if the country were to leave the eurozone. Steinmeier stated that “not only every week, but every day” was now “crucial” in the intensive negotiations. Regarding Britain’s role in the EU and the domestic debates about the UK’s possible departure from the EU, he said:
The EU won’t be a better Union without Britain. We want Britain as an active partner at the heart of the EU – and not on the sidelines.
He therefore hoped “that a debate takes place in Britain which also respects the fact that there is a limit to the concessions which Europe can make.”
3rd German-Portuguese Forum
One important item on Steinmeier’s schedule in Lisbon was the joint participation in the German-Portuguese Forum by the two Foreign Ministers on Wednesday afternoon. This year’s Forum is the third of of its kind. The two Ministers spent about an hour discussing foreign policy issues with the audience. Steinmeier stressed, “We have to learn again how to resolve difficult conflicts through negotiations without always automatically thinking about military conflict.”
The Forum takes place every year, alternately in Germany and Portugal. The discussions focus on bilateral cooperation, growth and investment, science, research and innovation, as well as a social Europe. The aim is to initiate quite concrete cooperation projects. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that the German-Portuguese Forum provided an opportunity to develop “further impetus for our partnership”.
That applies to our bilateral relations, as well as to the European Union: Portugal and Germany are linked by their commitment to a strong and successful Europe.
Around 120 representatives from the world of politics, business, academia and civil society were expected to attend the third German-Portuguese Forum. In the course of his trip, Steinmeier also met representatives of the opposition and the German business community in Portugal.