The Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva paid his first official visit to Berlin on Wednesday (27 April) and thanked Germany for its support during the latest financial crisis. His German counterpart Frank‑Walter Steinmeier praised Portugal for the reforms it has implemented to date, and expressed gratitude for the solidarity and pro‑European stance adopted by the Portuguese on the refugee issue.
First official visit to EU “neighbour”
The two foreign ministers, who will sit next to each other at EU Foreign Affairs meetings, got on with each other very well. They even joked about football – long since forgotten is the rivalry from the opening World Cup match in 2014. Indeed, the two countries currently have a lot in common, both in political and social terms.
Roughly 130,000 Portuguese nationals live in Germany, and some 30,000 Germans live in Portugal. Person‑to‑person contacts thus form a strong bond between the two countries. The Government in Lisbon recently introduced a dual system of vocational training, inspired by the German model. More than 50,000 students are already enrolled in the system. Foreign Minister Steinmeier underscored the importance of this for German businesses seeking to invest in Portugal.
Emerging from the crisis
Good vocational training and investment are particularly important in Portugal because the country is still recovering from the serious financial and economic crisis. “We will never forget the support Germany gave us during the crisis,” Santos said in Berlin. He further noted that his country was still relying on this support as it continued to pursue budget consolidation and policies to foster growth. Steinmeier wished the Portuguese people “strength to continue this course” and expressed his respect for the way the country has dealt with the crisis so far.
Common line on refugees
As regards the refugee crisis, the Portuguese Foreign Minister reaffirmed his country’s solidarity and pro‑European stance: “Portugal will shoulder its responsibility as regards taking refugees from Turkey.” Steinmeier thanked him for this declaration and reiterated their shared view “that the present phase, during which the numbers of refugees taking the Balkan route has diminished greatly, gives us another opportunity to work together on European solutions.” Germany was, Steinmeier continued, sure of Portugal’s support in this matter.