Michael Roth, Germany's Minister of State for Europe, and the Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, Bruno Maçães, met today in the German Foreign Office in Berlin for an initial and comprehensive exchange of views.
The meeting between Mr Roth and Mr Maçães focused on the future of the European Union. Both counterparts agreed that it is important that the EU should not be seen as part of the problem in the eyes of European citizens, but instead as the solution. To this end, combating the dramatically high levels of youth unemployment in Portugal and across Europe will stay on the top of the EU agenda. There was a common understanding that social cohesion must be strengthened while initiatives for growth and employment must be advanced. Both agreed that this is an important message that should be transmitted in the run up to the European Parliament elections in May.
It was acknowledged that strengthening Europe's fundamental values must become another top priority for European politics, with Mr Roth adding: "Europe is more than the single market and more than the single currency. The EU is a Union of values. The European Union can only be confident in promoting its values beyond its borders if it is also consistent in living out these values at home. Therefore, we need an effective mechanism to protect our values -- democracy, rule of law, protection of minorities -- where they are under threat.
The dialogue also focused on the situation in Portugal. Continued structural reforms and budget consolidation have been major efforts which help strengthen the Eurozone as a whole. Portugal is set to end the European financial assistance programme in May. On this matter, Mr Maçães said: "It has been a difficult period for our country and for the European Union. However, there are many things to look forward to with the European elections around the corner, and encouraging signs such as restoring economic growth and employment at the national and EU level."
Finally, Mr Roth and Mr Maçães agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation between Portugal and Germany. In this regard, they highlighted the upcoming second German-Portuguese Forum which will take place in Berlin on 10th-11th March.