When I was informed about the subject of this panel, I must say that I felt tempted, not only to say a few words at this Conference, but also to start writing a whole book on the many issues related to the mutual presence of
But, I soon realised that the experience I gained over the last fifteen years, dealing with EU affairs, was so intensely on the ground, sometimes so much focused on concrete and very detailed issues, that it would be very difficult for me to take a distanced view. So, you will be spared reading my imaginary book; but I’m afraid you may suffer 10 or 15 minutes of frank and frequently un-diplomatic comments.
Let me start with the past, as has been suggested.
What has been the role of
I will select three examples of areas where
The “mutually selfish” dimension: it is commonplace to say that the entry of
The second point, “at the core of the
A third area of our common path is the “external front”. For example, it has been possible for
Now, I will try to answer your second question: how did
This is not a simple question and it depends on what those objectives were, on their own evolution throughout the times and on the degree of ambition of the two actors.
Speaking from a Portuguese perspective, I must say that the three basic strategic elements behind the Portuguese presence in the European institutions – stabilisation of the internal democratic process, economic and social development, reinforcement of the political role of
How was this done?
I would say that the answer lies basically in the fact that we take
But I wish I could say that we also had been able – as Spain was – to create a solid and efficient “lobby” inside the EU institutions; that our representation in the European Parliament functions in permanent operational harmony in the defence of our national interests; that all economic sectors and civil society are fully mobilised to integrate EU policies and embody “EU culture” in their day-by-day life, that beyond being efficient on regularly collecting funds from Brussels.
Unfortunately, I can not say this.
A few words about the official attitude of
The third question presented in the paper is related with the leverage of
I would start by saying, from the outset and in the most candid way, that
But the outcome of the Nice Treaty being what it was, I must say that the future respective power of
Answering more directly the question of the small/larger states divide, I must say that, while this being an important element in the exercise of power inside the European Union, this factor does not represent the substantive dividing lines in the day-by-day life of the
One needs to understand that, most of the time, the interests of countries like
Since European Union is a “club of rich countries”, in which only a minority is clearly poorer, it is very difficult to be part of Europe’s “wrong side” and, simultaneously, not having enough institutional power (votes, deputies in the European Parliament, staff in the machinery of the Commission) to defend our minority positions.
And, if you also take into account that most of the decisions in EU are now taken by qualified majority voting (instead of unanimity, as was the rule in the past), and subject to the scrutiny of the European Parliament (where the larger and the richest countries have a disproportionate representation), you may begin to understand how difficult it is to represent the interests of a country like mine in the day-to-day life in the European Union.
This incursion I made into the functioning of the European Union also illustrates the different position of countries like
As I said, we are, not infrequently, together in the tendency of votes and in the mutual pursuit of interests. I would say, ironically, that, in the day-to-day life of the
The next question – about our country’s position regarding the process of European integration - is difficult for me to develop, as I have not followed closely the European debate since I left the Portuguese government, in March. Nevertheless, I have the impression that
Finally, the question of enlargement.
This is a very interesting debate. We saw some countries go from being the great promoters of enlargement to becoming part of the most reticent, As it become clear to them that they were unable to calm the fears of their own public opinion regarding the “side effects” of enlargement, they did not have the courage to sustain the strategic arguments they used at the beginning of that process. These are the same countries that have always opposed the idea of a second level of integration as a transitional step; they defended full integration, that is, until the moment they realised its price. Now, they are openly using delaying tactics, as the real problems become evident.
Let’s be frank about enlargement, as my country has always been. Enlargement is a strategic step to stabilise, in democratic and developing terms, an area of the continent in which we have the historical opportunity to guarantee political models similar to those existing on the Western side of the continent. Not because they are similar to ours, but because they represent the best framework for improving the lives of those people and the respect for their basic rights, as they have always democratically expressed their wish to join the
For our part, we are prepared to take on our share of responsibility for the cost of an enlargement that we have supported from the beginning. But each of the members of the
I think I have covered the areas suggested. Allow me a final word about the future positions
My conclusion may not be politically correct, but it is what I believe to be the reality: it is my firm opinion that some factors for potential divergence between
I will give you four examples.
As I said earlier,
As a second point, I assume that, in the short term,
Finally, in the institutional area, Nice was not “our finest hour” in what our mutual understanding of the division of power is concerned. In this respect, I will only say that any attempt to change the present, very delicate balance of representation of both countries, in what concerns the decision-making process of the Union, may lead to major and serious difficulties.
These are some of the potential areas for divergence. But let’s be clear: the areas of agreement will always be much larger and they will remain the proof that convergence is the rule in what concerns the relations between the two countries of the