Speech By The President Of The Portuguese Republic At The Plenary Meeting Of The Grand Turkish National Assembly - Ankara, 12 May 2009
Mister President of the Republic,
Mister Speaker of the Grand Turkish National Assembly,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My first words are of gratitude for the honourable invitation to be the first Head of State of my country to address this notable Assembly. I see in this gesture a sign of friendship and regard towards Portugal and the Portuguese which greatly moves me. It is thus in my name, but also on behalf of my People, that I thank and salute this Assembly, symbol of the sovereign will of the Turkish nation.
The Turkish people are amongst those few, whose actions often determined the course of History. Their multiple achievements, the immense richness of their heritage, the great dimension of so many of their personalities are extremely impressive. But the History of the Turkish people is larger than the sum of all this. It is a source of examples of character and determination without which victories are not won, nor adversity overcome.
These are the people who were reborn at a difficult time and erected modern Turkey as a main protagonist in the international scene, heard, respected and, in several fields, an example to be followed. The people which were the pride of Atatürk, who called it “the source of all sovereignty”, as stated in the motto of this House.
Honourable Members of Parliament
Great people and great nations also carry great responsibilities in the building of the world we wish for.
And what world is that?
A world in which the prevailing issues are peace, stability, security and respect for human dignity that all peoples require for their economic and social progress and which each individual needs to become fully assertive.
Alexandre Herculano was a great figure of Portuguese History in the XIX century, novelist, historian, warrior and politician. He used to say that “desire measures the obstacles and will conquers them”.
It is not necessary to go very far to identify the obstacles which block the materialization of the world we crave for. It is enough to look around us, to recall the events which marked our recent History. Lessons learned from existing challenges and from those we can easily anticipate are evident, in what we see and in what we are living.
Conflicts between peoples and nations, terrorist violence, lack of security, food and energy crises, financial and economic crisis, environmental degradation and climate change related disasters, diseases which fast become global pandemics: from all this we are called upon to acquire learning, should we want a better world for us and our children.
Each one will form his own conclusions.
Mine tell me that hunger, poverty, injustice and impunity in the face of clearly condemnable behaviours, the absence of hope and intolerance, nourish the feelings of exclusion and humiliation and favour the outbreak of conflict. It is also there that the forces of terror find favourable ground to spread their unacceptable and non-negotiable logic of death and destruction.
Let us recall the prices reached by fossil energies and foodstuffs when the first warnings of a financial and economic crisis still sounded to many as the statements of incorrigible sceptics. Let us think what may happen when this crisis is over, should the scarcity of the resources we need to live in accordance with our current parameters be confirmed. Let us add to this already sufficiently worrying reality, the more than foreseeable water crisis, a vital resource which is not inexhaustible, but which we are treating as if it were.
The reading I make of recent events also tells me that market economy is the best way to add freedom to economic and social progress. But it is equally essential, for this to be confirmed, that both the State and competent Institutions shoulder their responsibilities in the matter of regulation and supervision and that ethical values and principles are firmly imbued in the operation of the financial markets.
What I am given to witness, also tells me that none of our efforts in favour of the world which we want will be of any value if we do nothing to fight the effects of climate change. The idea that there may be anyone who will benefit, in case the scenarios for which the scientists have been warning us materialize, is dangerously illusory.
Finally, the most important inference seems to be implicit in all that I have just referred: the main challenges which we are facing are either global due to their own nature or have become so, as a result of the interdependency among States. Protectionism is not possible when the challenges are undeniably global – nothing is gained from closing the borders to climate change, for example. Protectionism would only lead to a larger crisis when we are facing the result of interdependency among States. Never, as now, was the need for international coordination tools more obvious.
International coordination which allows a better prevention of conflicts among nations and to combat its causes and effects; which guarantees a more effective defence against terrorism; which promotes disarmament and prevents the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; which eases the anticipation of energy, foodstuffs, financial and economic crises and favours a faster and more effective intervention should these occur.
The effectiveness of international coordination requires representation in the decision making structures that reflects the reality of these times, thus easing the universal acceptance of the resulting decisions. Coordination that recognizes the geographical, historical and cultural diversity which characterizes the States and their multifaceted interests. Coordination that does not ignore the increasingly relevant role played by regional organizations.
For this reason, Portugal believes that the composition of the G-20 cannot ignore regional organizations. That is also why Portugal has presented its candidacy to a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for the biennium 2011-2012. Let me use this occasion to express once again my deep gratitude for Turkey’s support.
International coordination, to be credible, must be based upon principles and values. In the case of the United Nations these are translated into universal documents. We have to make sure they are effectively implemented. With respect to financial architecture, it is essential in my view that it is made clear to our public opinions that decisions are ruled by ethical standards. The allocation of resources can not ignore the needs of the weakest, the developing countries.
This international coordination would be one that also values the structures that foster links between peoples and cultures, as it is the case with the Alliance of Civilizations, of which Turkey was one of the founding fathers.
It is a question of drawing the due inferences from the reality to which Atatürk referred, in his visionary words, when he told us that “Humanity is as one only body, of which each nation is a part”, and adding that “we can never say: what does it matter if a part of the world suffers? Should that suffering exist, we must feel we were struck by it as if it were our own”.
In effect, we must shoulder the political implications of a global citizenship.
It is within this framework that, for us Europeans, the advantages of the European Union stand out. A strong European Union, credible and assertive in the international scene, capable of speaking out cohesively, on behalf of all of its peoples, and to guarantee and project peace, security and social and economic progress.
European integration, particularly through its values and its social and economic model, must influence and induce the responses to the great challenges of our time, be they security, climate change or the economic and financial crisis. To undertake these struggles, Europe needs Turkey.
With Turkey’s accession - besides the enrichment brought by the integration of a great nation with a multifaceted cultural reality - the European Union gains a growing strategic relevance, which will allow it to act with much greater weight in areas which are fundamental for its collective future. Two examples: energy and external policy.
The European Union needs a common energy policy. A policy which will ensure, externally, a diversity of sources of supply as well as of distribution circuits and, internally, the interconnection of networks. Turkey may have, in this field, a decisive contribution to make.
On the other hand, Turkey guarantees an increased projection to the European Union’s external policy due to its means of defence; to its influence in the immediate vicinity of the Union as well as in areas with a fundamental strategic importance for the Union; to the contribution that the integration of a great Islamic and democratic nation provides towards the defence of the values and principles on which the European project is based.
But allow me to emphasize: if the European Union we wish for needs Turkey, so does Turkey need Europe.
Due to the experience with my own Country I can state, with conviction, that full integration in the European Union will allow Turkey to consolidate its development and modernization process and will guarantee it a much greater international projection. I know well that there is a great difference when our international interlocutors speak to us as individual States, than as members of an organization such as the European Union, capable of influencing their decision procedures.
Consequence of a History which took us to the four corners of the earth, Portugal has very close ties with the Portuguese speaking countries. With these it founded a Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, which has been increasingly asserting itself in the international scene. However, we have no doubts that, even when dialoguing with these countries so akin to us, our weight is much greater because we belong in the European Union.
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Speaking of Turkey’s accession to the European Union brings to my memory the accession of my own Country.
Portugal’s accession was a lengthy and complex process, which faced multiple obstacles. Opponents voiced warnings as to the costs which would represent our development differential, to the threat constituted by the migratory flows with which we would confront the richer Member States, and our own idiosyncrasy, which would condemn us to place our loyalties nearer to the Atlantic interests and to the relations with our former colonies, than we would to Europe. And so forth.
But, returning to Alexandre Herculano, “desire measures the obstacles and will conquers them”. Desire was not lacking, neither was the will. We knew that our place was in Europe, and that our national interest lay there, and that we could not remain on the edge of the process of European integration.
We had to comply with demanding accession criteria. These obliged us to adapt structures, often radically, to transpose an impressive volume of community legislation, to introduce deep reforms which implied far reaching constitutional and legislative changes. We had to rethink how we viewed our place in the world.
Today I have no doubts in stating that it was all worth while.
Each country is a reality. Turkey is not Portugal and Portugal is not Turkey.
Therefore, I ask you to accept my recollection of our own experience not as lessons which would anyway not be suitable, but as the words of a friend, who would like to see you sitting at the table of European decisions.
Honourable Members of Parliament
My Visit wants to contribute to the strengthening of relations between our two countries, Allied for long in NATO, and partners in the Council of Europe.
Excellent relations on the political level, but far from their potential, in other fields. It is time to change this state of affairs.
I have brought with me a significant entrepreneurial delegation, from some of the most dynamic sectors of our economy. An economy which, nowadays, is a creator and exporter of high technology, which has achieved a relevant worldwide stage, in areas with great interest to Turkey, such as renewable energies, building of infrastructures, tourism , telecommunications. An internationalized economy that is present in markets which it knows particularly well, such as Portuguese speaking Africa and Brazil. Which want to reach markets where Turkey has a relevant situation.
The programme of this Visit was organized in order to promote contacts between these entrepreneurs and their Turkish counterparts. I am sure that they will be able to find new business and partnership opportunities.
But it is important that cooperation between us becomes closer on other sectors, such as science, culture, academia and tourism. It is my firm belief that the various segments of the programme which was established with the inestimable help of the Turkish authorities will contribute to the strengthening of the contacts and cooperation in these areas.
Lastly, it is necessary that our Peoples know each other better.
In my visits to Turkey, including those which took place privately, I was frequently amazed with the wealth of its historical heritage, and impressed with the determination of its people and the achievements of modern Turkey.
But there was something which particularly touched me: the similarities which I found between us and led me to wonder whether I was really outside my own Country. In Turkey, as a European and a Portuguese, I feel at home.
That is how I feel, today, before you, in this notable House of Turkish democracy.
Thank you very much.
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