Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Business Merit to the president of the Portuguese Business Association (AEP), Paulo Nunes de Almeida.
"For your dedication to entrepreneurial activity and to this association's leadership, with a vision not only for the region but for the whole country, the Portuguese State could not fail to honor you with the Grand Cross of the Order of Business Merit," Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at the AEP 170th anniversary dinner.
The accolade was awarded to Paulo Nunes de Almeida immediately after the speech. The event took place at the Port Wine Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, in an initiative that brings together government members, entrepreneurs, and the leaders of several associations, universities and institutions.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa began by revealing he had planned to "talk about the challenges facing private initiative in the world, in Europe, and in Portugal," but decided to deliver three messages, which he summarized as: "A compliment to the North [of the country], a compliment to private initiative, and another to the AEP president."
"We cannot ignore the decisive weight of the northern region, Porto's decisive spirit, and within the northern region, Porto's specific weight in terms of economic development, social justice, creativity, innovation, and the ability to anticipate challenges and project legitimate dreams for the future. It has been, it is, and it will always be like that. The 170 years [of the AEP, which is based in Porto] are an example of this spirit and of the services such spirit has rendered to Portugal," the president said.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also argued that it is private initiative that "creates wealth in Portugal" - although he pointed out that "it is obvious that it is up to the State to define the normative frameworks, to regulate what must be regulated, promoted and encouraged."
The Portuguese president further argued that the "social sector" has "a very important mission" - a mission, he said, that became particularly visible "during the very difficult crisis" that swept the country some years ago.
"But it is in private initiative, in businessmen and entrepreneurs, that we will find the drivers of growth and social justice. They may have debts but they work every day to fulfill their obligations and to be an example for Portuguese society. They are the key factors for the country's progress. It has been, it is, and it will always be like that." he said moments before awarding the Grand Cross of the Order of Business Merit to the AEP president.
Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira also praised the AEP, saying that this association "is a partner and major actor that supports companies and institutions," and highlighted "the associative movement's effort to modernize and adapt to the new times."
On the other hand, the evening's host - AEP president Paulo Nunes de Almeida - welcomed guests by speaking of the association's connection to Porto, but especially to the country, and mentioned several projects.
"Today, as in 1849, the AEP believes its main duty is to fight, with all the means at its disposal, so that Portugal can recover its ancient reputation as a dynamic, ambitious and determined country, and to help it mobilize for harmonious social development in an atmosphere of justice and social peace," said Paulo Nunes de Almeida.