CPLP and the dialogue between Europe and the World

Augusto Santos Silva, ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros de Portugal

Augusto Santos Silva, ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros de Portugal

  |  Paulo Spranger / Global Imagens

The Santa Maria Summit (Sal Island), which marked the beginning of Cape Verde's CPLP presidency, has included nine external observers - eight countries and one international organization. We might ask ourselves what led France, the UK, Italy, Luxembourg, Andorra, Serbia, Chile and Argentina, as well as the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), to request that status. The obvious answer is that they believe it is useful and interesting. It may seem strange in a media environment such as the Portuguese one, so indelibly marked by criticism and indifference towards the CPLP, but there are several countries around the world interested in the organization and in building partnerships with it. These external observers were represented at the summit by Lisbon-based ambassadors - another element that an analytical assessment should take into account.

From now on, the CPLP has 19 associated observers, more than double the effective members. There is another language-based organization - the OEI, comprising Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries in Europe and Latin America - and it is known that the French-Speaking International Organization is also interested in establishing ties with the CPLP. And then we have Brazil's neighbors - Uruguay, Argentina and Chile (and, in the future, Peru); neighbors of Portuguese-Speaking African Countries (PALOP) such as Namibia and Senegal; as well as several European countries (inside and outside the European Union) and Japan.

This means that the CPLP's distinctive characteristics - nine 'maritime' states with diverse regional contexts, sharing a rapidly expanding (both culturally and demographically) language - are taken into account in multiple external policies. Another important factor is that some of the new associated observers - such as France, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg - host demographically significant Portuguese communities.

My intention here is not to downplay the CPLP's internal dynamics, which are equally promising. In Santa Maria, the delegations of the eight Member States were led by Heads of State and/or

Government. We had not seen such a clear demonstration of the importance of the Community as a platform for political dialogue and discussion in a long time. The advantages of combining efforts to promote language, especially within the UN, are also more evident today. One just has to consider the impact of Language Day celebrations last May 5 in New York. As for cooperation, the motto that guides Cape Verde's presidency - People, Culture, Oceans - translates the organization's fundamental identity trait (culture), the goal that best interconnects the Member States' global action (oceans), and the domain in which the organization's social dimension can build stronger roots (people).

In this regard, it is worth mentioning the problem of mobility. In 2017, Portugal and Cape Verde presented a joint proposal for the creation of a residence permit system valid for all CPLP countries and based on the criterion of nationality. This system depends on the reciprocal recognition of academic and professional qualifications, as well as on the portability of social rights.

In its simplicity and radicality, it will transform the CPLP into a true citizenship space. The proposal is still being worked on, both technically and politically. The Santa Maria Declaration reiterates its centrality and suggests an intermediate path for its implementation, starting with academic and cultural mobility. I believe that by the end of 2020, the articulation of the initiatives of the current and next CPLP Executive Secretary and of the Cape Verdean and Angolan presidencies can produce tangible, visible progress.

But I want to dwell on a too-oft overlooked point, one which the increase in the number of associated observers clearly demonstrates: the importance of the CPLP as a whole, and/or of several countries whose influence it enhances in the relationship between Europe and other regions of the world. The CPLP helps Europe's dialogue with the South Atlantic region, which is crucial for the safety of the European Union's trade routes, energy supply, and geostrategic environment. The CPLP helps Europe's dialogue with Latin America, through Brazil, of course, but also through the organization's three Spanish-speaking observers - and also through cooperation between Portuguese-speaking countries and Ibero-American spaces, to be established in the near future. The CPLP helps Europe's dialogue with Asia, thanks to East Timor, Japanese cooperation, which is so useful in Africa, and the triangular cooperation between China, Portugal and PALOP countries. The CPLP helps, in a particularly relevant manner, Europe's relationship with the entire African continent.

In fact, in order to embrace the whole continent, European partnerships cannot be restricted to North Africa, the Sahel or the Horn of Africa. Europe must also build stronger partnerships with Western Africa and especially Central and Southern Africa - for which the relationship with the CPLP is very instrumental. This is why there are currently seven EU Member States with the status of CPLP associated observers.

Portugal must understand this better than anyone else and act accordingly.

*Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal