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First Annual Conference of the German-Portuguese Forum in Lisbon receives positive feedback

The first annual meeting of the German-Portuguese Forum was held at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon on 24 and 25 January 2013. Highlights of the forum, which was attended by approx­i­mately 300 partic­i­pants, were repre­sented by the speeches of the German and the Portuguese Foreign Ministers. These were followed by thematic panels and speeches of policy makers and experts, as inter alia the Parlia­mentary State Secretary of the Federal Minister of Finance, Steffen Kampeter, and the chair­woman of the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag, Petra Merkel.

The German-Portuguese Forum is a civil society initiative, which is coordi­nated and carried out by the Instituto Português de Relações Inter­na­cionais (IPRI-UNL), the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkianin Lisbon, and the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) in Berlin. Serving as a platform for exchange and discussion, the bilateral forum is open to all groups in society and aims to become an important insti­tution of social dialogue between Portugal and Germany promoting ideas and experi­ences between repre­sen­ta­tives and experts from the fields of politics, economy, culture, science and civil society. Objec­tivity and a cross-party political balance are, thereby, considered as funda­mental principles of the forum.Special thanks for the excellent cooperation,the support and the help with the prepa­ration of the Forum is due to the Instituto Português de Relações Inter­na­cionais (IPRI-UNL), the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Portugal, the Portuguese news agency Lusa and the Lisbon Goethe Institut. Moreover, sincere thank is directed towards the Federal Foreign Office. The imple­men­tation of the forum would have been impos­sible without its contri­bution and promotion. At the centre of attention of the first annual conference were discus­sions dealing with the identi­fi­cation of common solutions and answers to the current crisis as well as core prospects for the German-Portuguese partnership. In their addresses, Helmut Elfenkämper (Ambas­sador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Portugal), Artur Santos Silva (President of theFun­dação Calouste Gulbenkian), Nuno Severiano Teixeira (Director of IPRI-UNL) and Mathias Jopp (Director IEP)emphasized the impor­tance of the German-Portuguese relations. Partic­u­larly, the numerous visits of German decision-makers, several MPs and Chancellor Merkel during the last year reflect this impor­tan­ce­Por­tuguese Foreign Minister Paolo Portas elabo­rated on the inter­de­pen­dence of Germany and Portugal in his speech – demanding a ‘win-win situation’ for both countries. Portas, simul­ta­ne­ously, warned against a north-south division in Europe, which could cause lasting damages on the European peace project. German Foreign Minister Guido Wester­welle described the current crisis as a serious test for the European social model. According to him, German policies to combat the crisis are not solely based on austerity measures: solidarity and growth have to go hand in hand in order to promote confi­dence in Europe – there is no other alter­native to a united Europe.The discus­sions of the first panel were concerned with the roles of Portugal and Germany in terms of crisis management and solidarity. Moreover, the panel focused on insti­tu­tional defects of the economic and monetary union, strategies to overcome the crisis in the Euro area and national approaches, which would help the other state respectively.The new transpa­cific era and the challenges for the EU by up-coming powers were topics to the partic­i­pants of the second panel. The question for giving answers to global change and further insti­tu­tional reforms was thereby discussed, in particular.The second day of the conference was opened by a group of experts concerned with the topic: “Portugal and Germany: associates on their way to economic innovation and more compet­itive capacity in a globalised world.” The experts discussed in which areas both states would be willing to cooperate and which advan­tages and compe­tences could result from that.Consensus marked the last panel of the bilateral forum. The majority agreed upon the necessity of reforms in the EU. Jo Leinen, member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and chairman of the European Movement Inter­na­tional, argued for the elabo­ration of a further treaty reform in near future in order to strengthen the legit­imacy of the integration project. Europe has to be brought closer to its citizens for estab­lishing the Union as a social peace project rather than for its rigorous budgetary policies.The German-Portuguese Forum termi­nated with the final speeches of the former EU Commis­sioner Antonio Vitorino and Professor Dr. Werner Weidenfels. The latter under­lined the impor­tance of the EU narrative of taking its role as a global actor seriously. The challenge for the EU is, thereby, to fulfill these expec­ta­tions. If the current crisis would be overcome and the insti­tu­tional system of the EU would be restruc­tured, the focus of the EU will change to foreign policies.On all sides, the first German-Portuguese Forum has been considered as a positive and important contri­bution to a better under­standing and a more vital commu­ni­cation regarding the bilateral relations of both states. A second conference is planned to take place in Berlin in 2014.


Ann-Sophie Gast and Julian Plottka.
Trans­lation into English Ann-Sophie Gast and Katrin Hartmann.