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.