Cooperation as an important tool for the Portuguese Foreign Policy Organização Nacional

The Portuguese foreign policy, drawn right after the Carnation Revolution, despite having had few changes over the years is based on the three pillars. The three pillars of the Portuguese foreign policy are: Europe, now turned to the institutional relations with the European Union, where since its accession Portugal has tried to keep a forefront position, having been among the first countries to join the Schengen area and the Eurozone. Portugal had in this framework several Presidential of the Council of the EU, that permitted to show the Portuguese capacity in managing problems, such as the Bosnia War, but also in finding new dialogues with the EU-Africa and EU-Brazil summit.

Portugal, in promoting the summits with Africa and Brazil was defending another pillar of its foreign policy, the PALOP (Portuguese-speaking African countries) and all the Lusophone world. It is in this pillar that the international cooperation for development (ICD) has more importance for the Portuguese foreign policy, for having a direct influence in their application. However in a multilateral level, Portugal through their contributions to the European budget, there are funds that the EU will use for ICD projects. Some of these projects can represent Portuguese interests, but they are not seen as projected and done by Portugal.

The last pillar of the Portuguese foreign policy is connected with the Atlantic ocean, Portugal is aware that they can take more advantages of its sea, being one of the largest entrance gate and passageway of people and goods to Europe. In this pillar we can also include the Portuguese relations with the United States and other Atlantic countries, but as well the NATO, of which Portugal is a founder member.

The Portuguese cooperation also came after the Carnation Revolution, and has evolved slowly since then, because of the Portuguese option for a decentralized system. This system did not permit to achieve big values, but instead there is a greater specialization in the Portuguese cooperation activities, which permitted a higher incidence in areas such as education. Just two years after the Carnation Revolution, Portugal created an organization to manage its cooperation programs, however this organization has always been in constant changes, which did not help the Portuguese Cooperation to grow even more.

The last government put together two organizations: IPAD, which was responsible for the Portuguese Cooperation, and Camões, responsible for the Portuguese language. This new organization, called in Portuguese: Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua Portuguesa, put together the cooperation and the language, showing that the promotion of Portuguese language has more institutional importance than the cooperation. Its also important to understand that when the last government did this, Portugal was passing through an assistance aid, so the ICD was seen as low priority by the former government.

However, the Portuguese cooperation guidelines, as well as the pillars of the Portuguese foreign policy, little or nothing changed, showing that Portugal remains committed to the causes taken decades ago.

The PALOP countries and East Timor receive the biggest part of the Portuguese official development  assistance (ODA), as these countries are part of one of pillars of the Portuguese foreign policy, the ODA is an important toll for the Portuguese foreign policy. In the policy framework of Portuguese cooperation those countries, as well the other CPLP members (Community of Portuguese Language Countries), are a geostrategic and geopolitical priority for Portugal.

After the decolonization process Portugal kept relations with its former colonies, not only because of the long historical connection, but also because of the cultural and linguistic affinities that still connect both parts. There are also the legal order, that is similar to the Portuguese law, which permits a bigger comprehension of the local realities, thus facilitating the implementation of ICD projects in those countries.

It is of great interest to Portugal to keep good relations and promoting the population welfare in the Portuguese speaking countries. Hence, in the Portuguese cooperation action framework it contains sectoral factors such as good governance, sustainable development, combating poverty, improving health and education conditions for these populations, and rural development.

As mentioned, the last Portuguese government did put the Portuguese cooperation in a low priority, but despite this fact the guidelines of the Portuguese cooperation are still the same, and regardless of budget cuts and a lack of strategic direction, Portugal continues to develop projects with quality and in specific areas. Maybe what helped to keep this was the decentralized model of the Portuguese cooperation, which permitted that even as seen as low priority by the government, the various ministries and private actors kept showing that there is future for the Portuguese cooperation.

During the Diplomatic Seminar, last January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Augusto Santos Silva, stated that "the cooperation for development is not a peripheral area, but central external action”. Before this declaration, in December, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Teresa Ribeiro, said that the current government is committed to "make the Portuguese cooperation for development more strong and effective”. These statements show that the current government wants to revitalize the Portuguese cooperation, it is now up to them to decide if they keep this Portuguese agency for cooperation model, left by the former government, or if they will have again two different organizations that will keep language and cooperation divided.

The reorganization of Camões would not be required, if the Portuguese governments treated as equal the development of language and the cooperation of the Camões . The promotion of the Portuguese language is very important, especially for those countries where the Portuguese language is sometimes seen as a symbol of union (its important to understand that in the former Portuguese colonies there are many creole languages, and Portuguese language is seen as a common language for all), but also the Portuguese language will keep the old connection between Portugal and its old colonies, facilitating the cooperation between stakeholders.

Portugal also has in a multilateral level an important role, once that Portugal is part of important international organizations such as, EU and United Nations, that by supporting its international aid projects it’s indirectly also projecting its cooperation into the Portuguese foreign policy. Portugal also wants to put more efforts in a new type of cooperation: triangular cooperation. This new type of cooperation still in a very embryonic level, but consists in involving a recipient country and two others who share expertise and costs. Teresa Ribeiro said in May that Portugal is committed to increase the number of projects under the umbrella of a triangular cooperation. Portugal has signed a memorandum with Chile, and will sign three more with Uruguay, Germany and France, in this way Portugal will be able to cooperate with those countries and reach to new regions.

Most of the PALOP countries and East Timor remain as fragile states, in order not to become worse they need external financial assistance. Portugal plays an important role here with its ODA, since its a fundamental aid for them. Portugal will keep helping those countries, as it is the national interest to keep good relations and improve the welfare of those local populations.


The Portuguese cooperation guidelines are to maintain, which will show a coherence foreign policy, in this framework the ICD will be an essencial part, not only in a bilateral cooperation with the Lusophone countries but also in a multilateral level where Portugal has showed that despite its low economic capacities it’s able to create human resources ready to struggle for a sustainable development based on the defense of the rule of law.