First Portugal-Turkey Intergovernmental Summit
Portugal-Turkey Intergovernmental Summit

The first Portugal-Turkey Intergovernmental Summit was held on the 3rd of March in the Palácio das Necessidades, the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, in Lisbon. This summit was agreed on in Ankara at the end of 2012, when the Portuguese Prime Minister Passos Coelho met Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then Prime Minister, now President of Turkey.

As I wrote before in my article "Portugal and Turkey - the Good Friends", Portugal and Turkey share some similarities and, as the title says, they are good friends. The current political situation in Turkey does not affect their relationship. As their political relations are good, Portugal and Turkey now want to improve their economic relations - both have said repeatedly that there is room to improve their economic relations.

Cultural relations should also grow thanks to the fact that Turkey is now an associate observer in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). The Turkish state television and radio now offer news in Portuguese (TRT) their website, and last year’s Portuguese Language Day was celebrated in Ankara.

While there are a few restaurants and associations that are helping to promote Turkish culture among Portuguese people in Portugal, in Turkey it is impossible to find Portuguese products, even though the Portuguese community is growing every day. Currently, the Portuguese Embassy in Ankara is promoting a Portuguese language course through the Instituto Camões at Ankara University. A partnership like this will also be established with the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul.

At this first summit, the promotion of the Portuguese language in Turkey was discussed by both countries’ Ministers of Education, and at the same time it was agreed that the Turkish language would be introduced as an option for pupils in Portuguese high schools.

In the 2013/2014 school year, Portuguese universities received 744 Turkish students to do their Erasmus program in Portugal, more than from the United Kingdom, France or Sweden. The number of Portuguese students doing their Erasmus in Turkey is also growing every year. These interactions help to promote both cultures and languages, and many Turkish students stay in Portugal to study for a master’s degree, and many Portuguese students go back to Turkey to work.

Not only did the Ministers of Education from Portugal and Turkey meet at this first Intergovernmental Summit, but also the Prime Ministers, the Deputy Prime-Ministers, the Ministers of Finance, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs (including the Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs) and the Ministers of Defence.

Before the summit, the Turkish delegation had time to meet the President of the Republic of Portugal, Cavaco Silva. They also met the Muslim community in Portugal, in the Central Mosque of Lisbon, and paid tribute to the memory of the Turkish diplomats killed in a terrorist attack in Lisbon in 1982. Ahmet Davutoğlu also met with the former President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio, who was also the first High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative promoted by Spain and Turkey.

Portuguese investments in Turkey are bigger than the opposite, which is almost zero, but this will change now that a Turkish consortium (Global Yatırım Holding/Global Ports) has won a project in the seaport of Lisbon. The trade balance of goods is also better for Portugal, which exported €403,6 million last year and imported from Turkey €387,7 million (data from AICEP Portugal Global).

The Business Association of Portugal is going to Istanbul next month to try to establish some more partnerships. A business summit between Portugal and Turkey is scheduled in October and will help to achieve new agreements.

During the summit in Lisbon, priorities were identified for companies in the agri-food industry, construction, transport, energy, pharmaceutical, health, defense industries, tourism and real estate.

Turkish Airlines will increase the number of flights to Lisbon (twice a day) and start to fly from Istanbul to Porto (once a day), this will have good consequences, helping not only contact between businessmen but also the tourism industry to grow in these two markets. In Portugal, the revenue from Turkish tourists has grown 45,5% a year on average since 2010. Since 2013, Portuguese citizens do not need a passport to travel to Turkey, but they still need to buy a visa online. Turkish citizens still need a passport and a Schengen visa to visit Portugal.

The question of Turkey in the European Union is always present, Portugal fully supports Turkey as a member of the EU. At the press conference, both Prime-ministers highlighted that more efforts are necessary in this long process of accession.

Passos Coelho, the Portuguese Prime Minister, said that “Turkey must no longer be a country that has a symbolic say in the EU family photos, but assume a position actually in our family” and his Turkish partner, Ahmet Davutoğlu, thanked the Portuguese for their support saying “this is the strong and clear voice Turkey needs in the EU”. The Turkish Prime Minister also noted that “Portugal has emerged as one of Turkey's spokesmen in Brussels, and appears to be the country that best understands Turkey”.

International affairs were also discussed by the Foreign Affairs Ministers. The tensions in Ukraine (including the situation of Tatar people in Crimea), the Middle East (the refugees in Turkey, the problem of ISIS and the domestic developments in Egypt), the current situation in Libya and the nuclear talks of Iran are matters that worry Portugal and Turkey. Africa was also discussed - Turkey wants to gain more influence in Africa, and Portugal can help with this. A close cooperation between Portugal and Turkey can be developed in Africa in the next years, especially with the Portuguese-speaking African Countries (PALOP).

The impasse in Cyprus was also touched upon, and the final declaration highlighted the importance of a peaceful international environment that includes safety principles of solidarity and indivisibility from NATO members. Portugal and Turkey both condemn terrorism. Duting the press conference after the summit, Passos Coelho highlighted “the experience of Turkey has been positive to prevent this threat from progressing to a more dangerous form. Turkey has played an important role on the ground to prevent these threats and control these movements”.  He also highlighted Turkey’s “enormous humanitarian effort”  to welcome refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Portugal and Turkey also defended a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and a lasting solution to the Palestinian conflict that should pass by an independent, contiguous and sovereign state. Portugal and Turkey will continue to support their candidacies to positions in international and regional organizations.

In total, four agreements were signed between Portugal and Turkey during the summit: one at economic level, between the Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal (AICEP - Portugal Global) and its counterpart Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK); one in the field of education; one on mutual protection of classified information and a protocol between the food safety authorities of Portugal and Turkey (the Economic Food Safety Authority (ASAE) and the General Directorate of Food and Control (GDFC)). The new agreements add up to those already existing from other summits between Portugal and Turkey.

The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Ali Babacan, said that Portugal and Turkey are two friendly and partner countries that have “excellent” relations. The summit showed this one more time; despite the current situation in Turkey with the AKP government being accused of authoritarianism and problems with freedom of speech, both countries want to have improved economic relations. The four new agreements will help in the development of their good relations, which will continue in the next years, despite possible changes in domestic politics in any of the two countries after this years’ elections.