Speaking at the end of an official visit to Portugal (1-3 July 2015), Anne Brasseur, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has praised Portugal as a committed European partner and a strong promoter and defender of democratic values.
Ms Brasseur underlined that Portugal is an example for many countries in Europe. “I was impressed by the high degree of commitment of the Portuguese authorities to advancing ambitious reforms, in particular those in relation to the judiciary. This is clearly of the utmost importance, even in a period of economic weakness, but the reforms also have to be effectively implemented.”
While welcoming the important efforts made in the fight against corruption, the PACE President noted that the level of corruption in the country was still high. “I hope that the authorities will continue the positive co-operation with our Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), which has recently carried out a visit to Portugal in the framework of its IV Evaluation Round focusing on corruption in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors. I have been informed by the Minister of Justice that special efforts are under way, in particular to promote the adoption of codes of conduct for all public officials. I hope that this and other initiatives will be successful and will contribute to reinforcing a culture of integrity.”
In her bilateral discussions, Ms Brasseur also focused on the rise of hatred and intolerance in Europe and called on the Portuguese authorities to continue promoting tolerance and respect. While populist rhetoric and xenophobia in Portugal are quite low, we must not let down our guard: on the contrary, we have to continue to build a more tolerant and inclusive society. During my meetings at the parliamentary level, I was in particular impressed by the constructive dialogue and respectful co-operation between members of different political groups belonging to both the majority and the opposition. This contributes to a positive climate for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.”
Turning to the role and the future of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, Ms Brasseur noted that the centre has a key role to play in fostering dialogue and co-operation with southern neighbours, notably in the fields of migration and the fight against radicalisation and extremism. “The North-South Centre is a unique platform to implement the Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions and to promote the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law beyond Europe. The centre is now more important than ever and needs to be provided with adequate tools and resources in order to better meet current challenges and use its full potential,” she said.
During her official visit, the PACE President met the President of the Republic Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the Speaker of the Assembly of the Republic Maria da Assunção Esteves, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rui Machete, and the Minister of Justice Paula Teixeira da Cruz, as well as representatives of different political groups in the Assembly of the Republic. She also held an exchange of views with the Director of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, José Frederico Drummond Ludovice, the Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, and with NGOs working on human rights issues.