President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal is on a 5-day trip to the Russian Federation to sign bilateral economic and diplomatic agreements and to continue the process of friendship initiated between the two countries in 1994.
President Jorge Sampaio begins his 5-day trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg on October 25th, on which he is accompanied by 40 Portuguese businessmen, a good indication of the economic importance of this visit to the Portuguese. The interest of the businessmen is clear: due to budgetary restrictions in the Portuguese civil service, they had to pay for the trip out of their own pockets.
A range of sectors are covered by the Portuguese committee, from banking, construction, telecommunications and tourism to cork, furniture, ceramics and wine. The fact that the Minister of the Economy, Dr. Braga de Macedo, is accompanying the President and from the Foreign Office, Luis Amado, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, provides an objective view of the weighting between the economic and diplomatic sides of the event.
However, also on the agenda will be talks about the international situation and the plan of the agenda for 2002, when Portugal will assume the presidency of the OSCE. The peace process in Angola will also be discussed.
The documents to be signed are a consular convention, a memorandum of understanding between the Russian and Portuguese foreign ministries and draft documents on the promotion and protection of investment, tourism and immigration.
It will be remembered that there are reportedly over 100,000 immigrants in Portugal from Russia, the Ukraine and Moldavia, the majority being Ukrainians.
Guennadi Tarassov, the Russian Ambassador to Lisbon, called this visit the beginning of “a new phase in Russian-Portuguese relations” and pointed out that this process was begun in 1994, with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, since when economic, commercial and cultural exchanges have increased.
He declared that Portugal is respected in Russia because the country “has gained prestige as an open and interested interlocutor”.
Archives belonging to the Russian Empire, dated before the 1917 Revolution, held by Portugal, will also be handed over, although this gesture will be purely symbolic since most of these archives were delivered to Moscow in 1990.
The Russian people are regarded with great respect and friendship by the Portuguese, themselves an enigma to most Europeans, who wrongly associate this country with Spain, its larger neighbour in the Iberian Peninsula.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL