Brazil and the European Union are going to start on Wednesday, July 4, in Lisbon, a strategic partnership, in an innovative summit, which signals the first great initiative of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, inaugurated last Sunday. This way, Portugal is going to "sponsor" the entry of Brazil into the restricted group of Europe's "strategic partners."
These partners will be increased to eight, among them the United States, Russia and China, a fact that has been causing certain discomfort among Mercosur members, who fear the establishment of political and commercial agreements on a bilateral basis, without their involvement.
These closer ties between Europe and Brazil, powered by Portugal, are going to take place after a new impasse in negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Rounds, but both the head of Brazilian diplomacy, Celso Amorim, and the Portuguese ambassador to Brazil, Francisco Seixas da Costa, stated that this way the partnership becomes even more relevant and may become the engine for EU-Mercosur relations.
In the Atlantic Pavilion, in Lisbon, the EU delegation, headed by José Sócrates, the Portuguese prime minister, and by Durão Barroso, president of the European Commission (executive branch of the EU), and the Brazilian delegation, headed by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, are going to discuss the main lines of strengthened political and economic cooperation, which should start in 2008.
At the end of May, Brussels proposed the launch of the partnership, justified by the growing part played by Brazil of the international scenery, the country's weight on a regional level and the strong bilateral ties that there are between the country and Europe.
To Portugal, this is an attempt to "realign" and "force the European eyes to turn in the direction of Latin America," stated Seixas da Costa, recalling that the relations between both parties have lost importance in recent years, due to other concerns, like Eastern Europe, China and other Asian nations.
The EU proposed a certain number of initiatives to strengthen relations between both parties, identifying a vast spectrum of sectors and activities in which the group has fundamental interest in strengthening cooperation and developing deeper dialogue with Brazil.
The document that the Commission transmitted to the European Council and Parliament pointed out the importance of stronger dialogue to support the conclusion of an EU-Mercosur Association Agreement.
The priority areas include the strengthening of multilateralism to be able to work together, geared at a more efficient United Nations (UN) system and at the promotion of Human Rights.
The Commission proposes close cooperation regarding global challenges, like poverty and inequality, environmental questions (especially climate change, forests, management of water resources and biodiversity), energy, the strengthening of stability and the prosperity of Latin America and cooperation for regional integration with the Mercosur.
Showing that Brazil is the most important market for the European Union in Latin America, Brussels proposes the discussion of themes related to trade and investment that are of specific bilateral reference to EU-Mercosur discussions and also suggests the strengthening of cooperation in sectors and areas of joint interest, like economic and financial questions, the information society, aerial transport, maritime transport, science and technology, satellite navigation, social questions and regional development.
Last of all, the Commission suggests actions to bring the peoples closer together through the Erasmus Mundus university student exchange program, through cultural dialogue and also through roundtables between companies, to take place in the sidelines of the summit.
Talks at the Lisbon Summit are going to consider not only the European proposals but also Brazilian ideas, and with the new statutes the highest-level meetings with the European Union will start taking place yearly.
The summit begins at 4 pm, with a plenary session to include the Portuguese minister of Foreign Relations, Luís Amado, the deputy minister of European Affairs, Manuel Lobo Antunes, the European Commissioners for Trade, Peter Mandelson, and Foreign Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Javier Solana, the Slovenian prime minister (future EU president), Janez Jansa, and the Brazilian Celso Amorim.
At 6:30 pm, there will be a press conference with José Sócrates, Durão Barroso, Lula and Javier Solana. After that, the Portuguese president will offer a dinner at the Bethlehem Cultural Center, offices of the first Portuguese presidency of the EU, in 1992. The dinner will also include the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the prime ministers of Italy, Romano Prodi, Spain, José Luis Zapatero, and Slovenia, Janez Jansa.
In the sidelines of the First EU-Brazil Summit, the first EU-Brazil Business Summit will take place, organized by the Portuguese Industrial Association/Business Confederation and by the Confederation of Portuguese Industries (CIP).
The prime minister, José Sócrates, acting president of the EU's European Leadership Council, stated on Friday, in Lisbon, that the main priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union may be translated into a few words: "(new European) Treaty (replacing the failed Constitution of the 27), Brazil, Africa and Lisbon Strategy" for modernization and strengthening the competitiveness of the European Union and for the creation of jobs.