Things were actually supposed to turn out quite differently. Two years ago, when preparations began for the successive EU presidencies of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia from July 2020 to December 2021, there was a consensus that the EU’s relations with the UK and the European response to climate change should be at the top of the agenda during these 18 months. Numerous meetings in the trio format took place in Berlin, Lisbon and Ljubljana between representatives of German, Portuguese and Slovenian ministries to define our common agenda for Europe.
However, with the COVID‑19 pandemic, Europe’s economic and social recovery has now shifted to the top of the agenda. Portugal’s voice is also particularly important in these debates. After all, Portugal successfully managed to overcome the impacts of the euro crisis.
At the same time, Portugal continues to be a key pro‑European partner for Germany. German-Portuguese relations are so strong primarily because they are built on a common foundation, namely a shared commitment to the EU and to European values. From as early as the transition to democracy in the 1970s, German parties specifically supported Portuguese pro‑democracy players. The fall of the dictatorship was, at the end of the day, a prerequisite for Portugal’s accession to the European Community, the predecessor organisation of today’s EU.
Strong economic ties for a strong Europe
Among the many lessons learned during the COVID‑19 pandemic is the realisation that the European economy should become more resilient in key areas in order to safeguard basic services for our populations and to better protect its economies against external shocks. Germany and Portugal already enjoy excellent economic ties. Germany is currently the largest foreign employer in Portugal, with over 400 German companies accounting for approximately 50,000 jobs. At the same time, Germany has a special role to play as one of Portugal’s largest trading partners.
As the partner country at the Hannover Messe in 2022, Portugal will be showcased in Germany and around the world as a place for business and investment. The digital transformation and renewable energies in particular have great potential for deepening economic relations between Germany and Portugal. The Portuguese Government’s national recovery plan is also most timely in seeking to implement the “double transition” in digital affairs and sustainability. Moreover, choosing Portugal as a partner country sends an important signal to our European partners at a time when the sovereignty and resilience of the European economy need to be strengthened. The German Embassy in Lisbon and the German-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce launched this initiative and supported it from the outset.
Working together to promote European understanding
Cultural and social relations between Germany and Portugal are also close. Starting in 2021, the German-Portuguese Journalism Award will pay tribute each year to outstanding journalistic contributions about the respective other country. In the same year, the Portuguese literary scene will also have a unique opportunity to present itself to a large German audience as the Guest of Honour at the Leipzig Book Fair.
With a view to encouraging more young Portuguese people to learn German as a foreign language, the Goethe-Institut is helping more than 50 schools throughout Portugal to design and optimise their German language teaching programmes. Among the many language promotion activities is a student theatre competition held in German held each year (COVID‑19 permitting) in Almada on the southern banks of the Tagus River. The city is also home to the professional Festival de Almada, the largest theatre festival in Portugal and a cooperation partner of several leading German theatres. This was one of the few Portuguese cultural festivals that could be held in the summer of 2020 in adapted form despite the COVID‑19 pandemic.