Draft November 1995



Jorge Braga de Macedo


The Portuguese idea of Europe reflects a history of multiple allegiances which often appears to determine the nation's identity over and above the will of its people. In other words, multiple allegiances are a destiny - or fate - rather then a choice. This alledged fate supports a recurrent ambiguity between a sense of belonging to Europe and a sense of greater proximity to Africa and Latin America.

When this ambiguity generates a positive response, the Portuguese are capable of combining their allegiance to Europe with their allegiance to other cultures, especially those where the Portuguese language is also spoken - the so-called Lusophone world. There are times, on the contrary, when competing allegiances lead to defensive responses and ambiguous stances. Like the donkey of Buridan, who died because it did not know whether it was thirstier or hungrier, the Portuguese can falter under the weight of their destiny. Instead of combining their European and Lusophone status, they may wonder whether they are more European or more Lusophone. This fate, I argue, would make us feel collectively incapable of fully achieving either status.

Instances of both societal attitudes can be found over the history of Portugal since the conquest of Ceuta in the early 15th century, since the independence of Brazil in the early 19th century or since the scramble for Africa in the 1880s. Good and bad cycles have also been recorded over the last 50 years, since Portugal joined NATO and shared in the movements of European economic cooperation which accompanied the Marshall Plan. There followed a period of ambiguity because the inability of the New State to relinquish political control over the African territories, Macau and Timor did not prevent nearly all economic activity to be directed to Europe, especially after the establishment of EFTA.

Ambiguity remained in the 1970s when Portugal precipitously reversed its previous policy and nearly became itself a piece of the Soviet empire, together with the colonies - especially Angola. The application to join the European Communities and the first decade of membership led to a new economic abandonment of Africa, in spite of continued political interest in Southern Africa.

Nevertheless, in the last few years, there have been attempts at combining the European and Lusophone worlds. This is the case, for example, of the only unanimous parliamentary resolution in the European Union ahead of the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) . It is also reflected in a proposal by ELO, a business association representing African-oriented Portuguese firms, as well as those interested in more business with Brazil, to include an economic dimension to the planned Community of Lusophone Countries (known as CPLP).

In this paper the first aspect will be emphasized relative to the second. Albeit recent, the Portuguese parliamentary initiative is a reality, whereas its Lusophone counterpart is not. Section 2 presents the background to the parliamentary initiative, section 3 describes the resolution on the IGC, section 4 the report on which the resolution is based.

Section 5 analyzes the concept of positive variable geometry and its application to the establishment of a single European currency on the one hand and the free movement of people on the other. It is noteworthy that with respect to both, Portugal and Spain are in the core group of countries, whereas founding members (such as Italy) or countries with a better reputation for convergence (such as Ireland) are not. Interestingly, this geography of Europe is found in 15th century maps, and was recently revived in a publication of the Liberales Institut in Zurich, Switzerland .

In spite of the emphasis on the European allegiance, the approach proposed in this paper remains entirely applicable to the Lusophone allegiance, let alone to the broader identification with migrants' communities spread all over the world. Indeed it is the subject of related ongoing research .


The Portuguese parliamentary initiative began shortly after the author was elected President of the Committee on European Affairs of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal in early March 1994. This parliamentary committee was responsible for the review and evaluation of the nationís participation in the process of construction of the European Union but its action had been crippled by a law from 1988 where the relations between parliament and government on European affairs stressed confrontation rather than partnership.

As a consequence, the government largely ignored the parliament and the parliament complained without even responding to the reports that were presented each year on the state of Portuguese integration in the European Communities.

The first priority of the new Presidency was to approve a new law on Parliamentary Review and Evaluation of European affairs appropriate to the constitutional amendment called for by the ratification of the Treaty on European Union in late 1992. There was a draft which had been presented in early 1993, but the discussion in the Committee was in gridlock and the succession of two Presidents had not helped matters. By presenting a shorter and simpler version - called the Presidency proposal - it was possible to lead to unanimous approval on April 21, 1994.

The new version stressed that the partnership between government and parliament should work, and that it should be supported by a partnership among all national parliaments and the European Parliament called for by the 13th Declaration to the Union Treaty. Accordingly, the new law - nº 20/94 of 15 June "Review and Evaluation of Portugalís participation in the process of construction of the European Union" - stimulated the analysis and debate of the main issues to be addressed by the revision of the Treaty at the Inter-Governmental Conference of 1996.

The Committee initiated its partnership with the Government, especially the Secretary of State for European Affairs, even before the new law became effective by commenting on the annual report and tabling a resolution thereabout. Throughout, the Committee was respectful of mutual competences, so that the confidence in the domestic partnership could emerge.

The objective was to comprehend Portugalís idea of Europe in a way that could guide the negotiating stance of Portuguese delegations in all institutions dealing with the revision of the Treaty. Since elections were to be held before the beginning of the IGC, it was clear that the partneship was in the interest of the two main parties: the Social-Democratic Party (PSD) , supporting the incumbent government of Prime Minister Cavaco Silva since 1985 (before accession to the Community) or the Socialist Party (PS) the main opposition party who won the 1995 elections. These were also the two parties who had voted in favor of the ratification of the Union Treaty.

Parliamentary debate on these matters started while preparing for the 10th Conference of European Affairs Commitees (known as COSAC, its acronym in French), to be held in Athens in early May, 1995. Researchers specialising on European issues were invited to present their views on transparency, enlargement and employment, the topics of the Conference. Everyone agreed the IGC 96 ought to be prepared by Parliament well in advance. Over the Summer recess, the Committee decided to set up a working group for the preparation of a report on the Revision of the Treaty, to be sent to COSAC.

The report, presented by the working group on 29 December 1994, was adopted by the Committee on 11 January 1995, with votes in favour of PSD and PS, votes against of the Communist Party (PCP), and the abstention of the Green Party (PEV). The Popular Party (PP) was not present and PS, PCP and PEV tabled declarations explaining their vote.

During the preparation of the report, the working group and the Committee held meetings with members of Government, of the European Parliament and of academic and research institutions. The Committee published the report, individual contributions expanding on specific topics of the report, and the various hearings. The first volume was presented at the Delors Information Center on 21 April 1995 (on the first anniversary of the approval of law nº 20/94). The second was presented on site on 13 October and at the Coimbra Law School one week later: it was the last action of the Committee, as the new parliament took office on 27 October.

There were three plenary sessions devoted to European affairs. The first, on 18 January 1995, was initially supposed to evaluate the report in the context of a debate under the theme: "Portugal in the European Union: Realities and Perspectives". This did not happen, however, apparently due to the opposition of the PCP. The other two plenary debates on the subject including votes on pertinent draft resolutions took place on Friday mornings (24 February and 26 May) and went largely ignored by the members of parliament as well as by the press. Indeed,there were very few mentions to the parliamentary unanimity achieved with respect to the IGC.

In this regard, the two parties who voted against the Union Treaty (PCP and PP) succeeded in hiding the work of parliament from the average citizen. On the other side, neither PS nor PSD wanted their agreement on matters European to be used against them in the electoral campaign so that, once again, the parliamentary consensus was better left alone.

While this may have appeared to be a rational strategy from the viewpoint of imediate electoral gains, an exceptional opportunity to disseminate a Portuguese idea of Europe was missed. Parliamentary unanimity is so exceptional that it could have contributed to bringing its members closer to the citizen, indeed one of the values of the Union Treaty, as stated right in article A.


Resolution nº21/95, of April 8, concerning "Parliamentary Review of the revision of the Treaty on European Union at the Inter-Governmental Conference of 1996" was voted at the plenary session of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal of 2 March 1995 by a broader consensus than the one which ratified the Treaty itself.

In fact, the vote on 7 February 1995 in the Committee for European Affairs, which tabled draft resolution nº 140/VI, was unanimous on 5 of the 6 articles. Nevertheless, and unexpectedly according to the minutes of the debate, the PCP voted against the entire resolution. This implies that, even though the principles contained in 5 of the 6 articles may be unanimously held, potential misunderstanding remains with respect to some aspects of the revision of the Treaty at the IGC.

Draft resolution no. 140/VI was tabled according to law nº 20/94 of 15 June which introduced the partnership on European affairs. The decisive element in this partnership is an "Evaluation Process" whereby "the Committee for European Affairs can attach draft resolutions to the reports to be presented to the Plenary Session" (article 5, no. 5).

Aside from parliamentary commitees charged with judicial type inquiries, this is the only case where draft resolutions are presented by Committees rather than parties. The reason for the innovation is precisely to bring forth the national consensus behind European affairs. It therefore reinforces the partnership with the government as well as with the other parliamentary committees of the European Union, including the European Parliament.

The resolution considers the report a signal of greater Parliamentary involvement in European Affairs (no. 1) and a means to strengthen the bargaining position of the Portuguese Government at the IGC 96 (no. 2).

In no. 3, the resolution lists five broad principles of European construction which are unanimously accepted:

a) Enhancement of the Portuguese language. Spoken by 200 million people around the world, it spreads Portuguese culture and other lusophone cultures but also European culture as a whole.

b) Enforcement of the principle of equality among member States and of the principle of non-exclusion from the core. The revision of the Treaty must be approved unanimously, with a clear refusal of any "hard core" in the decision-making bodies, based on co-optation methods.

c) Strengthening of the role of national Parliaments and intensification of their cooperation with the European Parliament, namely through the COSAC. This will enhance the democratic nature of European construction and increase the transparency of its institutions.

d) Maintenance of social and economic cohesion as a structural component of European Union deepening and enlargement.

e) Consideration of hypotheses of positive variable geometry, based on the ability and willingness of each member State.

In no. 4, the resolution calls for the re-evaluation of the institutional balance of the Union, while keeping its unitary structure, with decision making bodies encompassing the entire range of community competences; in this framework, it accepts increased powers for the European Parliament. This was understood by the PCP as meaning that the second and third pillars of the Union ought to be included in the first, in spite of an explicit denial in the Committee's response to the questionnaire distributed by the Paris COSAC.

The resolution also recommends further hearings on the subject of the report (no. 5) and their publication as a means to "promote at home and abroad the idea of Europe which is of interest to Portugal" (no. 6).

This idea of Europe is of course rooted in the Report of 29 December 1994. The following summary shows that it projects the European experience beyond its geographical confines, which is already clear from the principle under a) above, namely the presentation of the Portuguese language and culture as a projection of European culture, let alone that of Brazil and the lusophone countries of Africa.


The point of departure of the Report is that the way the Union Treaty was negotiated and approved, as well as its entry into force, provide lessons for the future of Europe. It will not be possible to revise the Union Treaty without involving its the citizens. From the revision of 1996, foreseen in the Treaty itself, a more transparent Union, whose institutions are endowed with a clearer democratic legitimacy, will have to emerge.

This parliamentary procedure seeks to attain the same goal of transparency, since citizens expect national Parliaments to debate the policies that directly affect their lives. The Treaty revision must bring the citizen closer to the process of European construction and European institutions closer to the citizen for whose service they were created.

In this regard, a revision intent on balancing efficiency and transparency in the decision process will be guided by three values: proximity to the citizen, national legitimacy and democratic accountability. The first value contains a double perspective. On the one hand, a higher entity must not take on functions that could be satisfactorily performed by a lower entity. On the other hand, when the lower entity is not capable by itself of performing the functions that satisfy its needs, it is helped by the higher entity. Thus, proximity and solidarity strengthen each other.

Having accomplished the first value, we should seek to reinforce majority rule at the national level. It is the starting point to ensure legitimacy at Community level. In Union institutions all member States appoint representatives. National legitimacy is only guaranteed with the maintenance of the principle of equality of member States, which requires unanimity for Treaty revisions. From this fundamental principle of European construction, untouched since 1957, results the principle of non-exclusion: no member State can be excluded from participating in the process of union deepening.

Next to legitimacy, comes the value of democratic accountability. Accountable decision-makers are increasingly required at the union level, but are equally essential at the national level. Bureaucratic unaccountability and mixed institutional competences confuse public opinion. They display a negative image of Europe which its sceptics rapidly take advantage of. Everyone must know who has taken each decision and how they did it. The simultaneous enlargement and deepening of the Union implies a permanent negotiation among nation States. As a result, a balance among proximity, legitimacy and accountability, facilitated by parliamentary plurality, helps implementing the principle of non-exclusion.

For the purpose of negotiation, it matters that the agreements set up by the main political parties prove enduring. From this point of view, no profound changes are required in the institutional balance. Any proposal to establish a hard core of decision-making bodies via co-optation processes is to be refused.

Nevertheless member States cannot block the need for Union deepening expressed by a majority of member States. This majority, in turn, must respect the impossibility for some member States to participate immediately in the deepening process wanted in some areas, because they do not meet the required conditions. Thus, the differentiation of the Union must be based on the principle of non-exclusion of a country that fulfils standards previously agreed by all members and that reveals the political will to belong in the core: this has been called positive variable geometry .

Many examples of positive variable geometry have been presented, especially in the literature on Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) . But the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Social chapter and even the Schengen Agreement are also cases in point.


The Schengen Agreement is a good example of the benefits of a union differentiation method like positive variable geometry. At the beginning, underlying the agreement there were five States from whose ratification the agreement's enforcement exclusively depended, even for other member States. The successive accessions showed that the Schengen space was an open space. The setting of objective criteria for the application of the Agreement, in December 1992, and the equally unanimous decision of December 1994, about countries that followed those criteria, led all States to be faced with some legislative, political and technical challenges which some have followed and others have not.

Thus, it was proven that even starting from exclusion situations, it is possible to go in the right direction. The entry into force of the Agreement in late March 1995, together with the Nordic countries reflect that. Similarly, the subsistence of French controls was tolerated by other members, so as to avoid setting back the entire program. Members continue to believe that the free circulation of people, once their safety is ensured, corresponds to a clear will of the citizens of the Union, namely of their nationals. This is especially relevant for countries of emigration such as Portugal.

Portugal also wants to participate fully and from the start of the third phase of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). It is a fundamental basis for the consolidation of the single market and for the Union presence in the global economic order. EMU also reflects the acceptance throughout the Union of a medium term economic policy aimed at price stability and budgetary discipline, called for, since 1994, by the procedure concerning excessive deficits. This issue was very divisive in Portugal due to the severity of the recession and the delay experienced by the recovery.

After the prime minister since 1985 stepped down as chairman of PSD, however, the leader of PS accepted the challenge of EMU and a medium term stability oriented macroeconomic policy. During the electoral campaign, he was more effective in defending the government policies in this regard than the new leader of PSD, and this may help explain financial markets' welcome of the "new majority" on election day. If the policy of wage moderation also continues, this will be a major achievement. The reason is that social partners were initially unconvinced by the determination of the government in fighting inflation so that the first social agreement, signed after the elections of October 1991 and just before joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism, was also the last before the October 1995 elections.

Aside from the free circulation of people and the single currency, Portugal wishes to be in the front line in three other fields which it considers decisive for the process of European construction.

Making solidarity an effective practice through the reinforcement of measures towards a stronger social and economic cohesion of member States, tending in the long term to equalise the work and living conditions of the populations.

Defining objectives and clear methodologies for a common foreign and security policy, clarifying the field of action of WEU, concerning both the aim of gradual consolidation of the defence component of the Union and the readjustment to the new complementarity of the Atlantic Alliance.

Promoting an European unity that respects the diversity of its nation States and the fundamental values associated to the history, language, culture and tradition of each one of them.


The Portuguese idea of Europe presented above has made clear how the ability to combine the multiple allegiances determines the ability for the Portuguese people to respond positively to the challenges of European integration without jeopardizing their lusophone heritage. Moreover, a positive response involves helping other Lusophone peoples to practice the values of proximity to the citizen, of national legitimacy and of democratic accountability which Portugal has rightly defended in its parliament's guidelines for the 1996 IGC, unanimously voted by PS, PSD, PP and PCP. The exception, one item against which the Communists voted in the Committee and which was then used to justify the negative vote in the plenary session of March 2, 1995, confirms the rule.

The preference for a stable institutional balance, accepted by all except the PCP, is compatible with the call for a reinforcement of the cooperation among national parliaments and with the European Parliament. Instead of creating new institutions, such a new Chamber for subsidiarity or a new meeting of all parliaments as in the December 1990 "Assises" in Rome, resolution nº 21 calls for an upgrading of the Conference of European Affairs Committees (COSAC).

This proposal has become more popular since the Portuguese report was presented in December 1994. Indeed it received virtually unanimous support at a Parliamentary colloquium in Athens in September 1995, where the state of play of IGC preparation was reviewed: it is summarized in the attached table, which was distributed at the time.

The stability of the institutional balance has another implication, beyond a greater involvement of national parliaments and a greater visibility for COSAC. Portugal does not want a weakening of the European Commission. Unfortunately, the report of the Reflection Group presented in September and the XIII COSAC to be held in Madrid in early November seem to suggest that the partnership among national parliaments will be sacrificied to greater power for parliaments to questions their own governments on European affairs.

This solution, sometimes called the Danish model, is however lopsided when there is no peer pressure from like institutions at the European level. This is simply a reflection of the fact that multiple allegiances are a strenght when they can be combined and a weakness when they are seen as competing with each other. As such, it suggests that the Portuguese idea of Europe is not only appropriate for Portugal but for each and every one of the members states.

It is the only way to avoid the Charybdis of bureaucratic federalism and the Scylla of an a la carte Europe as I said at the Paris COSAC. While this appears to be a negative statement of the Europe we do not want, it suggests a balancing act which, if looked at as choice rather than fate, will allow European construction to avoid both pitfalls.

Indeed, this ability to find the appropriate balance between efficiency and transparency can be grounded on a more general argument in favor of coordinated responses to increasing interdependence. It can be shown that, if mutual sensitivity increases, there are costs as well as benefits for each one of the national economies involved, but that the coordinated response is superior to defensive responses as well as exploitative ones. The interpretation of European integration as a succession of coordinated responses to increasing structural interdependence is pretty obvious when dealing with Economic and Monetary Union, but it can also help ground the existing institutions on a firm footing as far as national legitimacy and democratic accountability are concerned.

In this regard, then, the application of European experience to efforts elsewhere, namely NAFTA, Mercosul, Sadec and even the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is entirely justified. This is not surprising for since the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the former Soviet Union there is no longer ambiguity about the fundamental values on which to build national societies. As long as democracy and a market economy are shared objectives, the advantages of coordinated responses to increased international interdependence in the economic sphere is evident. There are of course similar arguments for the political sphere as long as some societal values are shared: this is certainly true in the European world, including the cooperation schemes among the 7 major industrial countries and Russia as well as the US-led security schemes.

It is also true of the Lusophone world. This dimension was merely sketched, over and above its presence in the unanimous resolution nº 21. But the fact that Brazil is active in Mercosul and that Angola and Mozambique are full members of Sadec suggests that it will be easier to lauch the Community of Lusophone Countries (CPLP) than it was when, rightly or wrongly, the six nations thought Portugal was incapable of combining its multiple allegiances.

If those are a fate, it is obvious that the incapacity of combining them can only be temporary. Nevertheless, in today's global marketplace, a few years delay may be all it takes to turn a happy fate into a sad story. And in this regard, to be left with the "saudade" may not be nearly enough.