Newly arrived in Brazil, Portugal’s new ambassador Luís Faro Ramos, 58, said his country wanted to help Brazilian relations with the bloc. “We are the spokespersons of Brazil in the EU”, declares the diplomat, who underlines the Portuguese support for the agreement between Mercosur and the Europeans.
Although the two sides have reached a political agreement, the pact has yet to be approved by member country parliaments before formal signing, and negotiations continue at a slow pace due to resistance to Brazil’s environmental policies and increased deforestation in the Amazon. .
When asked whether supporting Brazil would not be contradictory, since Portugal recently assumed the rotating EU presidency with a commitment to advancing environmental measures, Faro Ramos said the deal brings environmental advances and that it is important to consider sensitive points for all. those who are involved.
The ambassador also downplayed the lack of high-level dialogues between the two countries – the last bilateral Portugal-Brazil summit was held in February 2016 – saying that there had been agreements and productive advances in several sectors, such as agriculture and technology. Besides the business aspect, he faces the challenge of managing the interests of a community of around 1 million Portuguese in the country.
A career diplomat since 1986, Faro Ramos was president of the Instituto Camões, which promotes Portuguese language and culture around the world. Therefore, he says he wants to use language and the arts to bring Portugal and Brazil closer together. “Portuguese has a fantastic future. We must take care of this future together. “
Despite the pandemic and economic stagnation, is Brazil still attractive to the Portuguese as an investment destination? Brazil is still attractive. Of course, we can always have more depth in this mutual knowledge. Help Brazil get to know Portugal, understand what the country means today, in terms of investment, what modern Portugal is. I think we have a lot to gain from a closer relationship. Remember that Portugal and Brazil share three spaces that are of the utmost importance for Portuguese foreign policy: the Portuguese language space, with the CPLP [Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa], the Ibero-American space and, finally, the transatlantic space. For us, this makes our relationship unique.
What is the state of relations between Portugal and Brazil? There hasn’t been a high-level summit between the two countries for a long time. In January 2018, then-president Michel Temer canceled his visit to Lisbon in time. It is true that there has not been a summit for some time, but that does not prevent relations from unfolding to the rhythm of what is the excellence of our bilateral relations. I will give two examples. Last year, the Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, visited Portugal, had a very positive visit. She spoke with members of the Portuguese government, with businessmen. He went to visit the terminal in the port of Sines, which could in the future become a gateway for Brazilian products to Europe and a gateway for Portuguese products to Brazil.
Our Secretary of State for Internationalization came to Brazil in November, together with the President of the Portuguese Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade. A few days ago, our chancellors spoke by video conference. It was a very good conversation about bilateral relations. Even if there is no summit, there is an institutional relationship. Therefore, things have continuity and reinforcement.
Portugal presides over the European Union until June. What can we expect? Portugal has, for the fourth time, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. During this conversation between the two foreign ministers, Portugal declared that we are the spokespersons for Brazil in the EU. There is one issue that is of great interest to both parties, and I do not speak like Portugal, but as the presidency of the European Union, which is the agreement between Mercosur and the European Union. It is an agreement that is not stopped, because it has been finalized, but it is not yet in force.
As long as our mandate in the European Union lasts, we intend to work with the European institutions and with the Mercosur countries. With Brazil, of course, but also with Argentina, which currently holds the presidency of Mercosur. We intend to work taking into account that we have to put everyone at ease, on the European side and on the South American side. Portugal, which is a country very used to establishing dialogues, will try to ensure that this dossier experiences positive developments. We will work in this direction.
One of Portugal’s commitments to the EU Presidency is its concern about climate change. Doesn’t the fact that Brazil has record levels of deforestation and has reduced environmental inspection contradict this? It should be noted that Portugal, as a country, wants the agreement to start working. We even consider, like Portugal, that this is a very advanced agreement in terms of sustainability. Now, as the European Union, we have to see the sensitivities of those involved. And if we work on a narrative at the same time that can be accepted by all parties, that’s an improvement. This is where we need to go: a story that explains that the agreement, when it comes into force, will be good for Europe, for European companies, for Brazil, for Argentina. An agreement that does not harm climate concerns.
What is the size and profile of the Portuguese community in Brazil today? Based on those who are registered in the various consular jurisdictions, we have around 800,000. But if you take into account all those who have dual nationality, it can exceed 1 million. It is a very heterogeneous community. In addition to the layer of people who made a living and settled here, there is a more recent community. It is a young and qualified community which often works for multinationals. And I must point out that all over Brazil the Portuguese community is very well received.
The Embassy will launch a cultural podcast. Can you tell us a little more about the project? It’s called “Literary Crossings” and will be on Spotify starting this Thursday (21). It is a collaboration between entities from Portugal and Brazil. We have the Camões Institute, we have the Embassy, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and, in Brazil, the Oceanos Association. Every fortnight we will have a very interesting dialogue between three people, writers, curators, on topics that have to do with the way we look at the common language. In the first issue, we will have the Mozambican writer Paulina Chiziane, very well known, led by a Portuguese and Brazilian writer. Will be present in this conversation [temas como] solidarity between women and feminine dignity.
Portugal has an important role in the collection of the Museum of the Portuguese Language. When will it be reopened? I spoke to the government, I spoke to the Secretary of Culture [do estado de São Paulo], Sérgio Sá Leitão, who told me that he was preparing a very good plan for the reopening of the museum. It will be a very significant moment of celebration of our common language through this museum which, unfortunately, has burned down. But it turned out to be an opportunity to rephrase and now open with a new face. There are signs for the end of March there. It will certainly be a great moment for the Portuguese language.
Brazilians’ interest in Portugal continues, even with the pandemic? Without a doubt. Before the pandemic, there was a growing trend in demand from Portugal, and I am confident that even under the current circumstances this interest persists. I am fully convinced that as soon as the situation improves and the conditions for a greater possibility of travel can be met, this interest will continue. We have no indication to the contrary. And I’m very happy with it.
What can be done to take advantage of the connection provided by the Portuguese language? We have enormous potential within the framework of the CPLP, at the International Institute of the Portuguese Language, to make Portuguese one day the official language of the United Nations, to promote our common language, to take advantage of the wealth that our writers, Portuguese, Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Angolans, Mozambicans give it to us. It is integrating and absorbing all this enormous wealth, it does not harm our common language. On the contrary: it dignifies and makes a language of prestige. Portuguese has a fantastic future. We must take care of this future together.
Luís Faro Ramos, 58 years old
A law graduate, he has been a career diplomat since 1986, having worked in the Tunisian and Cuban embassies, and was president of the Camões Institute, which promotes Portuguese language and culture in the world.