“Citizens do not know what the community of Portuguese-speaking countries is for”, says Secretary General – 28/07/2021 – World

The inhabitants of Portuguese-speaking countries do not know what the CPLP (Community of Portuguese-speaking countries) is for, an entity which celebrated its 25th anniversary last July. Who says that it is the secretary general of the organization, Francisco Ribeiro Telles.

Composed of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor, the bloc aims to promote cooperation between its member countries.

“We believe that the citizens of the member countries do not know what the CPLP is for. There is no sense of belonging on the part of the citizen to this organization. I was Portuguese Ambassador to Brazil from 2012 to 2016 and I don’t remember hearing about the CPLP at that time, ”Telles told Folha.

The Portuguese diplomat believes, however, that this scenario could start to change after the approval of an agreement to facilitate the movement of citizens between Portuguese-speaking countries.

The formal agreement – “a turning point in the history of the CPLP”, according to Telles – took place at a meeting of heads of state and government in Luanda, capital of Angola, on the 17th. Brazil was represented by the Vice-President, Hamilton. Mourão (PRTB).

If approved by the parliaments of the countries that make up the CPLP, the mobility agreement should facilitate academic and trade exchanges.

Such is in his last days at the general secretariat of the entity. His last official act at the head of the international organization will be his visit to São Paulo for the reopening of the Museu da Língua Portuguesa during an event for guests this Saturday (31). Since August, Zacarias Albano da Costa, from East Timor, has signed up for a two-year term.

In the interview, he also comments on the Brazilian government’s debt to the CPLP and provides an update on its management.

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What are the main agreements signed during this meeting in Luanda? First, the agreement on mobility within the CPLP area, which will allow greater freedom of movement between member countries. It will be applied gradually and flexibly. It is now urgent that States ratify this agreement so that it becomes operational.

A second point. When the CPLP was created 25 years ago, it was based on three pillars: the production and dissemination of the Portuguese language, which is the identity matrix; then, diplomatic consultation; now we will introduce a new component, which is to strengthen the economic character of the business of CPLP. Entrepreneurs complain a lot about the enormous difficulties they have in working in certain countries.

Recently, [decidimos em Luanda] by the entry of new observer countries. Ten have joined, including the United States, Canada and India. From Europe, Spain, Greece, Romania and Ireland.

What is an observer country? Procedures need to be reviewed as the regulations were designed for few observers. In 2014, they were only three, they are now 30. Among the new ideas under discussion, the possibility for these countries to finance cooperation projects in the CPLP countries in the most diverse fields, such as health, education, environment and tourism.

For now, each country, when expressing its interest in joining the CPLP, must design an action plan for the next two years, based on the production and dissemination of the Portuguese language in these countries.

I’ll give you an example: in the letter I received from the US State Department to apply for the candidacy, they committed to disseminate Portuguese in the United States due to the weight of the Portuguese-speaking communities, namely the Brazilian, Cape Verdean and Portuguese communities. This has, for example, a multiplier effect.

From a practical point of view, what does this mobility agreement change for Portuguese speakers? No CPLP member state rubs shoulders with another, there is a geographical discontinuity. We cannot apply the same rules that Europe applies in the Schengen area, that is to say the free movement of people and goods. We must proceed in stages.

In a first phase, we will favor a series of categories, such as entrepreneurs, students, artists and researchers. It is important to take note of the complexity of the agreement because we are talking about countries with very different legal standards, with very unequal levels of economic development.

Portugal, for example, has international commitments linked to the Schengen area that it cannot renounce, such as the duration of visas, but it can facilitate residence permits. We have the promise that the agreement will be ratified by Portugal in September, which will facilitate the entry of people of these categories that I mentioned.

This agreement represents an important step, a turning point in the history of the CPLP.

We think the organization is important at certain levels, especially from a diplomatic point of view. The CPLP has helped elect leaders of its member states to high international positions. This is the case of the Portuguese António Guterres as Secretary General of the UN [mandato até 2026] and the Brazilian José Graziano as Director General of FAO [agência das Nações Unidas para Alimentação e Agricultura, de 2012 a 2019].

But we believe that the citizens of the member countries do not know what the CPLP is for. There is no sense of belonging on the part of the citizen to this organization. I was Portuguese Ambassador to Brazil from 2012 to 2016 and I don’t remember hearing about the CPLP at that time. So this agreement [de mobilidade], after all, aims to facilitate the situation of citizens of member states of CPLP countries.

And when should Brazil ratify the deal? I don’t know what the internal legal procedure is in the case of Brazil. But on this topic of mobility in particular, it is not necessary that all countries agree for the rules to come into force in some of them. At the CPLP, decisions are taken by consensus, but on this issue of mobility we agreed that it would be otherwise. If there are three or four Member States which decide among themselves that they can facilitate movement, they do not wait until the others can conclude these agreements.

Sir. you mentioned this first phase of the agreement. How would the second be? At the end of this initial phase, the judges of each country will certainly carry out an evaluation and documentation of the agreement in order to reflect on the new steps. The most urgent step at the moment is the replication of the agreement.

Carlos Alberto Franco França, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, recently paid a visit to the CPLP headquarters in Lisbon. What did you discuss? Brazil is a founding member state and the largest contributor, in financial terms, to the CPLP. During the Minister’s visit, the importance of the CPLP for Brazil was reaffirmed. We also talked about the mobility agreement, which Brazil assesses very positively.

Folha published a report on the Brazilian government’s debts to international organizations, including the CPLP. How is it? Minister França said he would make the best efforts so that together with Congress he could find a quick solution so that it could be resolved. This is what we have been told here in Lisbon.

Sir. leaves the post of Secretary General of the CPLP. Could you do a brief assessment? I helped bring about this form of mobility, so to speak. I also contributed to a new pillar at the CPLP, which is the economic pillar of the company. And also the entry, as I mentioned, of new observer countries into the CPLP.

We also sign working memorandums with various international organizations such as the European Union. Let’s try to operationalize it quickly. Also with OEACP [ Organização dos Estados de África, Caribe e Pacífico], who will have an Angolan citizen [Georges Chikoti] as Secretary General from 2022.

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Francisco Ribeiro Telles, 68 years old
Graduated in history from the University of Lisbon, he was Portuguese Ambassador to Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil (2012-2016) and Italy. He was Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries during the 2019-2020 biennium. He won the first edition of the Melo e Torres Prize, created by the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2013 to recognize the best economic diplomat

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