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  International Relations

 

The Assembly of the Republic is internationally active in a variety of areas. In this respect it shares the current tendency of all Parliaments to participate more actively in the different international parliamentary organisations, and to engage in more developed forms of multilateral and bilateral co operation.

The increase in international parliamentary activity should be seen as a strengthening of the democratic legitimacy of a country's foreign policy, and this is what has occurred in our Parliament.

So here you can find information about the foreign visits made by the President of the Assembly of the Republic,, and his participation in international conferences, both within the scope of the European Union, and at other levels such as the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) and Euro-Mediterranean and Ibero-American relations.

Given that the Assembly of the Republic participates in a variety of international parliamentary organisations, you can also obtain information about the composition of the different Portuguese delegations, and access reports on their main activities and the organisations' calendars. April 2009 saw the creation of the CPLP Parliamentary Assembly.

Each legislature, the Assembly forms Friendship Groups with other countries, and you can find a list of all the current ones and their activities here.

Interparliamentary cooperation is an activity that grows out of the signature of cooperation protocols between Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments. Both these documents and the cooperation programmes that involve our parliamentary departments and services can be viewed here. In this way you can get to know the cooperation work which the Assembly of the Republic does with other Parliaments, especially those of Portuguese-speaking countries.

Finally, via this area you can also see the list of official foreign journeys made by Members of the Assembly of the Republic, and the content of all the official visits to the Assembly of the Republic, such as those by Heads of State, Presidents of Parliaments, Prime Ministers and foreign parliamentary delegations.

Permanent Delegations

Via its permanent delegations, the Assembly of the Republic takes part in 9 different international parliamentary organisations.

Each permanent delegation participates in the work of its organisation: plenary sessions, committee and subcommittee meetings, thematic meetings, election observation missions and study visits. The Members of the Assembly of the Republic who belong to these delegations are elected at the beginning of each legislature by the whole Assembly, using a closed list system. These lists are drawn up by the proportional method – i.e. in accordance with the number of votes that each party received at the last legislative elections.

Via its permanent delegations, the Assembly of the Republic takes part in 9 international parliamentary organisations. The number of Members of the Assembly of the Republic in each delegation varies according to the articles of association of the organisation concerned: 

  • Inter-Parliamentary Union - IPU (11 members);
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - PACE (14 members);
  • Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly - EMPA (5 members);
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean - PAM (8 members);
  • Interparliamentary Assembly of the Forum of Portuguese-Speaking Parliaments - AIFPLP (10 members);
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – NATO PA (14 members);
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe - OSCEPA (8 members);
  • Ibero-American Parliamentary Forum – FPIA (11 members).

Each permanent delegation participates in the work of its organisation: plenary sessions, committee and subcommittee meetings, thematic meetings, election observation missions and study visits.

The Members of the Assembly of the Republic who belong to these delegations are elected at the beginning of each legislature by the whole Assembly, using a closed list system. These lists are drawn up by the proportional method - i.e. in accordance with the number of votes that each party received at the last legislative elections.

The election of the members of the delegations and the way in which they take part in the meetings and missions of each organisation are governed by Resolution of the Assembly of the Republic no. 5/2003. In the case of the delegations to the IPU, EMPA, MPA and FPIA, there are specific resolutions that govern the way in which the respective delegation works.

Under the terms of the Law governing the organisation and modus operandi of the Departments and Services of the Assembly of the Republic, the International Relations Division is responsible for providing technical assistance to the permanent delegations, both in Portugal and abroad.
The Assembly of the Republic's annual budget includes a budgetary provision for the activities of the permanent delegations.


Parliamentary Friendship Groups

Within the overall framework of the Assembly of the Republic's activities, Parliamentary Friendship Groups (PFG) occupy a key position in the foreign relations field, in particular with regard to the development of parliamentary diplomacy.

Parliamentary Friendship Groups are official Assembly of the Republic bodies whose mission is to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the parliaments of countries to which Portugal is bound by ties of friendship.

  • Bilateral
  • Multilateral
  • Legislation

Within the overall framework of the Assembly of the Republic's activities, Parliamentary Friendship Groups (PFGs) occupy a key position in the foreign relations field, in particular with regard to the development of parliamentary diplomacy.

Parliamentary Friendship Groups are official Assembly of the Republic bodies whose mission is to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the parliaments of countries to which Portugal is bound by ties of friendship. They aim to:

  • Take part in a general exchange of knowledge and experiences;
  • Study bilateral relations and their place in the alliances and institutions to which both states belong;
  • Publicise and promote common interests and aims in the political, economic, social and cultural fields;
  • Exchange information and consult with one another with a view to the possibility of coordinating positions in international interparliamentary organisations, without prejudice to each national group's complete autonomy;
  • Engage in joint reflection on problems involving the two states and their nationals, and look for solutions that fall within each one's legislative competence;
  • Recognise the value of the past and present role of each other's emigrant communities, where they exist.

PFGs are made up of varying numbers (between 7 and 12) of Members of the Assembly of the Republic, from different parties. The number from each party reflects the number of seats it holds in the Assembly of the Republic. No individual Member may belong to more than 3 friendship groups.

The first Parliamentary Friendship Groups were set up under the terms of Decision no. 4-PL/90 of 20 June 1990.

However, the continuous development of the PFGs meant that more precise regulations were needed, and this happened in the 9th Legislature, with the implementation of new rules laid down in Resolution no. 6/2003 of 24 January 2003. This applied the rules governing the modus operandi of specialist standing committees to the PFGs by analogy - a procedure that not only enhanced the dignity of the PFGs, but also helped to make the way they work more effective and efficient.

How Parliamentary Friendship Groups are formed

The initiative to form a PFG with parliaments of other countries may be taken by the President of the Assembly of the Republic or by a group of Members of the Assembly. However, the formal creation requires a specific Order of the President of the Assembly and the latter's publication in the Official Journal of the Assembly of the Republic.

The President will only approve initiatives that fulfil two essential prior conditions:

  • The other countries must have diplomatic relations with Portugal;
  • Their parliaments must have been freely elected.

Before he decides, the President of the Assembly of the Republic asks the Foreign Affairs Committee for an opinion with a view to drawing up a report on the feasibility of creating the proposed group. After the decision is taken, it is published in the Official Journal of the Assembly of the Republic and the members of the Group are appointed.

Once these requirements have been fulfilled, the Group appoints its officers: a chairman, a vice-chairman and a secretary.



Activities of Friendship Groups

Each year PFGs must submit an activity programme for approval by the President of the Assembly of the Republic.

The PFGs' work consists of regular exchanges of information and the analysis of subjects of common interest, mainly in the political, cultural, social and economic areas.

Visits to the country of the counterpart group and its visits to Portugal also form part of the PFGs' activities.

Administrative and Financial Coordination

The International Relations Division is responsible for providing the Parliamentary Friendship Groups with technical and administrative support.

The annual budget of the Assembly of the Republic includes a budgetary provision for the activities of the PFGs.



Interparliamentary Cooperation

The Assembly of the Republic takes part in multilateral interparliamentary cooperation actions within the framework of information-sharing platforms such as the Conference of European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (CERDP), the Interparliamentary EU Information Exchange (IPEX), and the Association of Secretaries-General of the Portuguese-Speaking Parliaments (ASG-PLP). 

  • Cooperation with Portuguese-speaking Parliaments
  • Cooperation with other Parliaments

The Assembly of the Republic takes part in multilateral interparliamentary cooperation actions within the framework of information-sharing platforms such as the Conference of European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (CERDP), the Interparliamentary EU Information Exchange (IPEX), and the Association of Secretaries-General of the Portuguese-Speaking Parliaments (ASG-PLP).

Within this multilateral context the Assembly of the Republic has undertaken a number of interparliamentary training actions in which representatives from Portuguese-speaking parliaments share experiences and acquire new skills; it has also hosted delegations to Portugal from European Union candidate countries that want to find out about the Portuguese experience of integration into the Community institutions; and it has organised traineeships and working visits by Members of Parliament and parliamentary officials from countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

On the bilateral parliamentary cooperation level the Assembly of the Republic directs its activities towards the other Portuguese-speaking parliaments. The key idea behind the development of this cooperation focuses on supporting the democratic system with a view to consolidating the rule of law and improving parliaments' performance with regard to the constitutional-law, administrative, budgetary and financial aspects of their work. The existence of democratic processes and representative institutions contributes to peace and development.

This principle led to the signature of parliamentary cooperation protocols between the President of the Assembly of the Republic and his counterpart in each of the other Portuguese-speaking parliaments. The first such protocol to enter into force was signed with the National Assembly of Cape Verde in 1995, and was renewed in 2008. There followed the National Assembly of São Tomé and Príncipe (1995, renewed in 2004), the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique (1996, renewed in 2007), the People's National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau (1997, renewed in 2008), the National Assembly of Angola (1998, renewed in 2004) and the National Parliament of East Timor (2000, renewed in 2008).
These Protocols have allowed the Secretaries-General of the respective parliaments to establish specific parliamentary co-operation programmes. These are always preceded by diagnostic missions designed to ensure that the cooperation activities are appropriate to the reality and needs of each counterpart parliament.

In general, the main cooperation activities are common to the various cooperation programmes. In recent years it is particularly worth noting the training sessions that have taken place in Portugal, and a number of technical assistance missions to the counterpart parliaments in the following areas: lawmaking; drafting techniques; the detailed aspects of the legislative procedure; the revision of parliamentary rules of procedure; committee work; libraries; documentation; archives; financial administration; procurement and property; human resource management; public relations; international relations; protocol; and information technology.

These actions are undertaken by Assembly of the Republic staff, but sometimes also include the participation of Portuguese parliamentarians and other Portuguese specialists in certain areas. In addition, the Assembly of the Republic also enters into agreements with other institutions, such as the National Institute of Administration (INA) and the Camões Institute, in order to pursue the above goals.

The Assembly of the Republic also donates a variety of resources, such as IT materials, legal libraries and other important works of interest in the parliamentary field.

The Assembly of the Republic's work in this area of parliamentary cooperation is discreet, appropriate (actions are defined and planned in the light of specific realities), aimed at the future (to strengthen the foundations of what is one of society's fundamental institutions), and assiduous (with a constant follow-up).

This is Portuguese democracy's contribution to the consolidation of the organ that best represents and defends democracy everywhere in the world: Parliament.