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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 3, 2008
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Different Perspective, Similar Goals
September 3, 2008   
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Ambassador of Portugal to Poland José Sequeira e Serpa speaks with Hilary Heuler.

What is the state of bilateral relations between Lisbon and Warsaw?
We have quite good relations and good cooperation, especially in economic matters right now. And politically, we are partners in the European Union. If you look at recent Portuguese history and Polish history before and after entering the European community, there are some similar points and we have had similar experiences. That's why we have always been ready to share our experiences with Poland. Economically, of course, things can always be better, but they are rather good. We have a growing number of Portuguese investors in Poland. One year ago when I arrived here, we had 52 Portuguese companies in Poland, and now we have about 87. On the other hand, in 2007 we had around 50 percent more Polish tourists than in 2006. And we haven't given up on improving our relations in either area.

If you look at the map of Europe, you can see that Portugal is at one extreme and Poland is at the other. But we belong to the same European family. This doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. Sometimes we have different points of view, a different perspective when we have to deal with specific situations, but the problems are common and we share the same principles.

What does Portugal hope to achieve through President Anibal Cavaco Silva's upcoming visit here?
The main goal of this state visit is to improve bilateral relations. We have very good relations, but they can always be better. This visit is also a way for our people to get a better understanding of the Polish reality. I can tell you, it's a reality that sometimes can be difficult to follow because it's moving so fast. The visit will last three days, and the president is going to visit Warsaw, of course, and also Cracow. In some ways it's a very dense program, but I think it's a very interesting program, concentrated mainly on economic relations. During the visit we will have an economic seminar, where our businessmen and Polish businessmen and institutions will have a chance to discuss common problems and means of cooperation. We are bringing the most important Portuguese businessmen along with the president. At the same time, we will have an exhibition on what we are doing in high technology. It will be in Warsaw, in the Palace of Culture, and will be opened by both presidents. We ought to show to Poland what the reality is in Portugal, not the traditional way of living but what we are doing in terms of top technologies. I think you will be surprised!

What lessons has Portugal learned through being a member of the EU that could prove useful for Poland?
The primary lesson we learned is that sometimes we have to put aside our immediate national interests to comply with the interests of the community. It's not always easy but I think in the present moment it's absolutely necessary. Of course, there are a lot of advantages of inclusion in the union, but at the same time, naturally, we have to pay the price. One cannot only look at the advantages-we have to balance the good with the not-so-good. I could say the first lesson is that even if we are a small country, we can have a word to say in Europe. And the second is that we have to keep in mind the common interests of Europe. That's very important.

What advice can Portugal-which hosted the European soccer championships in 2004-give to Poland?
We don't give advice, but we are always ready to share our experiences-the good ones, and also the bad ones. That's part of our philosophy of facing reality. We had an exhibition in 1998 in Portugal, the Lisbon World Fair, and for that we learned a lot from the experiences of other countries. I think the organization of Euro 2004 was very successful, but of course we might have made some mistakes. As we used to say in Portugal, only people who don't work do not make mistakes. We are open to sharing our experiences as far as possible. I think that in a short time we will have someone from Poland visiting Portugal to see what we did, and some of the companies that worked on the 2004 championship are already operating in Poland. I'm sure they will be willing to cooperate with the effort you have to make here-there's a big effort you still have to make, in fact, because 2012 is tomorrow.

You have been in Poland for over a year and a half now. What are your impressions so far?
Let's say it's a country where I've never been bored. There is always something interesting to follow, something interesting happening. Of course, sometimes that means a lot of work for us, but I can tell you it's one of the most interesting countries I've been to. The biggest problem I have here is the language. I started learning Polish, but really it's a very hard language to learn. At the same time, three months ago I was in a café in Warsaw and the girl attending us started speaking to me in Portuguese. We have more than 800 young boys and girls in Poland studying Portuguese. You can even see a Portuguese play in Warsaw twice a year at Warsaw University. It's very nice to see. So despite this major language difficulty, we enjoy it very much. Also, Warsaw is a very agreeable city. You have lots of parks, lots of cultural events and there is a good quality of life.
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