June 3, 2014
Portugal's ambassador to Poland, Maria Amelia Paiva, talks to Ewa Hancock.
You arrived in Poland last year. What's your impression of the country? Have you seen much of the countryside?
I’ve been in Poland for eight months and I find the country beautiful, with very well preserved historic sites. I’ve seen only a little bit of your wonderful countryside, and some of your important cities such as Poznań, Lublin, Cracow and Opole. We also paid a short, but very interesting visit to the Warmińsko-Mazurskie region. I was very warmly received everywhere and I could sense a real interest in strengthening cooperation between Portugal and Poland.
How would you summarize current relations between Poland and Portugal? Are we good partners for difficult times?
Bilateral relations between Portugal and Poland are very good. We maintain a very constructive and positive dialogue in several different areas and we cooperate well in the political, diplomatic, economic, and cultural fields. Since 1996, trade between our countries has increased substantially, mainly after 2002. As reported by the Portuguese Statistics Department, bilateral trade already surpasses 800 million euros. Compared with other markets it might not be that impressive, but it is 18 times more than 15 years ago. And we believe that many opportunities worth exploring will occur in the next few years.
In what sectors of the Polish economy are Portuguese businesses doing best?
Portuguese businesses, in general, have successful operations in Poland. Currently there are around 130 small, medium, and large Polish companies with Portuguese capital in several sectors, such as food (distribution chains); banking and financial services; renewable energy; construction; industrial facilities; consulting and health care. There are many others besides. There are even Portuguese industrial companies with production facilities in Poland. High-value technology products constitute more than 50 percent of transactions between the two countries.
What's the outlook for Portuguese-Polish trade relations?
Trade between our two countries has been increasing fast. In just four years, between 2008 and 2012, the number of Portuguese companies exporting to Poland tripled, from 600 to 1,800. Many of the individuals I have been in contact with have expressed an interest in taking these relations to an even higher level and broadening their scope.
What would you like to accomplish before you leave Poland?
It's not so much about my future accomplishments, it's more about what we, Portugal and Poland, can achieve together.
The small Portuguese team that I lead will continue to work hard with our Polish counterparts to strengthen a relationship that has achieved a lot recently. For example, at the scientific and technical level, there are good prospects for intensifying collaboration between universities and other high-level education institutions. Private companies from both countries are increasingly investing in R&D through partnerships with Academia. In political and diplomatic terms, we hope to achieve closer cooperation. And we’ll continue to work to bring the Portuguese language and culture to more universities in Poland. Currently around 1,000 students a year in Poland graduate and go on to do PhDs in Portuguese Studies.