Speaking on July 2, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said he wants to use the six months of the Portuguese presidency to focus attention on Africa, Brazil, and other emerging economies.
The motto of the EU's incoming Portuguese presidency is: "A stronger Europe in a Better World."
But whereas the previous presidencies, culminating with Germany earlier this year, focused on overcoming the effects of the Cold War in the east of Europe, Portugal believes it is time to move on.
In the words of Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, "the world has changed."
Amado said in May that the EU must now adapt its foreign policy to the world created by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States. He said this means shifting the EU's attention south, predominantly to Africa and Latin America, but also to the Middle East, where global inequalities fuel emigration and extremism -- both of which increasingly affect Europe.
Africa And Brazil
Speaking in the Portuguese city of Porto on July 2, Prime Minister Jose Socrates said he will add two "key commitments" to EU foreign policy -- Africa and Brazil.
Socrates said the Portuguese presidency will symbolically kick off its foreign policy agenda with a first-ever summit with Portuguese-speaking Brazil on July 4 in Lisbon.
"It will give greater coherence and credibility to the relationship which the EU already has with new emerging economies," Socrates said. "We have other summits, with Russia, with China, with India. We are going to be holding those again under our presidency, but we thought we had to complete the picture in our policy with emerging countries with the summit with Brazil."
An EU-Africa summit will take place in December in Portugal. The last time the leaders of the two continents met in such a format was in 2000 -- the last time Portugal held the EU's rotating Presidency.
Despite the new southern focus, Portugal's foreign minister has also promised that he will not neglect ongoing EU concerns such as the stabilization of the Balkans or relations with Russia.
Socrates has said in interviews that he intends to take a conciliatory stance in contacts with Moscow. EU-Russian relations are currently in a crisis after the EU twice failed to launch strategic partnership talks with Moscow, first under the Finnish presidency in November 2006 and again under German stewardship in May 2007. Both times, Poland blocked the talks in retaliation to a Russian embargo on its meat and plant exports.
Both Finland and Germany also sharply criticized the shortcomings of Russia's democracy record.
Shift From Central Asia
Diplomats in Brussels expect the EU's recent interest in Central Asia, which saw the adoption of a first-ever EU strategy for the region at a summit last month, will subside under the Portuguese presidency -- at least temporarily. Portugal has no historic links to or direct interest in the region and is not dependent on Russian energy imports for which Central Asia could provide an alternative.
Portugal is also unlikely to give any new impetus to the EU's Neighborhood Policy (ENP).
Much of Portugal's time will be taken up by the international community's struggle to decide the fate of the Serbian province of Kosovo, which remains under UN administration.
In terms of domestic EU politics, Portugal's main priority will be to follow up on the agreement reached at the June Brussels summit and finalize the text of a new Reform Treaty for the EU, to enable it to function better after taking on 12 new members since 2004.
Prime Minister Socrates said on July 2 that he hopes to wrap up the talks at a summit in Portugal in October.
"It is our intention to try to complete the treaty as soon as possible," he said. "That's what Europe expects. They expect us to get on with the job expeditiously."
However, this may prove difficult. Although Warsaw accepted a compromise on EU voting reform at last month's Brussels summit, Poland's leadership has now questioned some of its key aspects.
Portugal may find itself preoccupied with Central and Eastern Europe after all.
EU Expands Eastward
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