President hopes one country’s blindness will not stall EU/Mercosur deal

  • Lusa
  • 29 June 2023

"It is essential that the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur is concluded, and that it is concluded as soon as possible", said Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Portugal’s president has said he hoped the European Union (EU)/Mercosur agreement would be concluded quickly and would not be held up by the “blindness of one country” or by the “selfishness of one or another state”, which he did not wish to name.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was speaking at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon on Wednesday evening at the close of the 11th Lisbon Legal Forum, a Portuguese-Brazilian initiative, which was also attended by the vice-president of Brazil, Geraldo Alckmin.

“It is essential that the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur is concluded, and that it is concluded as soon as possible. If feasible, during the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union until the end of the year, so that we don’t waste time. It is important for the world that Brazil leads, it is important for the European Union”, he defended.

Receiving applause from the audience for these words, the Portuguese head of state added: “If the European Union misses the opportunity, because of the blindness of one country, for cyclical reasons, it will perhaps miss the opportunity of a global role in the dialogue between the great powers of the world”.

With Geraldo Alckmin at his side, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa reiterated the message that “this is the time for Europe to open up to the Latin American world, especially the South American world”, with the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur agreement.

“It is time for Europe to assert itself as a global power there too, and the selfishness of one or other state cannot stop what is the inevitable evolution of time,” he said.

When asked which countries he was referring to, the president did not want to name them: “We know – I did not want to specify – that there are countries that have parliaments that have recently voted with a majority position against this agreement”.

“That is a huge brake on what has been waiting for 20 years. And we cannot afford to waste, not 20 years, nor two, nor three, nor four more years, because these are years lost for Mercosur and lost for Europe. And Europe could thus lose a fundamental bridging role as a global power in relations with the South American and Latin American world”, he insisted.

According to Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on a bilateral level, the “joint fight” of the Brazilian and Portuguese authorities for an EU/Mercosur agreement has been “a success”.

Portugal, which sees the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, in the second half of this year, as “an opportunity” to conclude this agreement, has been “talking to its European partners to explain that there is no time to lose,” he said.

The Lisbon Legal Forum is organised by the Brazilian Institute for Teaching, Development and Research, the Institute for Legal and Political Sciences of the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon and the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

In his speech, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also spoke of the challenges posed by digital technologies and artificial intelligence, calling on jurists to seek answers and on politicians to take decisions to “control the factual powers that own the digital”, in defence of democracy.

In this regard, he called on politicians to “not bury their heads in the sand” and act preferably at the international level.

“If we choose the path of democracy, we choose the path of the dignity of the person, of the rights and the differences between people, of pluralism, of dialogue, of trust. And if we choose that path, that means safeguarding that set of values as quickly as possible and as widely as possible, and trying to control the factual powers that own the digital,” he argued.

The head of state noted that this “is difficult”, just as “it was difficult with the financial powers, which caused the financial crisis a few years ago, when the real economy was converted into a financial economy”.

“The same we have to observe carefully about the digital powers. The new digital powers are transnational, they require transnational responses”, he sustained.

According to the president, it is necessary to “discover formulas to respond to algorithms, benefiting from the advantages and reducing democratic costs”, preventing “the algorithm from conditioning the Constitution and the law”.

“Law must anticipate, welcome in order to foresee, to discipline, to minimise the costs of that which will only introduce less democracy, more inequality and more injustice, between the powerful of digital and all the rest, who will be the non-powerful of digital,” he advocated.

Before participating in the closure of this forum, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the vice-president of Brazil were together on Wednesday for lunch at the Palácio de Belém, in Lisbon, hosted by the Portuguese president.