Portugal Report


Policies Developed

Although Portugal does not have a defined overall WGA strategy regarding its response to external conflicts and crises, the need for greater coordination and coherence is outlined in several strategic documents and policies, among which the following are noteworthy: First, in 2009, the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for Security and Development (Government of Portugal 2009). The strategy, which was the result of a much-needed debate among stakeholders engaged in defence/security and development cooperation, was regarded as a natural extension of a stronger stance in Portugal’s responses to fragile situations and aimed to “promote greater coherence and coordination in the external global action of the Portuguese state regarding security and development”. However, ownership was not ensured, and the strategy did not have visible concrete results, partially because it failed to establish clear responsibilities in the implementation of follow-up mechanisms.
Second, in 2013, the Council of Ministers adopted the Strategic Concept for National Defence (Government of Portugal 2013). This guiding framework analyses the major threats and establishes national priorities at both the domestic and international levels, with the latter focusing on Portugal as a security provider. However, since this overarching framework is very much focused on the armed forces, it does not define any follow-up mechanisms and also tends to be hindered by a fragmented framework in practice. A related document, the National Defence Law (as amended in 2014) (Republic of Portugal 2009), states that the national defence policy includes the public-sector policies that are relevant to safeguarding the strategic interests of Portugal, and specifically mentions inter-ministerial coordination as well as cooperation between the armed forces and the security/police forces. Nevertheless, some have argued that there is a need for an overarching national strategy on security that would allow for a more comprehensive approach towards security by going beyond the defence sector and the armed forces. This is made difficult, however, by legal constrains linked to a juridical/constitutional dimension of the security concept.
Third, in February 2014, the Council of Ministers adopted the Strategic Concept of Portuguese Development Cooperation 2014–2020 (Government of Portugal 2014) to be the guiding document for the country’s development policy. In addition to firmly establishing development policy as an element of Portuguese foreign policy, this document prioritises the link between peace, security and development by reinforcing coordination among actors and instruments of external action according to the 3D (diplomacy, defence, development) principle.
Fourth, in 2015, the Council of Ministers approved the Operational Strategy for Humanitarian and Emergency Aid (Government of Portugal 2015), which focuses on providing practical guidance to increase coordination and coherence in responses to emergency situations. The objective is to enhance this integrated response both within government departments and institutions engaged in humanitarian responses as well as when they coordinate with non-state actors. However, it does not have much political leverage, and awareness of its existence should be increased.
Returning to the issue of defence documentation, it should also be noted that a new cycle of programming is currently being defined regarding Portugal’s defence policy (2019–2022), which is supposed to be able to respond to emerging threats and new challenges in a more coherent and comprehensive manner. This will hopefully include an update of old but still valid legislation from the 1980s and 1990s that covers several aspects of defence policy-related external actions, including defence cooperation with partner countries. The need to update these instruments as well as to revise other strategies, such as the Strategic Concept for National Defence (Government of Portugal 2013), is explicitly stated in a decree of the Ministry of National Defence from April 2018 (Ministry of National Defence 2018).
At present, strategic documents regarding defence and security only mention civil-military coordination, particularly the need for increased coordination among all the security forces involved in external missions (i.e. the narrow scope of a WGA). The most recent documents also mention the priorities of maritime security and cybersecurity, which will also require greater civil-military coordination. What’s more, the extension of Portugal’s continental shelf is also a reason for civil and military organisations to enhance coordination and share equipment. Of course, Portugal’s armed forces are supposed to fulfil the state’s international commitments in the military field, to participate in humanitarian missions and international peacekeeping operations, to cooperate in civil protection missions, and to engage in technical-military cooperation in the broader context of the country’s cooperation policy (which is now called ‘defence cooperation’). Nevertheless, documents on security strategies make almost no reference to other actors beyond those in the security-defence axis, and development stakeholders are completely overlooked.
Turning now to the EU level, Portugal has actively participated in discussions to develop comprehensive approaches to external conflicts and crises. The Portuguese agenda in the negotiations surrounding the Global Strategy was centred on advocating for a stronger focus on Africa (e.g. regarding the development of a regular high-level political dialogue that goes beyond development cooperation and is not limited by the migration agenda) as well as on the Mediterranean and the EU’s southern neighbourhood.
Portugal pushed its agenda during its 2007 presidency of the Council of the EU. For example, the first Council of the EU joint session of defence and development ministers was held, the new European Consensus on Development and the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid were approved, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy was endorsed, and the process of developing an action plan related to fragile states and situations was initiated. Portugal also pressed for a EU ESDP mission in Guinea-Bissau (2008–2010), which was the first ESDP mission conducted in an integrated manner by involving the entire security sector (defence, justice and police) as well as the first mission fully planned and controlled as part of the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC) for civilian operations of EU crisis management. However, most member states showed little interest in contributing to and being actively engaged in this mission, which in turn contributed to its shortcomings.
At the international (non-EU) level, Portugal is generally seen in multilateral forums as an honest broker that pays special attention to the voice of the least developed and most fragile countries (which struggle to find a voice even within their development groups) and, therefore, as a useful partner for building bridges and consensus. It has strongly advocated for the inclusion of the ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ global goal (Goal 16) during the negotiations surrounding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it is involved in several discussions at the UN and the OECD on peacebuilding and statebuilding approaches in countries prioritised by Portuguese external action, such as the Portuguese-speaking countries.
Back to Top