Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Interview -Tazeen Akhtar - Photos: Shahid Raju

Portugal is on the western side of the Iberian Peninsula and is the westernmost country of mainland Europe. The country has one land border with Spain to the north and east and has a long coastline with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. In addition to continental Portugal, the country includes the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira, which are autonomous regions of the country.

The most important sectors of Portugal’s economy in 2014 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (25.1 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (20.5 %) and industry (17.0 %).

Portugal’s main export partners are Spain, France and Germany while its main import partners are Spain, Germany and France.

Capital: Lisbon

Geographical size: 92 225 km2

Population: 10 427 301 (2014)

Population as % of total EU population: 2.1 % (2014)

GDP: € 173.044 billion (2014)

Official EU language(s): Portuguese

Political system: semi-presidential republic

EU member country since: 1 January 1986

Seats in the European Parliament: 21

Currency: Euro. Member of the euro zone since 1 January 1999

Schengen area member  since 26 March 1995.

Presidency of the Council:  Portugal has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 3 times between 1992 and 2007.

Mr. Joao Paulo Sabido Costa is Charge d’affaires of Portugal to Pakistan. He is very soft spoken and social person. Mr. Joao Paulo is working on enhancing mutual relations in all possible sectors including trade, culture and people to people contacts. Pakistan in the World interviewed him last week. Here are the details in question answer form.

Q: Restoration of Death Penalty in Pakistan has raised serious concerns in E.U countries. GSP+ status is being reviewed soon. What is your country’s take on this issue as a member of E.U.?

A: What we can do and we should do is dialogue with Pakistan on Death Penalty. Dialogue is the best strategy to solve the issues. Dialogue takes you ahead towards your goal. Dialogue is necessary to make the others agree with your point of view. And dialogue must be frank and friendly. For us death penalty is very important issue as Portugal abolished it almost 200 years ago.


Q; Pakistan is facing energy crisis since long. What cooperation Portugal can extend to overcome this problem?

A;  We have constructed dams in Africa and South America. Portugal has vast experience in hydropower generation as well as in renewable energies. Pakistan can benefit from our experience and technology. We offer our full cooperation and help in this regard.

Q: Diplomats are the most sensitive community especially when security and safety is concerned. Pakistan remained the victim of terrorism for 10 long years. What were your feelings and impressions while coming to Pakistan for your duties?

A: I was not afraid. I am alright here. People of Pakistan are peace loving. I visit different places and cities. I observe peace everywhere. Before coming to Pakistan I was in China for four years. While preparing for leaving there to Pakistan, my friends told me that environment and culture of Pakistan is very good.

Q: How the bilateral cooperation in trade and commerce is going?

A: It is good but it can be better. Pakistan-Portugal Business Council has been formed. Chambers of commerce are being visited. I visited Lahore in this regard. Lisbon is hosting an economic conference on Pakistan in Jan 2016.

Q: Do you see any commonalities between Portugal and Pakistan?

A: Many buildings have been constructed in the same style. You can notice the similarity in ceramics as well. We enjoy a history of 60 years of diplomatic relations. We imported Pakistani ceramics and started their manufacturing in our country. Pakistani Pottery is very beautiful.

Q; Portugal tourist industry is very strong. Do you see any possibilities of cooperation in this sector?

A;  Yes. Sure. We are ready for that. Pakistani tourists can find many things to see in our country. Golf, Beaches and Culture etc. Portugal has a lot of tourist sites and attractions that catch the heart of the visitors.

Q; Sports is another big reference of your country. What are the possibilities in this field?

A; Both countries have a long history of sports. We can start “Sports Diplomacy” to bring both nations closer and be familiar. Sports are the big part of our tourism industry. Football is the most favorite sports. Portuguese footballer Ronaldo started from our country. Now he is our world fame footballer. Pakistan is famous for world class football manufacturing. This is a common thing between the two countries.

Q: You will be also accredited to Afghanistan. What is the status of Portugal-Afghan relations? As your country is also part of peace mission in Afghanistan?

A: Portugal-Afghan relations are not yet as we have close contacts with Pakistan. We are trying to enhance our relations with Afghanistan. At present, we have good political and diplomatic relation. Our military mission is in Afghanistan that is managing Kabul Airport. We are training afghan troops also.

Q: Recently a large number of Syrian Migrants rushed towards EU countries creating a border management crisis in many countries. Is Portugal also affected?

A: We are not so much affected. Migrant’s movement towards our country is still very low. E.U is looking into this crisis and certainly some solution will be evolved. UNHCR is also observing the situation. Anyway we are already hosting Syrian immigrants.

Q: There is a misperception in the west about women status in Pakistan. What is your observation? Do you have any plan for women empowerment?

A: Women empowerment is, no doubt necessary for development of society. Our country is a strong advocate of women equality. Pakistani women are active in different spheres of life with men. We can cooperate for their more betterment if asked. We would like women of both countries meet and exchange their experiences for their role in making their countries more prosperous. We will try to plan a visit of Pakistani women to Portugal.

Q: You have worked in China. Now serving in Pakistan. China is investing in China Pakistan Economic Corridor. What is European take on this project?

A: CPEC is a good project that will minimize the distance to sea for China. Both countries have benefits in this project. Portugal is China’s strategic partner. Therefore we enjoy very cordial relations with China. It means China is our common friend. Therefore we welcome this project.

Q: We see that you have a very rich taste of historical monuments and structures. Have you visited Lahore, the historical city of Pakistan?

A: Yes, I have visited Lahore and some other cities. Lahore is a real attraction for tourists. There are many sites worth seeing in this city.

Q: What do you do in your free time? Any hobby?

A: Islamabad’s hiking terrains are my favorite. I go for hiking. I have also started playing Golf Sometimes I visit Nandos where I find friends on Portuguese food we spend good time there.