France and Portugal

Political relations

Relations between France and Portugal are punctuated by regular visits in both directions, either at the level of the Prime Minister of Portugal (to meet with the President of the French Republic or the Prime Minister), or that of Foreign Ministers and European Affairs Ministers.

In November 2002, Portugal decided to extend the network of its “special partners” (Spain, Brazil and Morocco) to include France: bilateral high-level topical meetings bringing together both Prime Ministers and several ministers were thus instituted.
Five meetings have already taken place: on 31 October 2003 in Lisbon on the theme of the “Partnership between France and Portugal to address enlargement”; 10 April 2006 in Paris on competitiveness; 22 February 2008 in Lisbon on the theme of the Sea; 7 May 2010 in Paris on innovation and research. The last bilateral meeting in Lisbon on 10 April 2015 allowed for a broad overview of global, European and bilateral issues.

In addition, the President of the French Republic received his Portuguese counterpart, Mr Rebelo de Sousa, on 10 June 2016, which is the National Day of Portugal and of the national poet Camões and the Portuguese Communities. This exceptional National Day celebration outside Portugal enabled Mr Rebelo de Sousa to greet the largest Portuguese community in Europe (between 700,000 and 1.5 million people including all Luso-descendants).

Economic relations

France is Portugal’s third-largest supplier and second-largest customer. Our trade is close to €10 billion and traditionally showed a surplus for France, but for several years now we have recorded a deficit (in the order of €1 billion in 2014 and €1.2 billion in 2015).

Despite Portugal’s recent economic difficulties, France’s presence in Portugal is increasing (approximately 750 companies with a turnover of €9.5 billion and almost 60,000 Portuguese employees) in the chemical and environment sectors (ENGIE, Air Liquide, ARTELIA, Dalkia) the pharmaceutical industry (Sanofi-Aventis), automotive equipment (Faurecia and CACIA for Renault and PSA), electrical and electronic equipment and installation (Alcatel, Legrand, Schneider), agri-food and distribution (Bonduelle, the Bel Group, Auchan, Intermarché, FNAC, Decathlon) and banking and insurance (BNP Paribas, AXA, Crédit Agricole).

Emblematic investments include the acquisition of ANA Portuguese Airports (Airport Authority of Portugal) by VINCI Airports in 2013 and of Portugal Telecom (incumbent operator) by the Altice Group (parent company of Numericable-SFR chaired by Patrick Drahi) for an amount of €7.4 billion in 2015.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

After having been dominant, our cultural and educational influence is now challenged by the growing resonance of the Anglo-Saxon model. Moreover, the financial adjustment plan implemented in Portugal is having major consequences for the cultural and artistic sector: merger or liquidation of certain cultural bodies, rationalization of supervisory authorities, reduction in subsidies to cultural foundations, etc. However, the fact that Portuguese elites are Francophiles and speak French is an asset.

Our action relies on a network made up of the French Institute in Lisbon (IFP), which was transferred to the premises of the French Embassy in summer 2015, and of 12 Alliance Française branches, the Charles Lepierre French School (Lycée) in Lisbon, a prestigious secondary school in Portugal, and the Marius Latour French International Lycée (LFIP) in Porto.

Our interventions centre on four main lines of action:

Scientific and research cooperation

The main focuses of French cooperation are: life and health sciences; nanoscience and nanotechnology; oceanography and ocean sciences. It is mostly structured around the Hubert Curien Partnership “Pessoa” created in 1991, which implements high-quality scientific partnerships enabling international researcher mobility. In addition, various cooperation projects between research organizations (INSERM/Lisbon Institute of Molecular Medicine (iMM Lisboa)/Institute for Research and Innovation in Health in Porto, and the Gulbenkian Science Institute (IGC) in Oeiras). A partnership agreement was signed on 23 May 2011 between the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) to finance joint research projects in three priority areas: biology and health; ecosystems and environments; humanities and social sciences. The first call for projects, launched in the first quarter of 2012, was a great success, with 92 projects submitted. A new agreement between the FCT and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is also being finalized.

Educational and language cooperation

The decline in learning French in Portugal is worrying even if French remains the second most-taught foreign language (after English and ahead of Spanish). French is little taught in primary schools because of the widespread use of English, but is studied as a second language in secondary schools by 80% of pupils (220,000 students). However, this figure drops to 12,000 pupils at high schools, as the teaching of a second foreign language is not compulsory.

Three priority areas have been identified for our educational and language cooperation: teacher training in cooperation with French teachers’ associations, the Portuguese Ministry of Education and regional education authorities, the development of European sections of French, the use of digital tools in class and French teaching in higher education; development of French Official Language Certifications such as DELF (French Language Studies Diploma) and DALF (Advanced French Language Diploma) in the network of Alliance Française branches and in schools; improving the image of French teaching and promoting multilingualism.

Academic cooperation

Portugal ranks 13th among countries of origin of incoming students in France and French students account for approximately 8% of foreign students in Portugal.

Cultural and audiovisual cooperation

The French Institute in Lisbon (IFP), which was created in 1937 and transferred to the French Embassy in summer 2015, will guide its strategy towards essentially external actions based on partnerships with Portuguese institutions, by focusing on co-productions. These actions will ensure a strong French presence at major events and organizing institutions (Almada International Theatre Festival, Alkantara Festival, Serralves Foundation in Porto, São Luiz Municipal Théâtre in Lisbon, etc.).
Every year IFP co-organizes the Fête de la Francophonie (Francophonie Festival) and the Almada International Theatre Festival. The cultural promotion initiative with the greatest ripple effect is definitely the Festa do Cinema Françês (French Film Festival) during which some 30 French films are screened each autumn in around 20 Portuguese cities, or more during the next edition. In addition, the Fête de la Francophonie (Francophonie Festival), held on 11-26 March 2015, brought together more than 13,000 people in 15 partner cities. It is organized through the collaboration of French embassies in Portugal, also highlights new artistic productions and leads to lasting partnerships.

The Alliance Française branch has been teaching French and translation courses since 2004. Finally, our audiovisual presence is based on the broadcasting of French satellite or cable channels (TV5, France 24).

Other cooperation

Defence cooperation

Bilateral defence relations are governed by a bilateral agreement signed on 30 July 1999. A meeting is organized every 18 months at defence staff level. Our cooperation includes visits by authorities, regular politico-military discussions, targeted cooperation actions in various areas and the dissemination of our organization models. In particular, it helps maintain a favourable climate for our defence interests (access to the vast air/sea area under Portuguese control, which is crucial for the freedom of movement of our forces in transit in the Atlantic and proved to be especially valuable for Operation Serval in Mali, regular calls at Lisbon, Porto and the Azores), and for taking account of our proposals, notably within the security and defence organizations and bodies to which we jointly belong (EU, NATO, 5+5 dialogue, etc.). It should be noted that there is extensive cooperation between both navies in the field of maritime surveillance. Exchanges of officers also take place in the three army corps (guidance towards a military Erasmus).

Internal security cooperation

Operational cooperation is vast and concerns drug trafficking, organized crime, document fraud and the fight against illegal immigration. Multilateral cooperation in the framework of the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre- Narcotics (MAOC-N) is yielding very encouraging results.
A civil security agreement was signed in April 2015 and a second one should be signed shortly in the field of internal security.

Updated: 21/06/2016