A Research Proposal - Has the European Union had an impact on Portuguese Foreign Policy towards Lusophone Africa? How so?


The motivation to research this question is essentially connected to its contemporary relevance. It is also connected to its relation to ongoing events and sets of interstate relations that date back to not just to Portuguese accession to the European Union (EU) in 1985 but to events ocurreing far before that. My Portuguese background together with an authentic interest for Lusophone Africa and the European Union as a unique political project represent the central personal motivations towards this topic. Also, the last semester of 2007 will see Portugal taking over the Presidency of the EU and having as a major trump card a big EU-Africa Summit. This also signals interest by all the actors I will be analysing in what are their relations with each other. Previous personal research on the topics of Common Foreign and Security Policy and the conflicts in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau (together with their respective sets of international interventions and interrelations) also adds up for the interest in the topic. This research will be filling a gap in the literature since most of the literature concerning the three big players has focused on the bilateral relations between them.

Studies like these are important in order to assess if small states like Portugal are or not likely to back out of more European integrationist moves in terms of foreign policy. This may be that case as they potentially sense that their voices are either being lost in a cacophony of dissent and power games in distant Brussels or if they have easier and more effective routes to the world outside Europe that do not necessarily encompass stopping at Brussels. It is nowadays more important than ever to assess to what degree EU relations with Africa are fragmented, both in policy formulation and in their implementation that is divided between EU Member States and the European Commission as is recognized by the latter (2005:2).

Moreover, as Olsen (1999:341, 343) recognizes, “the study of Africa’s external relations is an under-analysed topic in the literature on international relations, the study of Europe’s relations with Africa suffers from the same shortcomings”

The guiding question in this research is essentially “evaluative” (Babbie 2007:75) in that it seeks to evaluate what is the outcome of X on Y, in this case what the outcome of Portuguese EU membership on Portuguese-Lusophone Africa relations is.

The problem has as its central challenge to bring together three spheres of analysis comprising Portugal/Africa Post-colonial relations; Portugal/EU relations; and the broader set of EU/Africa relations. To better understand the relations between these actors, where EU policy towards Africa intersects with Portuguese policy towards Lusophone Africa and what the relationship between the two is.

A group of sub-questions detailing the main problem will be important to look at as the research progresses. These will be attempted to be answered before broader conclusions about the effect of EU on different aspects of Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa can be reached.

What has been the evolution of the: a) economic; b) socio-political relations between Portugal and the ex-colonies and how do these match with the evolution in the relations between Portugal and the European Union.
How is it that the economic integration of the EU affects Portuguese trade relations with Lusophone Africa?
Are the policy-making challenges that the EU as as bloc professes shared and replicated within the rhetoric and policy-making of Portuguese foreign policy-making bodies towards Africa.
Has this change from a focus on the old Ultramarine provinces in the south to the ambitious and fairly successful European project represented a major shift in the foreign relations of the country? Are the evolutions in both sets of relations compatible or have they been conflictual at some stages?
Does the EU constitute a hindrance or an asset in the projection of Portuguese interests in Africa and in the further development of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) as an organization? Are Portuguese relations with the EU and those with the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) synergetic or antagonistic? Why?

The research will try to understand on what do Portuguese post-colonial relations with Lusophone Africa consist of, find out if these relations “go through Brussels” and if this is so what is the essential role of the EU in affecting Portuguese policy. Does the EU act as a filter, a Dictaphone, a power enhancer, or is it actually an irrelevant actor in the current relations between Portugal and Lusophone Africa. These four different modalities will be further explored defined the conceptualisation section below.

An inductive approach will hopefully also be able to clarify if Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa has been based on “go it alone strategies” (Taylor 1979:96), if it has been compatible with the wider framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of “One Africa” or if it has presented us with a mixed picture (European Commission 2004;2005)?

”Portugal is obsessed with selling to Europe its role within Africa as a ’gateway’”
(Cahen 2003:93)

Research has been abundant in the sets of relations between Portugal and Lusophone Africa during its troubled colonial past as well as for the brief period that comprises the process of decolonisation. The same applies on EU-Portugal relations, EU-Africa relations and on the evolution of the dilemmas surrounding the EU’s CFSP. Unfortunately literature on post-Colonial relations between Portugal and Lusophone Africa is limited and so are approaches that bridge these three spheres systematically. The following literature review will try to show how the three bodies of literature can be bridged and how the evolution of the three sets of foreign policy relations are intrinsically connected in significant ways.

Portugal and Africa

Portugal should however be seen as having in the geneology of its language an important component of its ”geostrategic affirmation policy”. This does not necessarily mean in turn that ”a neo-colonial attitude is implied” (Santos 2003:78).

In regards to the role of CPLP, Luis Antonio Santos (2003: 67) has looked at the Portuguese relationship with CPLP as an uneasy one and as one that lacks leadership. He also notes the evolution in the relationship with the former African colonies as slowly moving into a post-colonial phase. In his work, he observes the interest in advance with the CPLP as being actually closely related to European integration so he understands the two as not being mutually exclusive. From delving into speeches by policy-making actors he acknowledges that the perception seems to be that the more importance Portugal loses in Africa the less it has “something of its own” (Santos 1998:70) in Europe. This perception can possibly contribute to stimulating “go it alone strategies” in Portuguese foreign policy.

According to Santos, the accession of Portugal to the EU has most clearly affected its relation with Brazil but I would argue that as Mozambique and Angola develop Brazil’s behaviour towards Portugal is likely to be emulated. His overall conclusion has been that in regards to the CPLP ”opportunities are being lost, either due to unecessary complexes or overzealous realpolitik” (Santos: 2003 74). The question that remains is if Portugal’s role in the CPLP can go beyond the folklore of an organization that establishes a connection to a world that seems to provide it with the selfish wishes for singularity of a country that ”feels increasingly diluted in Europe and ’invaded’ by Spain and that seeks to try a put into evidence ”old self-assurance notions, like ’the unique ability to interplay with other cultures’, or the ’non-racist character’ of the Portuguese people”(Santos 2003:75). This discussion brings about an interesting dimension of EU-Portugal relations with the EU potentially constituting a threat in cultural and geopolitical terms whereby Portugal perceives it as a dictaphone and has in the privilege of relations with Lusophone Africa an alternative escape.

While Cape Verde, Sao Tome Principe and Guinea-Bissau have traditionally been non-confrontational with Portugal in post-Colonial relations the case has been different with Mozambique and Angola. The relations with these two countries in particular appear to have gone through considerable changes in the recent years and, according to Santos (2003:70).the Portuguese membership in the EU has had a role in increasing Lusophone Africa’s interest in strengthening the link. According to Cahen, from the African perspective Portugal is primarly looked at in ”commercial and financial terms” (Cahen 2003:83). Apparently, the age of multimedia and privatization have made language a commodity and that has reflected itself in trade and bilateral relations (Cahen 84). This increase in interest can be seen as a factor on viewing the EU as a power enhancer.

Paradoxically Portuguese foreign trade with the African Countries of Portuguese Official Language (PALOP) remains marginal at around 2 per cent. It is important to keep in mind when comparing Portuguese relations with Lusophone Africa with the relations of other big-shot investors in the countries such as France, the US and the United Kingdom that, apart from in South Africa and in the PALOP, ”Portugal is virtually absent from the rest of Africa” (Cahen 86). This factor can possibly limit the hypothesis that Portugal is firmly taking part in the EU’s attempt at implementing a ”one Africa” foreign policy.

Even for Cape Verde, Portugal is merely the price to be paid for getting into Europe. The specific case of Cape Verde is unique as is the only of Lusophone Africa that is structurally dependent on Portugal, and therefore indirectly to Europe. For Cape Verde, Portugal was the safest and most practical way into Europe. This was an exception to the rule. As Cahen points out, ”Portuguese attempts to sell Lisbon to the EU as the ’Gateway to Africa’ failed completely, merely because any company in France, Italy or Britain have no need whatsoever to go ’through’ Lisbon to invest in Angola or Mozambique” (Cahen 2003 91) This shows the limits of viewing Europe as simply a power-enhancer and shows how it can also, despite Portuguese wishes for the contrary, be seen as irrelevant in enhancing Portuguese foreign policy.

EU and Portugal

The first traces of European integrationalism ,even in all its contradictions, must be traced back to the years of dictatorship. Andresen-Leitao (2000) understood Portuguese relations with Europe during Salazar’s dictatoship as one of realpolitik flexibility when strictly necessary,while the small breakthroughs of Marcelo Caetano (successor of Salazar) and the policies of, particularly, his minister Rogerio Martins are well portrayed by Castilho (1998). This period saw as important marks, Portugal accession the Organization for European Economic Cooperatoin (OEEC), the signing the European Free Trade Agreement in 1960 as well as the Common Market agreement in 1972 whose evolution and contextualisation will be important for the research.

The essential point put accross by previous readings on EU-Portugal relations is that membership in the Union ”turned a marginal country into a part of a major trading bloc whose other members, taking advantage of its cheap labour costs, have been eager to invest in” (Salgado 1999). The evolution of this process has also been compiled and analysed by Nuno Valerio (1998) and Marina Costa Lobo (2000). This process has meant that the EU accelerated the development of Portugal, helping the economic momentum after the end of the burden of the colonial wars and the assimilation of the retornados (the returnees from the ex-colonies).

The EU has been a primary example of the relevance of international regimes at affecting state policy. The first hypothesis of this research is that there are “implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures” (Krasner in Rittberger 1993:2) in the European Union regime, most explicitly in the CFSP, that Portugal’s foreign policy can potentially converge with.

EU and Africa

Europe’s CFSP was founded in 1993 with the Maastricht treaty but has since then witnessed a slow and turbulent evolution as the most complex pillar of the EU. The EU has used instruments of foreign policy such as : institution-building and formal agreements; conditionalities; incentives and aid. (Soderbaum et al 2005 :376) When it comes to development aid, the EU has been by far the biggest donor, with Overseas Development Aid accounting for 60% of the total going to Africa (European Commission 2005). Soderbaum seems to conclude that the stronger the counterpart, the more concessions are given by the EU, ”benefits seem to be a function of the relative power positions of the EU vis-a-vis its counterparts” (Soderbaum et al 2005: 377). This notion makes notice of three important aspects: firstly the potential for the EU of a ”one Africa policy”; secondly the possibility of the EU acting as a power-enhancer that improves Portuguese bargaining power vis-avis other states at the global level; thirdly, in addition of acting as a power-enhancer it also acts as a filter in that it has a say in influencing which aspects of foreign policy of EU members with Africa become more salient and relevant.

Olsen characterizes European Union’s foreign policy towards Africa as falling into the trap of idealistic rhetoric and the final output of its policies being one of desillusionement (Olsen 2001:335). The period between 1995 and 2000 witnessed a Washingtonization of Brussels in the Lome IV b accords. Olsen (2001: 94) also seems to be an advocate of the theory that government to government relations between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe continue to be more important than macro-region to macro-region relations. He however believes the insistence in these bilateral relations proves ineffective when it comes to foreign policy promoting development in general and state-based aid policy in particular. This shows evidence of a foreign policy reality that remains based on ”go it alone strategies” but that is also currently being pressed to change into a ”one Africa” model that better suits development in general.

According to Pinheiro, the European Foreign Policy has been moving away from human rights and economic development towards issues related to violent conflicts and conflict management (Pinheiro 1999). This is, I believe, controversial but it does make evident how the EU has been trying to export its model of economic conflict-resolution whereby the recognition of regions as salient and viable political units is incorporated in the rationale for region-building (Soderbaum et al 2005:369).

Youngs (2004: 308) observes a diversion of aid from Sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and the Middle East that is strongly criticized by ACP countries. This comes into line with Farrel’s perspective that constant shifts in European interest in Sub-saharan Africa show that the bloc’s policy towards the continent has been ”reactive rather than proactive” (Farrel 2005: 278). It also shows that EU rhetoric about foreign policy assuming the model of ”one Africa” should also not be taken from granted since prerrogatives and priorities assumed by the governing bodies of the EU sometimes contradict this notion.

EU’s impact on Portuguese Relations with Africa

Figueiredo regards Portuguese integration in the EU as a far better option than latter day colonialism (2003:138). Membership of the EU, for a small country with inherited bilateral relationships with US, Australia and Indonesia offered it ”other diplomatic and consular advantages” (Figueired 2003:139). Portugal can act bilaterally when it sees fit but also rely on EU support when necessary.EU membership seems to according to the author have added strength to Portuguese diplomacy as is made evident by the admission early in 1986 of Portugal in the first Africa-Europe summit in Harare. Figueiredo recognizes that at a consular and individual citizenship level, membership of the EU added ”imeasurable value, strength and benefits to Portuguese nationality, particularly for the Diaspora”. Figueiredo (2003:142) concludes that ”Portugal is now much better qualified to cooperate with both the Portuguese-speaking countries as well as with other countries in the SADC, including South Africa”. This is a clear argument for viewing EU as a power-enhancer for Portugal in its relations with Lusophone Africa.

The foreign relations of the EU as a bloc have historically gravitated around diplomatic and civilian power. Traditionally relying on financial assistance, trade negotiations, membership conditionality, sanctions and limits on arms export. This traditional stance however is going through attempts of making EU’s foreign policy more pro-active and more effective so that it come to terms with tackling the problems of intricate bureaucratic negotiation processes and the lack of military means, finally resolving its “capabilities-expectations” gap (Smith 2003:170). In this sense the question if Portugal has been subscribing to a security strategy that is adapted to external crisis-management and pro-active quick intervention strategies will be posed as will the assessment of the compliance of Portuguese foreign policy with the Petersberg tasks[1] of the Common European Security and Defence Policy (CESDP). If this is found to be the case then one will be able to infer that the EU is acting as an important filter of Portuguese foreign relations in general including that towards Africa, influencing what are the most important aspects of foreign policy through agenda-setting and, in the case of conflict-prevention, working as a power-enhancer as a major source of diplomatic leverage.

Furthermore, the one of the research sub-topics will be to try and understand to what extent has Portugal, as a small European state, been fostered to actively participate in the formulation of its foreign policy making by being seen as having a potential pivotal role in what Duke calls “selective engagements” (Duke 2000 :111). This research will try and hopefully understand if Portugal has been called upon by the European Union to help formulate the bloc foreign policy in selections of African issues whereby Portuguese input might be strategically desirable thanks to specific interests, know-how, language or historical background between the actors. Again, answering this questions will help us understand if Portuguese initiatives have been based on “go it alone” or “one Africa” strategies.

Research Design

The primary qualitative nature of this study means that research will not follow a linear path and will instead try to capture and discover the status of the current foreign policy options of Portugal towards Africa. Measures will be created in an ad hoc and inductive manner, going through extensive amounts of speeches and official documents, from the Portuguese government, the European Union and respective feedback from the foreign policy organs of the countries of Lusophone Africa.

The EU-Africa summit in late 2007 also represents a landmark. An event that will be monitored and put all of the research into context. As so, a close observation of the summit will be carried out and the event be used as a platform for reflection and collection of date through direct observation, speech analysis and elite interviews.

The research concerns macro-organizations (states and groups of states) and respective institutions therefore the unit of analysis will be the macro-level of state and inter-state relations, including the quasi-supranational organization that is the EU and the interstate organization of the CPLP.

From the starting point of the unit of analysis one then includes as units of analysis: firstly the state machines of Portugal and Lusophone Africa and those agents that are somewhat related to them, such as foreign policy-makers, investors and economic agents from these countries; and secondly the EU will also be organized as an organization in particular the developments of its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

These will be related to the writings on post-colonial relations between Portugal and Lusophone Africa and how these portray the evolution of foreign policy between the two; lastly research will also look at the evolution of the European CFSP and understand to what extent it pervades and affects Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa.

Data Collection

The data collection of the investigation will firstly comprise the collection and merging of non-integrated secondary textual data on the subject as the central spine of the thesis.

Also, when collecting the data, a triangulation of observers and of method will be carried out. The triangulation of observers will be crucial to be able to focus on the overlap between what is the encompassing CFSP and the niche diplomacy of Portugal towards its African Lusophone counterparts. Elite interviews will be important on this aspect. Similarly, using both quantitative and qualitative methods will allow the research to match the product of elite interviews and review of secondary literature with the hard-data evolution of economic indicators and levels of political engagement and integration between the blocs. Previous statistical studies on the European Union’s development aid to Africa will be assessed in terms of how much Portugal has contributed to it as well as data that show the evolution of trade and investment between Portugal and Lusophone Africa. This will constitute the use of retrieved date of documentary records from institutions such as the Portuguese Central bank and the European central Bank. These will not represent however exhaustive quantitative analysis exercises but will simply serve to put what is essentially a qualitative research project into context and give it more depth. This will represent the use of content analysis to get through previously existing data on the matter.

A one-voice EU will be seen with more legitimacy and more argumentative/persuasion power at various different levels of foreign-policy towards Africa. The task of this research is, at some point, to assess to what extent does the European voice of foreign policy match the Portuguese voice in foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa, and secondly what impact does this match or mismatch of the two have in influencing the current state of affairs of Portugal-Lusophone Africa relations. An element of research will be assessing the use in discourse and practical action within Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa of a “one voice, one Africa” stance or of a “go it alone” tendency.

The use of semi-structured elite interviews of involved in the foreign policy processes with a background from the three different spheres of analysis will be carried out in intimate and relaxed “backstage social settings” (Neuman 2006: 148) and then will be followed by a respective comparative study that contrasts expectations with practical outcomes. Questions will explore not only what they perceive to be the major changes in Portugal-Lusophone Africa relations, if they think membership in the EU has had an impact on those changes and if so, how? There will also be questions exploring what these elites think are the biggest challenges for EU-Africa relations in the near future and how, if at all, does Portugal feature in the attempts to tackle these challenges. The use of semi-structured interviews will allow a focused yet flexible approach to the debate and allow us to better understand what the current perceptions are on the three sides about past and future workings of the foreign policy-making process.

Lusophonie - defined not primarily in terms of the Portuguese language, but rather as a ’specific area of intersection with other identities’ (Cahen 2003: 88). The concept adopts therefore a geopolitical nature

European Union - the supranational and intergovernmental union of twenty-seven states and respective political bodies.

Common Foreign and Security Policy - established as the second of the three pillars of the European Union in the Maastricht treaty of 1992, and further defined and broadened in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999. It superseded the European Political Cooperation. According to the Treaty on European Union, Article 11, the European Union defines and implements a common foreign and security policy covering all areas of foreign and security policy

Portugal/Africa Post-colonial relations - These will comprise economic, cultural and political relations between Portugal and Lusophone Africa since 1974 but with a particular focus in the period from 1985 onwards, after joining the EU.

Portugal/EU relations – these comprise economic and political relations between Portugal and the European Union, particularly in terms of how these converge in the third pillar of the CFSP.
EU/Africa relations – these comprise the evolution of the foreign policy trends in the EU’s stated goals, objectives and practices with the African continent with particular attention given to the CFSP.

The following concepts are ideal types in the Weberian sense in that they represent different possibilities of how the european Union might be (or not) involved in influencing Portuguese Relations with Lusophone Africa.

EU as a filter – The EU as having a vast influence in delineating which aspects of Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa become more salient and are given top priority while constructing this same foreign policy in constant open dialogue with Portugal, with the latter even able to, to some extent, steer the agend through assuming the EU’s presidency.

EU as a power enhancer – Membership of the EU as providing diplomatic, economic and political leverage to Portuguese relations with Lusophone Africa and also making Lusophone Africa more and more interested in strengthening economic and political links with a country that is part of a major trading bloc and of a global power.

EU as a Dictaphone – the EU as constantly managing to dictate what Portuguese foreign policy is towards Africa, leaving no room for any Portuguese influence of the main sweeping lines of EU foreign policy. This comes to represent a perceived threat in cultural and geopolitical terms to the country.

EU as irrelevant – Portuguese foreign policy towards Africa is constructed in a fully autonomous way irrespective of EU’s influence.

The two following ideal types are connected to the previous ones but are seen as the two broad vectors of how the practice of Portuguese foreign policy towards Lusophone Africa can react to EU integration.

Go it alone strategies - Foreign policy that is over-reliant on nation-state to nation-state relations and that ignores or is uncoordinated with the wider framework of the CFSP in its aims and objectives.

One Africa policy – Full coordination between the stated objectives of the EU’s third pillar (CFSP) and the individual foreign policy of member states which include bilateral relations.

Given that this is primarily a qualitative research and its quantitative component is based solely on secondary data analysis, operational definitions will be put together at a later stage of the process.

Time Frame

This research is to be carried out over the next 12 months. The start of the Portuguese presidency will mark the beginning of what it aims to be a meticulous process of observation and monitoring of discourse and policy-making between the actors on the three spheres that are being analysed. The event of the EU-Africa summit will mark a moment that constitutes an opportunity for carrying out elite-interview and do a qualitative analysis of the reports that the EU-Africa summit will produce. Given the inductive nature of the research there will be a great deal of flexibility in terms of the temporal division of tasks in the research. The first six months however will be, for the most part, used to gather, organize and structure the data while the last six months will be dedicated at the analytical work of writing and processing the data into a coherent body of work.

For travel expenses to Portugal and current expenses in regards to the interviews of participants in the EU-Africa Summit it is estimated a budget of R120 000.
These findings will, besides being published in the form of a Master thesis, attempt to be condensed and published as an article for a peer-reviewed academic journal. I will also proceed to report my findings to the interested bodies of the European Union, the Portuguese government and other members of the CPLP as well as promote the study in conferences and research institutes to which the topic is deemed as relevant.


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[1] These include humanitarian and rescue tasks; peace-keeping tasks; and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking (Ortega 2005)

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