Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tightening ties within Europe

Portuguese prime minister and Ukraine president in Lisbon


With campaigning at its height  for the European Parliamentary elections, the ferocity of Russian attacks on Ukraine has intensified, and allied intelligence officials are now tracking an increase in Russian low-level sabotage operations in Europe.

The Russian operations could involve fake polls and propaganda fraud. The sabotaging is part of an effort to undermine support for Ukraine, according to intelligence sources. The operations have also involved arson or attempted arson attacks on a wide range of targets, including a warehouse in England, a paint factory in Poland, homes in Latvia, and an IKEA store in Lithuania. So far, no such damage has been reported in Portugal.

Portugal’s Prime Minister, Luis Montenegro, has been  to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It was a very cordial meeting.

“We’re both committed to making Portuguese-German relations more intense,” said Mr Montenegro.

“We stand close to many of the challenges posed to Europe,” he said, and went on to praise the support Germany has been giving to Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian invasion.

He added that the Portuguese government was working to reach the “audacious” 2% budget target for defence expenditure as agreed with NATO. “Our commitment to NATO is full. From this perspective, we understand that words alone are not enough. This commitment must be materialised in action.”

The German chancellor said that Portugal had been “a reliable ally” and “a good friend for the European Union.” At the end of the meeting it was announced that there would be boosts to the cultural, economic, and political  relations between the two countries.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, paid a six-hour working visit to Portugal on Tuesday. It was described as “part of a shared intention to deepen the excellent relations between the two states, with a particular focus on strengthening cooperation in the field of security and defence.” Advance voting for the European Parliamentary elections has just begun (Wednesday May 29). Voting at polling stations will take place between June 6 and 9. Polling stations in Portugal will be open on the last day, the 9th. The overall turnout for the last EU parliamentary election in 2019 was low: 40.8%. A survey published earlier this year predicted the turnout this time would be significantly higher.

Young people, including first time voters, are being strongly urged to take part. The total number of people casting their ballots in the 27 member states for 720 parliamentary seats could be in excess of 373 million.

More publicity than ever is being given to the prospects of the far-right winning a majority of seats in this election. The populist parties have strong support in Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, and Portugal. However, the far-right remains divided, which may mean relative weakness in Strasbourg and Brussels. The centrists may well prevail.

As we reported recently, to be eligible to vote in Portugal, you need to be over the age of 18 and fit into one of four categories:

+  Portuguese citizens registered on the electoral roll of the national territory.

+  Portuguese citizens residing abroad who have not chosen to vote in another EU country.

+  Citizens of other EU countries registered in Portugal who choose to vote for Portuguese members of the European Parliament.

+  Brazilian citizens with a citizen’s card or identity card with equal political rights.

Polling stations will be in municipal council offices or at locations posted on notices in local council offices on voting day.

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