The Portuguese Age of Discovery

Source: M. (Maroš) Sefčovič i, published on Wednesday, July 8 2015.

Since Middle Ages, Portugal's passion for the oceans and for nautical sciences has brought about ground-breaking discoveries, helping to connect Europe to the rest of the world. During my visit to Portugal I realised that the descendants of the great medieval scientists, like Pedro Nunes and Abraham Zacuto, are just as ambitious about serving as a bridge to the world. Only this time they are using wind energies and an LNG port. We are at the dawn of a new 'Age of Discovery'.

What could possibly be the energy contribution of a country, the size of Portugal, for the rest of Europe, one may ask. But when it comes to the Energy Union, Portugal is no less than a major international hub. Thanks to its abundant supply of renewable energy and LNG port on the Atlantic and thanks to its strong ties with Lusophone countries (where half of offshore discoveries are made) - Portugal serves as an important energy bridge between Europe and the rest of the world. In fact, once properly connected to the rest of the continent, the Iberian Peninsula could provide Europe with as much natural gas as we currently purchase from Russia!

But above all, the Portuguese energy potential stems from the strong political will. Its government is highly ambitious about its own energy-transition and the central role this can play within the Energy Union. As part of the Energy Union Tour, I met with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho and Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva in Lisbon last week and presented to them the main benefits which Portugal could see from the Energy Union and how it could contribute.

We agreed that on a day when the wind is blowing from the Atlantic Ocean, Portuguese energy should offer cheaper and cleaner energy across the continent. Of course in order for this to happen we must ensure better interconnection of infrastructure from Portugal, through Spain, into France and the rest of Europe. Great progress has already been achieved on this front by my colleague, Commissioner Arias Cañete but we mustn't stop until we reach the Commission's interconnectivity targets.

Next, I had the pleasure of addressing and exchanging views with Portugal's national parliament, the 'Assembleia da República' - which I remember favourably from my previous mandate for holding Europe's record in number of opinions sent from a national parliament to the European Commission. This time I was impressed, not only by their ambition to play their role in the Energy Union, but also by their very deep understanding and knowledge of this topic. Finally, visiting the Parliament allowed me to pay tribute to one of my childhood heroes: Eusébio is another Portuguese legend who crossed the ocean and connected Europe to the world, this time through his extraordinary talent in soccer.

It was a very tight schedule, starting at 4AM with only 7 hours on Portuguese soil. Yet, it was important for me to also meet with industrialist representatives and to hold an Energy Union Dialogue event with Minster Moreira da Silva. In the magnificent building of the Champalimaud Foundation, we had the opportunity to discuss with citizens what the Energy Union could mean for them and the great impact of the upcoming LNG Strategy on a gas hub like Portugal.

At the end of the session, the moderator asked the audience to digitally vote on the usefulness of such Citizen Dialogues. The overwhelming 'yes' result encourages me to participate in more events of this kind, as I did recently in Groningen, Riga, Luxembourg, and Budapest. In the end, the Energy Union Tour is about meaningful exchanges with those who have a stake at the Energy Union; those who will benefit from its promise to provide secure, competitive, and sustainable energy. And that includes us all.

Participants' reactions following the Citizen Dialogue