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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Mário Soares

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1995

Your Royal Highness,
Mr. President of the Prince of Asturias Foundation,
Your Majesty King Hussein of Jordan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured to receive such a prestigious award as this Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation and am both proud and grateful to accept it on behalf of Portugal which I represent by the free will of my fellow countrymen.

This award encompasses three realities which are particularly dear to me: Asturias, a privilege and generous land since the time of the Reconquest which has contributed so much to the Spanish national identity; the Royal House of Spain to which I am bound, Your Highness, by close ties to your August Parents and your Grandfather -who have all honoured me with their friendship- and who have marked Spanish democracy and modernity and finally, international cooperation, one of the key driving forces, the others being liberty and solidarity, which have guided my political career.

Your Highness, I would like to explain why I am so pleased that this award which I have been given bears your title as heir to the Spanish Crown. Once again we are witnessing an encounter between a Republican (but above all a democrat) and the monarchical institution which you represent. More than 25 years ago, in 1974 to be precise, I had the honour of being presented in Estoril to Don Juan, the Count of Barcelona, by and old friend of mine, Raúl Morodo, now the Spanish Ambassador to Lisbon, who is here with us today. From that very moment -we are talking of difficult times fraught with all kinds of danger- I realised your Grandfather's deep knowledge of and affection for Portugal and his intelligent grasp of the legitimate democratic aspirations which were then emerging. Don Juan continued to live in Portugal, a country where he was always greatly respected and esteemed by the Portuguese people, and in this way contributed, as I have said in public, to the consolidation of Portuguese democratic institutions. It was an unforgettable gesture and one very dear to Portugal. I was already President of the Republic when I had the opportunity of reasserting our gratitude to your Grandfather by awarding him Portugal's highest order, at a simple ceremony which I am sure you remember, at the Portuguese Embassy in Madrid. Your Father, King Juan Carlos, is a good friend to Portugal with an outstanding grasp of the duties of State. This was recently acknowledged at the V Latin American Summit in S. Carlos de Bariloche, in the sincere tribute paid him by the twenty Presidents of Republic present.

It is because of His Majesty the King, who also lived in Portugal and is so well-acquainted with our land, our language and our culture, Her Majesty Queen Sofía, with her acute and wise sensibility, and the remaining members or the Royal Family -who both know and love Portugal- that such strong ties of affection and mutual respect have been forged between our two countries and states. We have ceased to live "back-to-back", old phantoms and fears have vanished and a close cooperation and effective solidarity have been established, which both honour us and are exemplary, as neighbours on the Peninsula, partners in the European Union, allies in NATO and brothers in the Latin American Community. I would like to believe that this ceremony, which you have honoured by your presence, will further strengthen those ties which, given your splendid youth, will be projected into the future.

Mr. President of the Prince of Asturias Foundation,
Members of the Jury,

Today, international cooperation is an absolute necessity. Following the globalization processes now in progress the world has shrunk and there is a general feeling that everything in everyone's business. The very serious problem now facing us at the end of the millennium such as poverty, organised crime, lack of belief in essential values, ecological aggression, intolerance, the return of certain types of xenophobia, religious fundamentalism and ignorance, cannot be satisfactorily solved without cooperation. Cooperation implies a culture of peace and solidarity (in the words of Federico Mayor) and is based on acknowledgement of the dignity of men and their essential equality, regardless of race, sex, creed or social conditions.

Throughout my long political career, which has had its successes and failures, I fought always for the ideals of a pluralist democracy and of human rights but also for social justice and on behalf of the less fortunate on the understanding that democracy is not merely an instrumental political system but also the expression of the rule of law, guided by irrefutable ethical principles in every way connected with liberty, solidarity, mutual respect and respect for that which is different. That is why international cooperation should be looked on as an ethical imperative by all men of good will who are in touch with humanity. I hope this has helped you all understand why this international cooperation award has made me so happy.

We Spanish and Portuguese who are the heirs to a humanist cultures which, in Teilhard de Chardin's words, contributed to the civilization of the universal, who are committed to constructing a European Union which is not just mercantile and technocratic but above all an area of solidarity, liberty and culture, must learn to relaunch the ideals of the solidarity and cooperation, not only towards Eastern Europe but also to the southern side of the Mediterranean, to Africa and Latin America, which expect so much from us.

Your Highness,

I would like to end by once again expressing my profound gratitude to the President of the Prince of Asturias Foundation and the distinguished members of the jury some whom are friends I admire, not least Fernando Morán, my old companion in so many struggles.

Finally, I would like to pray tribute to His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, who has done so much for peace and international cohabitation, in region which has been particularly afflicted by war, and to all those who have been awarded such prestigious distinctions, beginning with my renowned compatriot, the historian Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão.

Thank you.

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