JANA WENDT: Mr President, welcome to `Dateline`? The most critical issue, it seems, facing Europe today is this issue of immigration and perhaps illegal immigration.
How has that issue played out in your own country?
JORGE SAMPAIO, PRESIDENT OF PORTUGAL: Well, it`s not the issue, but it`s one of the issues. Now, I think we`re approaching the moment in which we need a European policy on the matter and not just a national one. For example, Portugal has had many, many thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe, this is totally new. We had immigrants from Africa, from the former colonies for the last 20 years, but suddenly this shift occurred and thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe have appeared. They are necessary because unfortunately demography is not playing what it should be playing in the majority part of the European countries. You saw Mr Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain and Mr Aznar, the President of the Union at the moment, with a joint statement that a future council will try to have a global policy on immigration. So this means that, for the first time, everyone is being aware that you cannot deal with this country after country. But you have to deal with it globally. What it is producing – and I will end in a minute – what it is producing is anxiety in some of the national citizens of all the countries concerned because you think jobs will disappear. From them, there`s a lot of uncertainty in the air and this has produced some disaffection from the traditional voting patterns, if I make myself understood.
JANA WENDT: Let me ask you this – you raise the issue of Mr Aznar and Mr Blair getting together. One of the things they`ve proposed is punitive measures against nations that allow people to pass across their borders illegal and enter EU countries. Would Portugal be in support of those kinds of measures?
JORGE SAMPAIO: It is difficult to say. I would not substitute my Government in relation to that. That`s new, so I don`t know if that would be admitted by the whole European Summit.
JANA WENDT: What`s your Geiger counter reading on such a proposal?
JORGE SAMPAIO: I don`t think you always have to negotiate the contingents of immigrants really because we have responsibility. We need them for their capacity and their work, but we have a responsibility to have inclusive societies with pluralistic approaches, good integration and democratic functions. We do want to fight in a way illegal immigrants because there`s strings attached to this, and that means criminality of the organisations that export them, Mafias of all kinds, and this has to be fought like any other source of criminality. This has nothing to do with political refugees. That`s another issue altogether because we`re open to that, as we always have been.
JANA WENDT: Do you think the fact that we`ve seen the election of right and centre-right governments, as in your own country, is a signpost to the failure of the left to deal with people`s concerns and fears about this?
JORGE SAMPAIO: It`s more complicated I`m afraid. It has to do with the globalisation to a certain extent, to the fact that the small shops are… and for example, to the fact that why do you see voters who were always extreme left suddenly voting right because they are concerned with their future? There`s a new issue of security. It`s not just the street security or the criminal direct security. It`s security at large about jobs, about health, about social security, about education. There`s a separation, a growing separation between the citizen at large and the political system. And I think that this shows the sort of disaffection with the political system as it has worked.
JANA WENDT: Let me travel all the way to our region now and to ask you about East Timor. You`ve watched Portugal`s form a colony, become an independent state – how confident are you that it will develop as a democracy?
JORGE SAMPAIO: Well, I`m optimistic. Although I`m realistic about the challenges which are great, so I continuously say from the UN to the protagonists in East Timor that the support from the international community has to continue, although obviously in different forms. The Australian-Portuguese commitment to this support is absolutely necessary. By the way, let me say that I would not be here as the first head of state from Portugal to visit Australia ever, had it not been for the new openness in our relations after the 1999 initial cooperation about East Timor. And so I think we have to continue.
JANA WENDT: As a senior Australian defence analyst, Professor Paul Dipp, has suggested that Portugal`s renewed help in East Timor might not help East Timor in its most crucial relationship – that is the one it has with Indonesia. What do you say?
JORGE SAMPAIO: I am totally against that vision really because we have reopened relations with Indonesia with our hands totally open and our hearts. We had very old relations with Indonesia, which were interrupted in 1974-75. We have reopened them now. Visits of Indonesian Ministers, a very active embassy in Jakarta, our Prime Minister has been there. The new Prime Minister will necessarily be there in the future. I have invited the Indonesian President to be in Portugal. Portuguese people at large have nothing against Indonesia. On the contrary, the new diplomats were received like if they were around for the last few years. On the contrary, I see that the capacity we have to talk to the East Timorese and in fact align with them in the need for a stable relation with Indonesia is understood by the Indonesians.
JANA WENDT: And how much longer is Portugal prepared to commit to East Timor?
JORGE SAMPAIO: That depends on the decisions of the East Timorese. And we don`t have any special strategic or economic interest. If I want to put it on a very blunt and rather unfair economic basis, it`s cost us a great deal. We do that for emotional and moral and all sorts of reasons that have to do with the past relationship. We will continue to help as a normal state-to-state foreign aid affair.
JANA WENDT: I suppose what I`m asking is are you prepared for a long haul commitment to this tiny state?
JORGE SAMPAIO: I think so. It depends obviously how the budget will go. But as far as the political intentions are concerned, they are at full swing, like we do in Angola, Mozambique. I think that is a very good showcase of cooperation when between your country and my country. To put it very clearly, the Australians have understood that what our reasons are and we are not competing with Australians on any ground whatsoever, and I do hope that you understand that you are not competing with us, we are not competing with you. We have a task. It`s a mutual task that history brought together at the same time. And this is to help now a new state to go slow pace, of course, the rhythm of the slow pace but nevertheless consolidating a new state. That`s what we really want.
JANA WENDT: Mr President, I thank you very much for your time.