Riyadh: Portugal has offered Saudis investment of up to 1 million euros (SR5.1 million) in the country’s real estate or the financial sector, two-year renewable visas with access to all Schengen countries in Europe.
Paulo Portas, Portugal’s deputy prime minister said Wednesday that the question of visas would be discussed between the two sides at a joint committee meeting.
Portas spoke at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Conference Palace in Riyadh following his meetings with the crown prince and the finance minister. Portas arrived Tuesday at the head of a 45-member business delegation.
He said there was also interest in establishing flights between the two countries. “This would improve trade, boost education, tourism, friendship and bilateral trade.”
Portas said flights are currently operated by a Gulf airline to Portugal. “It is completely booked every day. Portugal is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for tourists. It has sun, ocean, heritage, history, astronomy, safety and excellent highways and airports.”
He said the country had emerged from its recession, was improving its economic growth and reducing unemployment.
He said Portugal was one of the few European countries that voted to recognize Palestine as a state at the United Nations.
He said Syria was a “great humanitarian tragedy. We should build a 21st century based on science, development, prosperity and peace, not on casualties and destabilization of millions of people, who have no homes, no schools, no health services. The world should be much more active on the Syrian question,” he said.
Portugal’s exports to Saudi Arabia are worth some 170 million euros and imports around 700 million euros, he said.
“Exports contributed 28 percent to our gross domestic product four years ago. Now it is 41 percent. Our exports include fruit, olive oil, shoes, information technology, renewable energy, health care and education. Portuguese companies are doing well in the Saudi market.”
“Our political relations are very good and we are discussing ways to improve our trade investment relations. For instance, we have to conduct negotiations on avoidance of double taxation and also to promote investment.”
He said the visiting delegation includes representatives from 45 companies, including from construction, public works, information technology, tourism, entertainment, sports, energy, environment, agro foods and pharmaceutical industries.
“Saudi Arabia invests traditionally in European countries, and I think it is the right time to look at Portugal because our economy turned around three years ago. “Our economic growth is back on track. We are now among the best performers in the euro zone. So this is the right moment to pay attention to Portugal. Previously we had great difficulty because of the EU bailout.”
Portas said he met the crown prince, the finance minister, and the minister of commerce and industry, who co-chairs the bilateral joint committee with him. He also plans to meet the agriculture minister, the minister of health, Prince Alwaleed and private groups.
“Portugal recognizes the key role played by Saudi Arabia in interfaith dialogue. Saudi Arabia is very relevant in the Islamic world. It is a key country providing stability to the Gulf region and Middle East. I am in favor of dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions. Portugal has always been interested in the influence of Islamic culture, especially in the south of the country.
“Portuguese people have been navigators and our nations have known each other for centuries, so we have a basis to improve our relations.”
He urged the Kingdom to send some of its 20,000 overseas students to Portuguese universities, and said he hoped the two countries could sign a memorandum of understanding on education.