Parliamentary friendship groups
Within the overall framework of the Assembly of the Republic's activities, Parliamentary Friendship Groups (PFGs) occupy a key position in the foreign relations field, in particular with regard to the development of parliamentary diplomacy.
Parliamentary Friendship Groups are official Assembly of the Republic bodies whose mission is to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the parliaments of countries to which Portugal is bound by ties of friendship.
They aim to:
• Take part in a general exchange of knowledge and experiences;
• Study bilateral relations and their place in the alliances and institutions to which both states belong;
• Publicise and promote common interests and aims in the political, economic, social and cultural fields;
• Exchange information and consult with one another with a view to the possibility of coordinating positions in
international interparliamentary organisations, without prejudice to each national group's complete autonomy;
• Engage in joint reflection on problems involving the two states and their nationals, and look for solutions that fall
within each one's legislative competence;
• Recognise the value of the past and present role of each other's emigrant communities, where they exist.
PFGs are made up of varying numbers (between 7 and 12) of Members of the Assembly of the Republic, from different parties. The number from each party reflects the number of seats it holds in the Assembly of the Republic. No individual Member may belong to more than 3 friendship groups.
The first Parliamentary Friendship Groups were set up under the terms of Decision no. 4-PL/90 of 20 June 1990.
However, the continuous development of the PFGs meant that more precise regulations were needed, and this happened in the 9th Legislature, with the implementation of new rules laid down in Resolution no. 6/2003 of 24 January 2003. This applied the rules governing the modus operandi of specialist standing committees to the PFGs by analogy - a procedure that not only enhanced the dignity of the PFGs, but also helped to make the way they work more effective and efficient.
How Parliamentary Friendship Groups are formed
The initiative to form a PFG with parliaments of other countries may be taken by the President of the Assembly of the Republic or by a group of Members of the Assembly. However, the formal creation requires a specific Order of the President of the Assembly and the latter's publication in the Official Journal of the Assembly of the Republic.
The President will only approve initiatives that fulfil two essential prior conditions:
• The other countries must have diplomatic relations with Portugal;
• Their parliaments must have been freely elected.
Before he decides, the President of the Assembly of the Republic asks the Foreign Affairs Committee for an opinion with a view to drawing up a report on the feasibility of creating the proposed group. After the decision is taken, it is published in the Official Journal of the Assembly of the Republic and the members of the Group are appointed.
Once these requirements have been fulfilled, the Group appoints its officers: a chairman, a vice-chairman and a secretary.
Activities of Friendship Groups
Each year PFGs must submit an activity programme for approval by the President of the Assembly of the Republic.
The PFGs' work consists of regular exchanges of information and the analysis of subjects of common interest, mainly in the political, cultural, social and economic areas.
Visits to the country of the counterpart group and its visits to Portugal also form part of the PFGs' activities.
Administrative and Financial Coordination
The International Relations Division is responsible for providing the Parliamentary Friendship Groups with technical and administrative support.
The annual budget of the Assembly of the Republic includes a budgetary provision for the activities of the PFGs.