Parliamentary friendship groups
The list of Parliamentary Friendship Groups (PFGs) for the 14th legislature was established by a Decision of the Assembly of the Republic, of 20 February 2020, following a proposal by the President of the Assembly of the Republic, after first consulting the Conference of Leaders at their meeting on 5 February.
Pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of the Republic, Parliamentary Friendship Groups are bodies whose vocation is to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the Parliaments of the countries that are friends of Portugal. They are responsible for promoting the actions needed to intensify relations with the Parliament and Parliamentarians of other states, particularly regarding the general exchange of knowledge and experiences, the exchange of information and mutual consultations (with a view to the possibility of articulating positions in international bodies of an interparliamentary nature), the publicising and promotion of common interests and objectives in the political, economic, social and cultural fields.
The list of PFGs for the 14th legislature was based on areflectionpromoted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Portuguese Communities – at the request of the President of the Assembly of the Republic – on the role they should play in the activities of the Assembly of the Republic as a whole, particularly in the field of external relations and parliamentary diplomacy. To that end, the Committee takes into account an assessment of the list of Parliamentary Friendship Groups and their performance in the previous legislature.
By this Decision of 20 February, the Assembly of the Republic established a list of 47 Parliamentary Friendship Groups, 45 of which are bilateral groups deemed to be of justified relevance, making it possible to address the need to deepen special relationships of ongoing institutional cooperation with the parliaments of friendly countries. The remaining two are multilateral groups [the Portuguese Parliamentary Group on Population and Development – with intense activity in the field of human rights – and the Parliamentary Group on the Commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Circumnavigation led by the Portuguese Navigator Ferdinand Magellan (2019-2022), which will ensure the Parliament's involvement in celebrating this occasion].
The above Decision also provides for the distribution and composition of PFGs, which, once settled, will reflect the composition of the Assembly of the Republic, thus involving Members of all parliamentary groups, single party representatives and the non-attached Member.
Parliamentary friendship groups occupy a key position in the foreign relations field, in the activities of the Assembly of the Republic as a whole, in particular with regard to the development of parliamentary diplomacy.
PFGs are made up of varying numbers of Members of the Assembly of the Republic (between 7 and 13, but this number may be higher in groups with Members of the PEV, Members who are sole representatives of a political party and/or the non-attached Member), from different parties, reflecting the number of seats each party holds in the Assembly of the Republic. No individual Member may belong to more than three 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 efficien.
How Parliamentary Friendship Groups are formed
PFGs with parliaments of other countries may be formed at the initiative of the President of the Assembly of the Republic or of a group of Members of the Assembly. However, their formal creation requires a specific Order of the President of the Assembly and its publication in the 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 making a decision, the President of the Assembly of the Republic asks the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Portuguese Communities for an opinion with a view to drawing up a report on the feasibility of creating the proposed group. After the decision is issued, it is published in the 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 governing bodies: a chairman and a vice-chairman.
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.