Ambassador Randi Charno Levine Remarks at FLAD Legislators’ Dialogue

Ambassador Randi Charno Levine Remarks
FLAD Legislators’ Dialogue
Lisbon, Portugal – May 2, 2022
(As prepared)

Bom dia! What a pleasure to be here this morning and celebrate people to people exchange – an effort so dear to my heart and so sorely missed these last few years. Congratulations to Rita Faden and Miguel Vaz for your leadership and for organizing this fantastic event in person.  A warm welcome to our visiting American legislators.

I am honored to give my first public remarks here at FLAD– our closest partner for more than 40 years. Rita and I had our first meeting last week and I can promise you we are going to do great things together across so many platforms to strengthen and showcase the best of American-Portuguese relations.

FLAD is an incredible partner doing the important work of bring our countries together, both to address mutual concerns and celebrate common bonds.

FLAD and the Embassy have partnered on significant projects throughout the years. Most recently they held a STEM science and robotics competition among high school science clubs to develop the most practical innovations. And the winning teams of the “Ciencia Viva” competition were awarded laptops.

FLAD’s “Study in Portugal Network” sponsors American students at Portuguese universities for an academic semester.  More than1,000 American students are already grateful for this opportunity. We so value the chance to partner on these impactful projects.

FLAD is also an expert on bringing together top policy minds to discuss critical and timely issues – In fact, on April 19 when I first  arrived in Portugal FLAD hosted pre-eminent foreign affairs expert Charles Kupchan to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine.

And today we are so pleased that you are all here – federal and state legislators – to discuss how the legislative branch can further the bilateral relationship at this crucial time in our history.

And as always, FLAD has put together an impressive program for you! I am especially pleased that President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa will be here– I have already had the pleasure of meeting him twice in my very first week in Portugal and he is both brilliant and engaging. Foreign Minister Cravinho is also on the agenda, a partner to us first on defense, and now on foreign relations.

Miguel Stilwell de Andrade at EDP will also speak with you– he is one of many important partners we have here in Portugal.  I feel fortunate to live just across from FLAD, where I will be introduced to so many of our Portuguese friends and partners during my tenure. I am told the number of US residents in Portugal has tripled in the past decade, and although I am only here two short weeks I have already learned why.

Many U.S. technology companies from Accenture to IBM to Microsoft have established their European business delivery centers here in Portugal, attracted by the talented and multi-lingual Portuguese work force. The United States is also an integral partner in Portugal’s digital transition.  Almost all Portuguese technology entrepreneurs are benefitting from the U.S. startup ecosystem, which includes not only funding, but networks, mentoring and customers.

These startups ultimately providing global solutions and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.  A number of these startups have now attained billion-dollar valuations, we call them “unicorns.”  The total valuation of Portuguese unicorns now exceeds 25 billion euros.  This is new wealth creation and a classic win-win story that we are proud to share.

Portugal is also an important NATO partner and in these challenging times, we cannot value our partners enough.  It is hard to believe that in 2022 we are yet again witnessing a European country brutalizing its neighbor, right on the doorstep of our NATO partners.  We must all step up in the face of the atrocities inflicted by President Putin, including intentional bombings of civilian targets and mass killings. Supporting Ukraine sends a strong message that each country has the right to choose its own destiny, and not to be subjugated by a larger, more powerful neighbor.

As President Biden said when he announced an additional security assistance package for Ukraine – we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin.

I want to thank Portugal, as Speaker Santos Silva says, “for fighting for peace” and providing refuge to more than thirty thousand Ukrainians.  We are grateful for Portugal’s steadfast support and coordination on Russian sanctions as we continue to increase the cost to Putin for these unprovoked horrors.

Just as the US and Portugal share democratic values in civil society we must uphold them in the geopolitical arena as well. We must all step up to improve our collective security by meeting our NATO commitments.  We must also work together to counter propaganda around this unjust war and make sure Russia does not evade international sanctions.

We have learned the hard way that autocratic regimes stifle the creativity, independence and security that are pillars of democracy. It is our duty as leaders in free democratic societies to fight autocracy and establish free and open markets – for trade, for ideas, for the rule of law.

By joining together with our allies and partners to safeguard these values we will not only ensure personal freedoms but promote peace and prosperity throughout the world. FLAD’s efforts speaks to these values and the strong ties we share, and it is my honor and pleasure to join them here in Portugal and participate in their important work.