Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
What made me go into politics can be summarised in a few words. It was the desire to act, to take part, to be operational and influential in running my city, specifically, starting with the city and the Country.
2. Is there a tradition of political involvement/policy - making in your family?
Yes, in as far as my grandparents on my father's side were already active, my grandfather, specifically, was an active person in politics and then my father intervened politically in what he did but it was not a high profile position. There was essentially a political consciousness, ideas were debated. My grandfather was Republican, he was against the Estado Novo (Salazar's regime) and my father developed that idea in the family circle with my brother and me. So we debated ideas. We were used to debating everything.
3. Have you had or do you have any person or political personality who has been a model or reference for you?
No I don't, in fact some years ago I was asked to identify a woman politician who was an idol and I have to confess that in the article I wrote at the time I said I don't have idols, there are people who have made a mark on me, who were important, decisive, men and women but not exactly idols. In order to make a deep impression on me I have to know the person beyond the objective elements. The objectives elements is that which a person does, that for which they are known by the public, but for me to say that that person makes an impression on me I have to know a little of the essence of the person, of the human being who is behind all that. Otherwise I would say that I admire that person. But for me, to admire is one thing and to make a mark is another. To make a mark means to mark the politician Eduarda Azevedo but first and foremost it means to mark Eduarda Azevedo the woman.
4. Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiatives? What were important experiences you made?
No. My involvement began straight away in the Government. I always paid close attention to what was going on here and abroad; the truth is that for a long time I carried out a research and academic project. Always alert and very critical. I was more participative, only in backstage terms, in relation to human rights both at a domestic level and, above all, at an international level while I lived abroad; the rights of ethnic minorities and those who are somewhat removed from the centre of society. There were movements at the Universities I went to, to a certain extent I already had some practice in these sectors, namely in Strasbourg and Brussels, where university participation put me in contact with the Associations at a local level where these situations were discussed and people did not stop at discussions. Quite the opposite, specific action was taken. Taking action meant being close to the people in question and hearing their problems straight from their own mouths and then trying to do something even if it was just demonstrations and petitions; now demonstrations, more specifically street demonstrations, weren't and aren't exactly what I have in mind.My political career started in 1991 when I was invited to be the Secretary of State for Justice and I belonged to that Government, the XII Constitutional Government, for four years.
The most important experiences of this political career… I have to say that I think that nowadays… perhaps I'm a little sceptical… nowadays, for those involved, politics has moments of satisfaction but, as a rule, there is a certain monotony; there aren't any great projects, there aren't any great stimuli and in this respect it is a question of managing normality and not expecting, at least I'm not expecting, any great political effects. Being more specific, there was something which undoubtedly touched me recently, in other words, at the end of the last decade, in the 90's, and that was the fall of the Berlin Wall; this was important because as from the time I visited the other side, the East, while I was still a university student, I always found that side absolutely ridiculous; the wall, ridiculous from the physical point of view because it was a little wall, it was a tiny thing, and then everything which was behind it, that meaning, those peoples, it was very important. Then, in more recent times, from the point of view of domestic politics, not because of being in opposition, but the political scenario is not stimulating and it doesn't galvanise me; if you want to give autonomy to an important politician you shall see how he behaves until the end; I'm talking about the EURO; the effort the country made to join the EURO was important and what I think is that it was possible to make the citizens aware of the importance of the event. From the political point of view, on a domestic level, on an international level, on a European level, on top of which I'm ardently pro Europe, the EURO issue, the adhesion of the eastern countries, rather the request for adhesion of the eastern countries I believe is symptomatic of an adhesion to democracy, of moving towards democracy and the desire to join the democratic countries, all this is important in relation to that which shall be a new World physiognomy in future terms; now I am hard put to be even more specific than that; in domestic terms, not because I am in the opposition, I think that, generically, which is happening politically in Portugal today is not galvanising me. Look, it's not an airport at Ota which is going to galvanise me, it's not another however many kilo meters of motorway which are going to spur me into action, nor another hospital… for a very simple reason, because I think that nowadays, given the levels of development which our people have attained, and which the Portuguese people have already attained, the Government does these things because it has the financial means to do so, therefore, it just has to put them into practice and place them at the disposal of the citizens. The citizens don't have to be eternally grateful, nor do those who do these things have the right to say now thank us because we did them, it is not duty, it is the management we talked about at the beginning, the going into politics to manage, to form, to have a better society, better at all levels from the economic, political and human point of view; this is the engine which propels the movement and this, only this, is its intrinsic value.
5. Did your objectives change during your political career?
The objectives, the main objectives we spoke about at the beginning, these remain the same because they are the scenario which I manage to bear in mind in order to situate my political behaviour. When I stop having those objectives I shall do something else other than this. Now, more specific objectives, these change according to what I am doing at each moment. For me there is the general objective and then there are the smaller and sectorial objectives. These are appropriate to each moment of the role I'm performing. So they don't change.
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I believe in the strength of the political parties to confer a healthy character on democracy. Therefore, it's the political party's reality which I think is important. Parties have positive and negative aspects, the truth of the matter is that political parties have a role to play in societies and in this respect they must have their space and strength, they must be able to express themselves. In some respects it was on account of what I think of the parties and their set of ideas that this party corresponds to way in which I see not only politics but also the world and things around me; I am militant about this and I aim to be, also inside the party, I won't say a systematically critical voice, but a voice which is concerned with questioning things so that people don't get too comfy because in all organisations, and a party is a human organisation, there is no doubt that people also start to make themselves comfy. It's good to pressurise, to question even the opportunity of political intervention itself and the way in which political intervention is carried out.
2. Which party and when?
In PSD (Social democratic Party). Since the 80's, somewhere around 86/87.
3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
It doesn't. In relation to equal opportunities for men and women the PSD's position is normally that it doesn't discriminate, therefore, if it doesn't discriminate it is pro equal opportunities. I have to say that I don't claim the battle for myself but I often underline that it's not on account of not feeling hungry that I don't know that there are people dying of hunger; therefore, it isn't because I never felt I was being excluded and discriminated against for being a woman either in politics or in any other area of activity that I can say there is no discrimination. Having said this, I cannot quote my case and say that it isn't necessary. On the other hand, in politics the world is extremely macho, sometimes it happens there is one leader who is more open and equal opportunities occur and there is another who is more orthodox, in accordance with macho principles, and equal opportunities no longer occur; and then there are that party "squabbling" of standing for election; for example, why are women listed first and men next? Men should be listed first and women should go at the end of the list, so it's all too… I'm not very in favour of a rigid regulation almost without the capacity for innovation and even with the capacity for introducing the human dimension of things; I simply have to accept that sometimes if there are no operating parameters, things "degenerate" into what we know and, in Portugal, it's very common. We're a country from the south, where men come first and don't have to prove anything. It's enough to be men and there is that acceptance from the outset that they must be competent - if they aren't competent today they will become so. Women… we'll see, if they are competent, the benefit of the doubt at least commonplace and, therefore, in my party things are no different from any other party from the same sector, in Portugal and generically in the south. I have to say that for some time I suspect that in relation to this, I have become, yes, a little sceptical, not in relation to Portugal and much less so in relation to my party but in relation to the World in general with regards to the affirmation of women and I say this invoking two or three examples. For example, the position which Nicole Fontaine has held in the European Parliament in relation to a women's lobby amongst European parliamentary members is something which distresses me because she is not corroborating any of the interests of the female European parliamentary members and they resent this because when she was still simply vice president everybody used to put her on a pedestal, they used to say, "When she can, when Nicole is able to …". Nicole is confronted with the same problems as the others, as men. In other words, a lack of financial resources. And she cuts back precisely in those areas and initiatives which, being put forward by women, are not so appealing in terms of European and international public opinion. She is also selective here and I think that if I were in her position I would have to do the same, I don't claim otherwise, only the idea that because it's a woman who is in charge and so things are going to be different and they're not necessarily so.
4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
From the outset, anyone who starts off in a party should start by being a grass roots militant. I, in fact, started at an intermediary level in party political life, I was president of my assembly board for my area - Algés, in 91, I was then in the government. Then I was president, at a district level, of the Conselho de Jurisdição da Distrital de Lisboa (Lisbon Jurisdiction Council) as from 95. Then I moved on to the national level with the current leader as Vice President of the Direcção da Comissão Política Nacional (National Political Commission's Executive Board). There were some interruptions. I am in favour of holding positions for one mandate, at most renewing for another mandate, then handing over the position… In the first office I didn't stand again because I didn't want to. In the second office, in the Conselho de Jurisdição da Distrital de Lisboa, still during Pacheco Pereira's time, the mandate came to an end and the leader of the party, Prof. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, made me the offer of heading up the party newspaper - Povo Livre. And it would have been most inappropriate for me to have held such a position whilst with the party newspaper. I had a go at the newspaper. At the Coimbra congress, I became vice president of the party and left the newspaper. And now, at the Viseu congress, I continue to be a member of the Comissão Política (Political Commission) and the Comissão Permanente (Permanent Commission).
The candidature to the first office, I think that… I don't know how it works in other parties, but I think it's common practice, in other words, the section's militants began to organise themselves in terms of candidates and they contacted me to know whether I was available to stand for that list. There was a programme or a contribution to a programme, let's call it an electoral manifesto, and I liked what was in the project; once again I thought that the project would involve me in terms of doing something for that section; I would, therefore, be active. We started with this logistical aspect… and votes were taken, then the other candidate stepped down… and that's how it came about… because they came knocking at my door… don't ask me, but it's not difficult to believe that the fact that I had been secretary of state, or that I was secretary of state was a banner… I have to be objective, let's say they wanted strong candidates and strong candidates involve having people with a high national profile. I already had or was having a high profile, I was still in the government.
5. Did you have any mentors inside the party?
No. I am part of a generation which found people with great political advertising in the party. Durão Barroso is one, Pedro Santana Lopes is another, we were all colleagues, we all know each other very well and it could be said that I have followed in their footsteps because theirs is media orientated career, mine isn't. Within the party and political activity I got used to just sounding out the opinion of colleagues, asking advice for decisions I had to take…
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I continue my academic activities teaching at the Law Faculty and supervising Master's degrees. From the human and intellectual point of view it is absolutely essential for me. I need this contact with teaching. As a member of parliament, both now and previously; as a member of the Government I didn't teach because it was completely incompatible; as a member of parliament I often appeared on television and the students would see me and wanted to discuss politics and other things with me, they are the first to bring up politics. I make the most of the Faculties to have contact with a broad age range at all levels, economic, social and intellectual. I only interrupted these academic activities when I went abroad; after getting my graduate's licence degree I went to Brussels to make a study, I studied in Strasbourg after the graduate licence degree, I stopped when I was in the government and then I went back. Faculty work is very important for me and it always ends up influencing the initiatives I undertake. In the last government I developed two fields, programmes for making young people aware and then, from a legislative point of view, programmes for the handicapped and their associations.
2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I have a Master's degree in Law.
3. What kind of jobs have you done?
I've taught, practised law, not as a barrister, company law. I practised as a lawyer until I joined the government. I was part of the Comissão das Privatizações (Privatisations Commission). I was director-general of the Ministry for Public Administration.
4. In which areas do you see your special competencies?
It is difficult for one to say what one's best at. I'll mention a mixture of skills and inclinations. I undoubtedly like and have invested in European issues - during the term of last government I wrote three books on them. Then I like social areas a lot because in fact Law is instrumental and I like law as a tool. Nowadays I am discovering a propensity for the armed forces area, namely the military part of them. It has got to do with military sociology. In terms of social issues I am interested in the areas of the family, the handicapped, children, conflicts of generations.
5. What are your political priorities?
That Portugal may attain a level of consolidated growth, that it might have the opportunity, which it is not having, of enjoying economic convergence with other European countries. It needs to get a grip quickly and continue on the path forwards which means the so-called reforms which are much talked about. For me, in domestic, political terms the priority is to not "slack off" and to find a second wind and, above all, to find a new purpose. A country without a purpose is a country adrift. To start with, tax reform. Whether we like it or, not money makes the world go round and this is essential. Reform of the educational system, because the Portuguese people must have higher levels of education, because society is increasingly demanding. Furthermore, people must adapt to the new employment model which exists today, which is no longer as it was before when it was a job for life. People have to be sufficiently flexible and, therefore, they must make qualitative jumps in attitude. So, the educational aspect is fundamental. And, above all, all this in a context which favours the fight against economic and social exclusion because high levels of education only for some and then runaway social and economic exclusion naturally results in an unbalanced and unstructured society. Social well being does not exist.
6. What are your main areas of intervention?
Here in political terms, I am almost given over heart and soul, I was asked if I was interested and it can be understood by identification that it is the area of European affairs to which I never say no, I am always on the look out. At the moment I am completely wrapped up in issues related to European affairs. When things calm down in terms of the EU Presidency, I shall rethink, maintaining European affairs but taking on specialised areas, may be in the social field. I am going to try to create a balance between an area which is always gratifying to me and another which is gratifying but which always ends up moving me as a person which is the social area; these are areas which deal with things which aren't right and, therefore, if there are things which aren't right something must be done, the first X-ray of the situation is always disagreeable.
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Above all to be a good member of parliament at a national level and to maintain the greatest possible contact with the geographical area where I was elected, which is Braga.
2. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
They, women, must be stimulated by the political activity of decision making. They can't turn their backs to politics. They must like politics and here a person's political culture is determinant. I cannot conceive that a woman, in order to be interested in politics, doesn't watch the news on television or read a newspaper. Otherwise she is not aware of what is going on in the world or in the country. Therefore, she must be alert and vigilant of developments. Of course, she has to have time for this and in mentioning time, here we are back at the old question which is always raised, which is the reconciling of family, personal and professional life. Of course when there are nappies to be changed or dinner to be made, the news may be spectacular but either it is heard with half an ear or not at all. So one must be objective and aware that the stimulus to go into political life or decision making is even more complicated because it completely exceeds a woman's will and predisposition. There aren't many strategies. For the political decision making organ, the presence of women is very limited by the fact of having or not the capacity which, in essence, is the "basis of the sauce". But then it depends on whoever makes the choice, and whoever makes the choice may use completely different criteria. And how to be against those criteria…? I mean to say, I don't know… Because I don't see how a leader, a political decision maker, a party can be forced to obligatorily introduce women into politics, if not by means of quotas. Awareness is important, it is "the soft touch on a heart of stone", but then I don't know how much touching is needed to really get through to the heart, because the feeling I have is that one person comes along and sees things from one perspective, another comes along with a different slant. And then, there's something else, which is the pressure of the party machine. Quotas are the best of a bad choice. I don't like quotas. I'm not going to discuss whether they are constitutional or anti-constitutional. What interests me is the political essence of the question; legally I could even say they are anti-constitutional because equality has no parameters, no goal posts. But quotas are a solution which does not win everyone's agreement. And women are the first to say they don't want them. But I don't know of any other mechanisms.
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