2010 NATO Summit Briefing: Portugal

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Overview

The 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon Portugal will be held November 19 to November 20, 2010 and will see Heads of State and Government (HoSG) of NATO member countries discuss the strategic direction of the Atlantic Alliance.

U.S. President Barack Obama will be on hand to participate in the Summit, as well as meet European Union leaders. Barack Obama’s official visit will be his first to Portugal and the the 7th by a U.S. President to Portugal; the first being that of Franklin Pierce in 1857.

Portugal was one of the founding members of NATO in 1949 and is an active member in the alliance. Portuguese military forces haven recently taken part in NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The NATO summit is a meeting HoSG of NATO member nations to evaluate and provide strategic direction to the Alliance. Summits often serve to introduce new policy and invite new members.

At the 2009 NATO Summit in Strasbourg/Kehl - HoSG tasked the Secretary General to develop a new NATO Strategic Concept. This exercise should be completed by the time of the Summit in Lisbon. The Lisbon Summit may set the course for the Alliance over the next decade, including reform of the organization.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: "I expect the Summit to agree a substantially leaner Alliance Command Structure and a substantial reduction in the number of NATO agencies."

On missile defense, the Secretary General said: "I believe we are nearing a consensus at the Lisbon Summit for NATO to have a capability to defend all of NATO-Europe against the threat of a missile attack."

The importance of developing good cooperation with Russia was stressed by the Secretary General “with more cooperation on Afghanistan, a joint review of the challenges we face together today, and a more effective fight against terrorism and piracy."

Portugal

Portugal is a charter member of NATO, joining in 1949. Portugal is an active member of the alliance, with Portuguese forces participating in NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Portugal hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Command Lisbon and is expanding the command’s position on the African continent.

According to the U.S. State Department website, “The United States-Portugal defense relationship is strong and enduring.” A U.S. military presence in the Azores dates back to World War II. The U.S. Air Force works in close cooperation with the Portuguese Air Force (FAP) on a Portuguese base at Lajes Field on the island of Terceira, which remains a critical logistic hub.

The Portuguese Government is striving towards a greater cooperation with the U.S. Africa Command to coordinate engagement efforts, and to increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation with American forces in Africa.

A Nation of History and Progress

Geographically, Portugal is closer to the United States than anything else in Europe – both on the mainland (Lisbon is continental Europe’s westernmost city) and in the Atlantic Ocean (the Azores Islands are just four hours from Boston).

The nation’s heart and its largest city is Lisbon – a charming, stately capital reputedly founded 2,500 years ago by Ulysses.  It is a city dotted with churches, museums, monuments and markets, with a way of life that is distinctive and elegantly esoteric.  Lisbon is also well adjusted to the 21st century, exuding coolness and home to high-tech industries, dynamic architecture, trendy boutiques, stylish hotels, hip restaurants, and hot nightspots full of next year’s styles.

A few hours up the coast is Porto (sometimes called Oporto): monumental, historic, and known worldwide for Port wine that is produced in the Douro River Valley.  The mountainous interior has a host of the ancient cities and hilltop villages  - many home to Portugal’s famous Pousadas – hotels built into monasteries, castles, and fortresses.  Traveling inland, visitors explore the Roman remains, palaces, cork forests, olive groves, wide-open fields, and finally the sweeping peaks that mark the border with Spain.

Traditionally ‘In’ resorts like Estoril and Cascais snuggle up to the Atlantic, and on the country’s southernmost coast the weather is warm and the golf courses and beaches are plentiful.

Finally, the nation’s two archipelagos add an exotic element to Portugal: Soaring Madeira, warm and flower-filled to the south, and the mid-Atlantic Azores, wild, windswept and unspoiled.

Lisbon

As a city, Lisbon is often referred to as one of the most romantic places in Europe with charming hotels, chique eateries, late night nightclubs, vintage trolleys and grand attractions. Add to that Lisbon’s 4,000 years of history, and it’s easy to understand why this picturesque town and the hills surrounding it have been the focus of attention from the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, ABC’s The Bachelorette and J. Crew.

Lisbon, a city with 2 million people, sits on the north bank of the Tejo River, where the river meets the Atlantic. It is Portugal’s largest city and its capital, with the added distinction of being the warmest and western-most capital in Europe. Its climate is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream. Built on seven hills, some of Lisbon’s streets are too steep for cars, but visitors can and should take in panoramic views of the city by traveling to the top up elevators or funicular

A recent burst of new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and museums have turned Lisbon into one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe –  but Lisbon is more than trendy.  Culture and ideas have blended for more than 2,000 years in this colorful quilt of historic neighborhood and monuments, spiced with the distinctive sounds of Fado music. The city is ringed by places rich in natural beauty, and the region is home to classic Atlantic resorts like Estoril and Cascais (not to mention historic towns such as Sintra, Óbidos, Mafra, Tomar, Santarém, and Alcobaça).

Lisbon Region has a remarkable concentration of natural beauties, with the sea to the west, the Sintra Mountains to the Northwest, the River Zêzere and the River Tejo to the northeast and the estuary of the River Sado to the south.

Americans in Portugal

Portugal saw an increase in U.S. visitors this summer of more than 13%, and set a record for Americans arriving by cruise ship. Americans helped increase the incoming market ranking it to the 9th largest and the 6th largest in terms of spending.

Portugal Fact Sheet

Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Spain.  Six hours flight from U.S. East Coast to the mainland, or four hours flight to the Azores islands.

Capital: Lisbon (also called Lisboa).  Population of greater Lisbon: two million.  Lisbon is at the same latitude as San Francisco.

Climate: Portugal has a mild climate without extremes of temperature. Winters are pleasant, and summers are moderately hot. The North (Porto) has an Atlantic climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. The middle of the country (the Lisbon and the Centro de Portugal Region) have gentle dry summers and short mild winters.  Southern Portugal (the Alentejo and Algarve Regions) has a warm, dry Mediterranean climate without extremes of heat. The Madeira islands offer an inviting climate all year-round with temperatures around 70 degrees. The Azores islands also offer very mild weather moderated by the Atlantic’s maritime influence.

Population: 10,566,212 (July 2005 est. -about the same as the state of Pennsylvania).

Area: 35,672 square miles (about the same as the state of Maine – includes Azores and Madeira archipelagos).  Land: 35,502 sq mi; water: 170 sq mi. More than 350 miles of coastline.

Islands: The nine Azores islands in the mid-Atlantic are a four hours flight from Boston, at the same latitude as New England.  Madeira’s two islands, 90 minutes south of Lisbon by air, are at the same latitude as Charleston, S.C.

Language: Portuguese (English is spoken throughout the country).

Time Zone: GMT - Five hours ahead of U.S. East Coast time in mainland Portugal and Madeira; the Azores are just four hours ahead of EST.

Currency: The unit of currency is the Euro (€). Most banks have automatic exchange machines (Multibanco). Most hotels will change money and charge a small extra amount to cover fluctuation exchange rates. Visa, Amex and MasterCard are the most accepted credit cards.

Chief Cities: Lisbon and Porto are the two largest. Regional cities include Aveiro, Beja, Braga, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Funchal, Ponta Delgada, Portalegre, Santarém, Setúbal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Viseu.

Tourism: Approximately 12 million visitors annually, including 250.000 (approx.) from the USA.

Getting There: Year-round flights are available to Lisbon from Newark (TAP or Continental Airlines-UAL), Philadelphia (US Airways), and Boston (SATA/Azores Express).  Flights from Boston also service Ponta Delgada on the Azores island of São Miguel and Lajes on the Azores island of Terceira (both SATA/Azores Express).  Seasonal flights are available to Lisbon from Oakland, CA (SATA/Azores Express). TAP has regular service to Porto form Newark, as well. Connecting flights bring visitors to international airports in Porto, Faro, and Funchal (Madeira). All international airports on mainland Portugal and Madeira regularly offer connecting flights to other major European cities.

Lodging: Hotels range the gamut, from humble hostels to 2, 3, 4, and 5 star options – not to mention bed and breakfasts, manor houses, historic hotels and resorts, urban hotels and apartment-hotels. The Pousadas de Portugal are very well appointed, special hotels usually located in historical sites or areas of unusual beauty, often inside restored monuments, castles or palaces A company called Solares de Portugal offers privately owned homes ranging from wonderful farmhouses to manor houses. There are many camping areas throughout the country that allow for an inexpensive holiday with close contact with nature.

Beaches: Portuguese beaches are clean, safe and inviting with white sand for the most part. A national safety system uses patrols and flags to protect visitors. Red flags mean total prohibition to swim, and yellow flags mean you should be very careful. Green flags mean there is no danger at all.

Learn more: www.visitportugal.com

Media site: www.insideportugaltravel.com