Cablegate: Portugal-U.S. Bilateral Commission; Kosovo,

DE RUEHLI #0510/01 0581650
R 271650Z FEB 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


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1. (U) Summary. The 23rd U.S.-Portugal Bilateral Commission
examined the state of the bilateral relationship. Portugal
will not remove its battalion in Kosovo, supports NATO
membership for three MAP countries, and will present its
action plan for the Community of Democracies in the near
future. Labor issues at Lajes Air Base dominated
discussions, but the Portuguese left with a better
understanding of our position. The Portuguese responded
positively to our proposal that the two air forces meet
before Spring to discuss an airspace training area north of
the Azores. End summary.

Bilateral Commission Meets
2. (U) The U.S.-Portugal Bilateral Commission met in Lisbon,
Portugal February 21 to review the bilateral relationship and
plan cooperative ventures for the coming year. The U.S. side
was led by Ambassador Thomas Stephenson, who was joined by
State PDAS Kurt Volker and Defense DUSD Patricia Bradshaw.
The Portuguese delegation was led by MFA Political Director
Ambassador Vasco Bramao Ramos, joined by Major General Vitor
Fragoso, Air Force Commander for the Azores. Although the
Commission is scheduled to meet twice per year, the Fall 2007
meeting was cancelled by the Portuguese due to the demands of
the Portuguese presidency of the European Union during the
same period.

3. (U) In a departure from previous iterations, both sides
agreed to use the introductory session to discuss issues of
global or regional importance, including Afghanistan, Kosovo,
and the upcoming NATO Summit. In a second departure from
previous iterations, the two sides agreed on language for a
common statement, released following the meeting's closure
(available on the Embassy and the MFA websites). PDAS
Volker's private meetings with Ambassador Bramao Ramos and
with Ministry of Defense State Secretary (Deputy Minister)
Joao Mira Gomes will be reported septel.

4. (SBU) Bramao Ramos opened the discussion with the
statement that Portugal's battalion in Kosovo will remain in
place. He noted that while the KFOR mission had been
successful up to now, the mission would be far more demanding
in the near future due to the troubling political context.
For that reason, he said Portugal envisaged no reduction of

5. (SBU) According to Bramao Ramos, the strenuous objections
of Serbia and Russia exacerbated the already difficult
decision many countries had with recognizing and engaging
Kosovo. He continued that while the U.S. and many EU states
argued that Kosovo was a sui generis case, many other
governments nonetheless considered it a precedent for
independence claims in other places.

6. (U) Ambassador Stephenson responded that, after dragging
on for so long, the independence of Kosovo allowed both
Kosovars and Serbs to move forward and that U.S. and EU
actions should use this success as a starting point. PDAS
Volker added that while Bramao Ramos's points were generally
true, the recognition of Kosovo "sliced the Gordian knot" and
allowed for the Balkans to move forward.

7. (SBU) Bramao Ramos acknowledged changes in Portugal's
contributions to ISAF this summer. (Note: Portugal will
withdraw its company-strength Quick Reaction Force - QRF - in
August 2008 and replace it with an Operational Mentoring and
Liaison Team - OMLT - and a C-130. The QRF had been assigned
to Kabul district but, operating essentially without caveats,
had been repeatedly deployed to the volatile south. End
note.) Bramao Ramos worried that certain sectors of the
Afghan government had an unwelcome attitude towards partners
from the international community, although he suggested this
attitude might be attributable to internal political issues.

8. (U) Each of the delegation leaders noted both the
successes in Afghanistan thus far and the need for the
Afghans to take greater responsibility for their country. In
this light, Ambassador Stephenson stressed the U.S. gratitude
for Portugal's contribution of an OMLT and hope for
additional Portuguese OMLTs.

NATO Summit

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9. (SBU) Discussion of the upcoming summit centered on NATO
expansion. Bramao Ramos related his government's support for
membership invitations for Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia.
He noted, however, that NATO should tread carefully with the
Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine and Georgia. These
two nations, he posited, should be kept on the current track,
but with no invitation to start MAP now as they would "import
problems and export instability."

10. (SBU) PDAS Volker responded that the U.S. supports three
nations in the MAP, based on their performance under such
criteria as defense reform, domestic administration, and
formalized economies. He cautioned that the Macedonian name
dispute continues to be a problem for Greece and hoped that
the two countries would address it immediately, as a Greek
veto could trigger a downward spiral with Macedonia.
Regarding Ukraine and Georgia, PDAS Volker noted that MAP
does not equal membership but could help encourage their
governments to take steps necessary for deeper engagement
with the west.

Community of Democracies
11. (U) Ambassador Stephenson praised Portugal's presidency
of the EU as an example of strong leadership and hoped that
Portugal would put the same effort toward its
recently-assumed chairmanship of the Community of Democracies
(CD). Bramao Ramos responded that Portugal was serious about
this institution and that MFA State Secretary (Deputy
Minister) Joao Cravinho would take direct responsibility for
Portugal's leadership. An action plan, said Bramao Ramos,
would be shared with us soon.

Labor Issues at Lajes Air Base
12. (U) Ambassador Bramao Ramos noted that the level of
annual pay increases for the U.S. Air Force's Portuguese
civilian employees at Lajes Air Base has been a bilateral
irritant for several years. DUSD Bradshaw explained that the
USAF conducts a salary survey in the Azores to identify
relevant data to define salary increases, but U.S. law
mandates that salary increases cannot exceed the higher of
either the U.S. civilian pay increase or the host government
civilian pay increase. In tracing the history of the Lajes
Labor Agreement, DUSD Bradshaw demonstrated that the U.S.
salary increase cap was known to all participants in the
negotiations and that the resultant Work Regulations
specifically note that "Wage proposals shall be developed in
conformity with appropriate DOD manuals." For this reason,
DUSD Bradshaw stressed that the USAF is and has been in
compliance with the agreement, but that workers were free to
pursue their claims in court.

13. (U) Regional Government of the Azores (RGA)
representative Andre Bradford took issue with DUSD Bradshaw's
explanation, stressing that the RGA's interpretation "is
different." Both sides agreed to disagree and, while there
was no formal agreement to do so, leadership of both
delegations noted the need for the Labor Committee to
consider amending the Work Regulations to remove the salary
survey altogether. In his opening statement, Ambassador
Stephenson noted that the U.S. is contractually bound to its
course of action and that opening the Labor Agreement
entailed some risk to the Portuguese workers as many of their
existing benefits may be brought into negotiations.

Additional Missions for Lajes
14. (U) Ambassador Stephenson noted that the missions of the
U.S. armed forces in the Azores had always evolved and that
it is important to continue consideration of new missions to
take advantage of the infrastructure in place and to
guarantee the long-term viability of a USG presence at Lajes.
Ambassador Stephenson noted that recent informal discussions
regarding the possible establishment of a training airspace
north of the Azores had received surprisingly frequent news
coverage and proposed that the two air forces meet before
Spring to discuss the merits of such a training space. Any
formal proposal to create such an activity, he stressed,
would best come from the Portuguese. Bramao Ramos agreed and
noted that he would report to his government the proposal to
have the two air forces meet.

Military Cooperation
15. (U) Portuguese military planners reviewed cooperative
ventures since the last meeting, noting revisions in pilot
training needs and several specific military training
requests. They also reiterated a desire to have defense

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policy staffs meet on a regular basis. (Note: This request
stems from the last Bilateral Commission meeting; such
meetings will be incorporated into the Bilateral Commission
structure. U.S. defense policy officials were unavailable to
attend this meeting due to the short advance warning given
for the dates. We envision including such discussions at the
Fall 2008 meeting. End note.)

16. (U) CDR Bradfield, Chief of the ODC, provided updates on
the current state of International Military Education and
Training (IMET) program and of the maritime training
initiative that Portugal requested at the last Bilateral
Commission meeting. The training initiative, CDR Bradfield
noted, is in jeopardy as it is unclear that Portugal will
invite Lusophone African navies to participate as originally
agreed. CDR Bradfield noted the U.S. needs a final answer
from Portugal no later than the end of March 2008.

17. (U) Col. Briggs, the 65th Air Base Wing Commander at
Lajes, introduced the need for the Lajes Air Field runway to
be resurfaced. The runway, he noted, is critical for the
economy of the island and is principally used by civilian
traffic. As the Agreement on Cooperation and Defense (ACD)
stipulates that such infrastructure costs are to be shared,
Col. Briggs recommended that the Technical Committee discuss
funding sources and timelines. The Portuguese delegation
agreed to refer the issue to the Technical Committee and
Bradford noted the RGA understands the urgency and would
engage commensurate with the RGA's means.

Azorean Cooperation; Science and Technology
18. (U) Col. Briggs presented the annual Economic Impact
Analysis that demonstrated that the U.S. military presence at
Lajes had a total impact on the Azorean economy of $113
million in FY2007. The two delegations submitted status
reports on other infrastructure, public diplomacy, and
economic development projects. The report of the recently
concluded meeting of the Science and Technology Committee
will be reported septel.

19. (U) The new approach to the Bilateral Commission -- based
on a plan we developed after the last meeting in 2007 -- was
useful, allowing for a greater exchange of ideas. We hope to
implement the rest of our reform plan for the Bilateral
Commission in the Fall 2008 meetings in Washington, where we
hope to minimize discussion of past accomplishments and use
the forum to plan future engagement. The Lajes labor
discussions dominated the meeting. While the issue will
continue to simmer in the near term, the greater
understanding the Portuguese now have of our legally-mandated
position should minimize the level of rhetoric.

20. (U) PDAS Volker did not have the opportunity to clear on
this cable.

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