Defense Minister João Gomes Cravinho said in Washington today that he hopes the Center for the Defense of the Atlantic on Terceira Island in the Azores will "see the light before the end of the year."
The prediction was made by Gomes Cravinho at a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington where he was invited to speak on the challenges of NATO and the European Union in defense and security.
The Portuguese minister explained to the guests of the think tank that this idea of using facilities at the Lajes base in the Azorean island, where the US still has a military presence, aims, among other objectives, to promote a maritime security capacity for the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.
Gomes Cravinho pointed out that "in 2018, 40% of piracy incidents worldwide took place in the Gulf of Guinea" and that the figures for the first quarter of the year indicate that "the percentage is increasing".
The zone is an important route in world trade, he argued, and the countries of the region "are facing great difficulties in controlling their waters".
It is a problem, he said, that needs a "regional approach", in which this command aims to help respond, and for which it is expected to have support from other countries, such as the United States.
On 26 April 2018, the Portuguese Government adopted a resolution authorizing the creation of the Center for the Defense of the Atlantic on Terceira Island, in the Azores, focusing "in the field of maritime safety, but also with a land, air and of cyberdefense. "
The idea behind the implementation of the center is to "bridge existing gaps in the Atlantic area and contribute to reinforcing Portugal's claim as a producer of security" with institutions such as the European Union, the UN, NATO, allies such as the US and the community in general.
During a visit to Lajes in March of that year, Cravinho's predecessor in the Defense Ministry, José Azeredo Lopes, said he hoped that "the institutionalization" of the center "could occur sometime near the end of the legislature," after the summer of 2019, which coincides with the schedule mentioned by the Portuguese minister today in Washington.
"It will be a structure that is promoted by Portugal, which can only exist as it was conceived if it is clearly international and will be clearly international if we attract the main states that have the capacity to speak about Atlantic security," said Azeredo Lopes.
The then minister further emphasized "the fact that NATO has recently come to look at the Atlantic," which was "relegated to a lesser plane."
"Security issues in the North Atlantic, issues related to maritime security, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, call once again the states to look to this ocean and, necessarily, to the Azores, for the crucial geopolitical position and Atlantic centrality that the Azores have "He noted.