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Portugal was the first European power to come in contact with the rest of the world. At the height of their power almost 500 years ago, Portugal was one of the eminent world players. Its navy with its superior navigational instruments, armaments, and faster caravels, ruled the high seas. Portugal extended its power far beyond its limited borders. The country benefited for a time from its colonies located from Africa to China, and maintained control of some of its colonies until the mid-1970's. However, Portugal remained isolated from the rest of Europe and European affairs through the end of the 19th century.

There was still a faction in Portugal which looked back nostalgically to the former colonial days and urges stronger ties with the old colonies. In a way, this faction would gladly leave NATO and the European Community, if Third World, Arab, and excolonial ties could be properly melded into a neat package for Portugal, but this never happened. They referred to their platform as the "New Order," a striking similarity to Salazar's "New State." Some in Portugal looked outward to the sea and the Third World.

Portugal has three pillars to its foreign policy: the Lusophone world, the European Union, and the trans-Atlantic relationship. Issues not fitting neatly into one of these boxes get little attention in Lisbon. This system creates an internal consistency whose logic is not always readily visible to outsiders. Thus, East Timor is of importance to the Goverhment of Portugal but the Horn of Africa is not. Rule of law in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde is a top priority, but the same issue in Nicaragua is not.

Portugal has been a significant beneficiary of European Union funding and is a strong proponent of European integration. Portugal has consistently supported EU expansion, including entry talks with Turkey. Of Portugals three foreign policy priorities (EU, transatlantic ties, Lusophone states), the EU is the most important. EU policies and regulations increasingly direct Portuguese law and policy, and Portuguese foreign policy is increasingly influenced by a need for EU consensus. Portugal is a member of the Schengen passport-free zone.

Portugal joined the United Nations in 1955, and currently holds a rotating Security Council seat for 2011-2012, having previously served on the Council in 1979-80 and 1997-98. Portugal is an active participant in UN organizations, and is seeking a seat on the Human Rights Council for 2014-2017. Portuguese forces participate in many UN operations, including Congo, Guinea, Lebanon, and Timor-Leste.

Portugal is a founding member of NATO; it is an active member of the alliance, and Portuguese forces participate in NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Portugal hosted the 2010 NATO Summit and is home to a NATO Command in Oeiras, near Lisbon.

Portugal is a key member of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), an organization headquartered in Lisbon intended to unite Lusophone nations and discuss promoting the Portuguese language as well as political and economic linkages. Portugal is also a member of the Community of Democracies (CD) and has participated in a series of Ibero-American summits. Portugal was a strong advocate of independence for Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony, and has provided troops and money to Timor-Leste in close cooperation with the United States, Asian allies, and the United Nations.

Relations with Africa are one of the essential pillars of Portuguese foreign policy, both bilaterally and multilaterally. They formed one of the priorities of Portugals Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2007. Thanks to efforts by partners in Africa and Europe, the Second EU/Africa Summit was held in Lisbon in December 2007. This summit marked a change in the paradigm of relations between the two continents, ushering in a partnership of equals. The long-term framework for relations between the EU and Africa is set out in an EU-Africa Joint Strategy, which was endorsed by the summit and is implemented through a three-year action plan which identifies the principal common political aims for the short and medium term.

Bilaterally, Portugals relations with the Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, So Tom and Principe and Cape Verde) have a major role. Recent years have seen a diversification of Portugals action, through strengthened relations with various countries of Africa, the Maghreb and Southern Africa, and closer dialogue and collaboration with the African Union and sub-regional African organisations such as ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.

Portugal has long-standing historical, cultural and emotional ties with Latin America, and particularly with Brazil, and for this reason the region has a natural importance in Portugals foreign policy. The privileged relationship with Brazil is currently going through a highly dynamic period. In political affairs, the Ninth summit of the two nations was held in Salvador da Bahia in October 2008, and high-level visits take place regularly between the two. In addition, a political consultation mechanism has recently been established, and the provisions for technical cooperation set out in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Consultation signed in 2000. In economic terms, Portugals direct investment in Brazil has grown substantially, and there has also been steady growth in trade between the two nations. Major achievements in cultural matters are the joint promotion of the Portuguese language and close cooperation in marking various anniversaries.

Early onPortugal made a security alliance with the British that has lasted throughout its history. England and Portugal have had a Treaty of Alliance since 1373. The two nations signed the Treaty of Windsor in May 1386, which formally confirmed the alliance, the oldest between two sovereign states. In 1387 Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married King Joo I of Portugal. The Royal couple's youngest son Henrique (Prince Henry the Navigator) paved the way for Portugal's Golden Age with his sea voyages of discovery.

Almost three hundred years later, in 1662, Charles II married the Infanta Catharine of Braganza, who introduced tea to Britain, as well as bringing a dowry of two million cruzados, Tangiers and Bombay. In 1703 Portugal joined Britain and the Netherlands in a Grand Alliance' against the French and Spanish Bourbon dynasty. She also signed the Methuen Treaty, in December 1703, which saw Portuguese wines flow into England. In 1807 when Napoleon's army marched into Lisbon and the Royal family fled to Brazil, Portugal invoked the Treaty of Windsor and British Generals, including Beresford and Wellington, came to the defence of Portugal.

Portugal celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Peninsular Wars (1807-1814), at the end of which Napoleons army was expelled with the help of British troops led by the Duke of Wellington. The highlight of these celebrations occurred in September 2010 on the anniversary of the Battle of Bussaco and the famous defensive Lines of Torres Vedras, constructed by Wellington.

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