The President of the Government of the Azores, Vasco Cordeiro, participates in the 39th meeting of the Permanent Bilateral Commission between Portugal and the United States of America taking place in Washington, Wednesday, May 23.
The agenda includes the analysis of matters relating to the US use of the Lajes Air Base on Terceira Island, namely the environmental impact, labor and infrastructure components and the assessment of the US cooperation with the Azores in other areas.
President Cordeiro is concerned with the decontamination of soils on Terceira Island resulting from the use of the Lajes Air Base by the US military. He has stated that clearing the environmental liabilities left by US military is not the responsibility of the Regional Government nor of the Azoreans, but the responsibility of the US authorities.
President Cordeiro defends the need for a more effective and expeditious action regarding the environmental cross-contamination of the Lajes Air Base area, resulting from the accumulation of chemical hazardous waste from the US military use of the grounds. The primary mission for the Lajes Air Base is to serve as a refueling stop in the Atlantic.
This is the eight time that Vasco Cordeiro participates in the Permanent Bilateral Commission meetings, following the US decision in 2012 to reduce its military and civilian presence in the Lajes Air Base.
The Permanent Bilateral Commission is a body established by the Agreement on Cooperation and Defense between Portugal and the USA in 1995, with the goal of promoting mutual cooperation between both countries. The last meeting of the Permanent Bilateral Commission took place in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2017.
For the past 70 years, Lajes Air Base has been one of seven main operating military bases under US Air Forces in Europe providing refueling and other support to US military, NATO aircraft and crew members transiting over the Atlantic.
The Azores (population 250,000) is a region of Portugal composed of nine islands. The archipelago discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal. According to the latest US census over 1.3 million individuals of Portuguese descent live in the United States, the majority with roots in the Azores. It is estimated that over 20,000 US citizens live in Portugal.