The President of the Government of the Azores, Vasco Cordeiro, will participated May 6 in a high-level bilateral meeting in Washington, DC, with the Permanent Bilateral Commission, between Portugal and the United States, to address the plan in progress to downsizing the US military presence in the Lajes Field, Terceira island.
This is the fourth time President Cordeiro meets with the Permanent Bilateral Commission. The last round of such “high-level bilateral talks”, which resulted inconclusive, was held in December 2015, in Angra do Heroísmo, at the invitation of President Cordeiro.
The Government of the Azores is negotiating with United States the implementation an economic revitalization plan for Terceira island, following the 2012 Pentagon’s decision to downsize the US military presence in the Lajes Field.
The decision, which will save the Pentagon an estimated $35 million annually, will significantly impact the local economy. Lajes Field is the island’s second largest employer. The downsizing plan in progress involves dismissing 900 to 400 Portuguese civil workers and of 650 to 165 US civil and military personnel.
The Azores is requesting the US to pay €167 million a year for 15 years as compensation for the economic revitalization of Terceira island, including the “contamination cleanup” needed after 60 years of military occupation. This is the 35th Permanent Bilateral Commission high talk held since 1995, between Portugal and the United States, under a cooperation and defense agreement between the two counties.
For the past 70 years, Lajes Field 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 Lajes Field hosts a civilian airport which shares its runway with the Portuguese aviation.
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.