The President of the Government of the Azores, Vasco Cordeiro, considered that the meeting with the Permanent Bilateral Commission, held in Washington, DC this week, was “constructive” and that the United States had presented more effective and concrete actions regarding the environmental decontamination process on Terceira island.
“With regard to the environmental issue, which is the main concern at the moment, the United States presented data indicating more diligent, concrete and effective actions done so far,” President Cordeiro said.
He also stated that, according to information released, “the United States has moved forward” with intervention in identified places, namely two sites – South Tank Farm and Portas das Armas – and that decontamination actions are being planned in eight additional locations on the island.
“These actions are on the right track as they are concrete measures as we have been demanding for a long time,” and he said, “We consider that all the information provided by the United States, either in terms of interventions in new locations or in terms of results indicating an improvement in the existing situation, must be verified from a technical and scientific point of view.”
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.
He 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.
President Cordeiro participated in the 39th meeting of the Permanent Bilateral Commission between Portugal and the United States of America held in Washington, Wednesday, May 23.
This was the eight time that Vasco Cordeiro participated the meetings held by this body, established under the 1995 Defense and Cooperation Agreement, following the U.S. decision to reduce its military and civilian presence in Lajes Air Base as announced in late 2012. The primary mission for the Lajes Air Base is to serve as a refueling stop in the Atlantic.
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 previous meeting of the Permanent Bilateral Commission was held 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.