In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, has said it’s important not only to rebuild walls, but also to build the future of Ukraine through its education system.

Cravinho sees Ukraine as becoming a part of the European Union and NATO, and believes in the country's victory in the war with Russia.

“It will be a victory for us as well,” Cravinho said.

Tell us why Portugal decided to rebuild Zhytomyr region?

Well, actually, firstly we want to show our solidarity with Ukraine. We show our solidarity in many different ways. We support politically, but also militarily and financially and in a humanitarian way, receiving many Ukrainians in Portugal.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, suggested that we should look at a specific region  and concentrate some support there. And our Prime Minister agreed. So, we accepted the idea of Zhytomyr and to work on the education sector because rebuilding Ukraine is about building the future and the best way to build the future is to work on education.


So, then we found not only excellent partners in the Zhytomyr authorities, but also Estonia had a similar idea. So, now we are working, the three of us, and we are very happy with this. And we hope that this can be a good example for other parts of Ukraine.

What have you done so far?

What we have been doing is talking with the authorities about the concept and now we are moving towards the construction phase of schools. Because the construction has to be more than just rebuilding walls. It has to be building a new future, a different future, a better future. And for that you need to understand how you want to transform the education system.

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So, the first part has really been about conceptualizing, about thinking together about what is the best way of building Ukraine's future through its education system. And now is the phase when we can go to the physical construction, which corresponds to the mental conception that we've been developing with the Ukrainian authorities.


But what are the conditions of your help? Will Ukraine owe Portugal anything?

No, this is something that we will do, of course, as a donation to Ukraine. Ukraine will need the support of many partners. It's a question of solidarity. So, the recompense for us will be to see Ukraine become strong and healthy and with a great future ahead of it. That's the recompense we want.

So, you believe in Ukrainian victory, right?

We absolutely believe in Ukrainian victory. We think it is not only possible, but it is necessary. And we are completely willing to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to reach this victory. It will be a victory for us as well.

Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho. PHOTO: AFP

How do you rate Ukrainian European integration and Atlantic integration?

Well, both of these are big challenges. Our process took 9 years. In Portugal we made the request in 1976 and we entered in 1985. So, it took a long time. Maybe it will be less for Ukraine. 

One of the things that is very clear is that this process of reconstruction can actually accelerate the accession because it means that the reconstruction is already done according to the standards and the regulations and the ideas and concepts which are the European Union ones. So, we must take the very bad circumstances and look at the advantages that exist in there in order to move forward more quickly.


And the same with NATO.

But do you believe that Ukraine will get a NATO membership invite at upcoming summit?

I think that is very difficult from what I have heard from other countries. But this is a process. And because of Article 5 in NATO, which means that any country that is attacked, the whole of the alliance is attacked, if Ukraine came in today, we would be at war with Russia.

But at the same time, it is very important that Russia does not have a veto. So, Russia cannot, through just continuing to attack Ukraine, even after Ukrainian victory. And we cannot allow that to be a veto for Ukraine's entry into NATO.

Ukraine has the right to enter NATO. And we open our arms and welcome Ukraine. And we hope that the right moment can come very early.

Is it true that the USA and Germany are not ready to give Ukraine this invite?

I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. I think you have to ask the people that you mentioned.

What do you think about the idea of Ukrainian authorities to return Ukrainian refugees from Europe to Ukraine, especially men, because the country needs active mobilization right now.


This is something that the Ukrainian authorities have to work on, how they have the capacity in order to face up to the invasion. But, of course, those Ukrainians who are in Portugal, men, women, children, we welcome them in Portugal until they are ready and have the circumstances to come back.

So, we have many in Portugal, mostly women and children, or some who have been in Portugal for 20 years or 30 years. They are very welcome. But we also hope that they have the option of coming back when the circumstances are right.

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Comments (6)
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Ukraine as 4th military power in Europe could with Poland (7th) keep East-Europe safe from any ruzzia interference at lower costs then with USA in NATO
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Ukraine currently has more right to be a NATO member than two current members that continually work to sabotage it (Hungary & Turkey). Under current leadership these two countries continue to thwart NATO efforts to improve its defence capability. They blackmail the other members, and at the same time circumvent the allied sanctions against russia for their own profit.

Similar to the EU's section 7 clauses, NATO needs to revise its policies to allow tools to sideline members that work against what is in the interest of the entire defensive block.

Ukraine has done more to protect NATO members from one of their biggest threats in decades (putin's regime) than has any other individual NATO member. It is whittling down putins' inventory of weapons and orcs daily, and it deserves all allies complete support.
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At midnight on date xyz Ukraine becomes a NATO member.... war stops at 11:59pm on date xyz-1
Duarte Simões
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As Portuguese, I can ascertain that João Cravinho is a fine Minister. He was never involved in any corruption scheme and takes his role very seriously. Many other Ministers wouldn't even dare to travel to Kiyv in wartime. You can trust that he will do his best. Rebuilding Zhitomir still seems totally out of place as the war continues; But that day will come. Meanwhile, rest assured that all your Relatives living in Portugal are safe, cherished and welcome here. They never gave us any trouble and have our full support. Slava Ukrainiy!

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@Duarte Simões, Portugal is a wonderful the people, climate, food, music (especially Eurovision entries). One of my favourite EU countries to visit from my Canadian home base.

Thanks to your and your country's continued support for our mutual ally Ukraine!
David Steel
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Britain has just signed a security agreement with Ukraine in which we will assist them following any new attacks by Russia.

I am sure this can now be a justification for Britain to station a Royal Navy carrier battle group off the coast of Odesa with all support vessels at the invitation of the Ukrainian government.

The aircraft carrier would act as a safe launch site for Ukrainian pilots to fly across Crimea without involving NATO directly. The presence of the British Royal Navy in the black sea could act as a deterrent to Moscow but also a surveillance platform in the south to coordinate intelligence.

Britain need not fire a shot, NATO is not dragged into a war.We simply need to be there now to help our friends.

I have written to my member of parliament to demand this action. Join me and make a difference, write letters, emails and make phone calls to your representatives.

duarte Simões
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@David Steel, According to the Montreux Agreement Aircraft Carriers are not allowed into the Black Sea, unless they belong to any Navy from within. And anyway the RN would never allow her two precious Aircraft carriers to be moored in Odessa, where they would be promptly sunk; see what is happening to the ruZZian Navy. The Black Sea is a trap for warships, in it the Combat Aircraft and Drone rules. But there are other ways.

David Steel
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@duarte Simões, You reference a 100 year old treaty that was never designed to allow Russia to invade Ukraine with impunity and murder civillians, the agreement is irrelevent.

We will must come to aid our friends to provide a safe staging ground for Ukraine to defend its people from.genocide.

We would not fire any weapons, unless the Russians are stupid enough to fire at us, in which case we will fire back according to the rules of engagement.

Keep finding excuses why you cannot help Ukraine, Britain will keep finding answers.
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@duarte Simões, I wonder if is a simple solution to this. As NATO members the Bulgarians, Romanians and Turkish government all have a right to ensure safe navigation on the Black Sea.

Without instigating any direct NATO involved war, these countries military and coast guard vessels could all rightfully be engaged in ensuring safe navigation in the Black Sea (removing mines and disabling missile threats by either party that impede any non military vessel involved in civilian trade). If russia happens to target their vessels then thats a russian initiated war against a NATO on.

I think the UK should have given the 2 mine sweepers to Romania perhaps with the clause that at wars end they are subsequently transferred to Ukraine as originally intended by the UK.

David Steel
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@John, You are right and the grain exports must be allowed to leave Ukraine safely.

I don't pay my taxes to have our carriers docked in Portsmouth whilst our friends suffer each day. I hope the British admiralty have plans to deploy into the region with marines and special forces on board.

I feel a show of strength by partners of Ukraine could turn the tide of this war. If not, why did Rishi Sunak just sign this new treaty? The ink is barely dry. He wants to be re-elected this year and I want value for my vote.

It doesn't have to involve NATO.

It doesn't have to involve Nukes.

If a British Royal Navy task force is present in the Black Sea it can return fire on Russian assets without triggering NATO article 5 because the UK itself is not under threat.
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A lot of big talk but nothing substantative as usual. Just get Ukraine into NATO and deploy the troops of NATO for Ukraine's defense ,enough of the bla bla bla bla

Duarte Simões
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@roshan, I fully agree...