After a long period of waiting, the Agreement on Mobility between Member States of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) was finally approved at the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the CPLP, which took place in Luanda, Angola, on 16 July 2021.
The Agreement is an important step in strengthening relations between the member countries of the CPLP, as well as for the achievement of the so ambitious Community of Nations or peoples of the Member States, allowing the implementation of the necessary measures for the transposition of the Agreement into the respective legal systems, which requires the adaptation of the legal and institutional frameworks.
In this context, we would like to make a few considerations about the Agreement and its relevance to Mozambique and Cape Verde, two of the countries where our international network, the Morais Leitão Legal Circle, is present – including Angola and Portugal.
Both Mozambique and Cape Verde require foreigners to obtain an entry visa for tourism, business, work or other purposes. However, between some Member States there are already agreements for the elimination of visas and free circulation, such as the bilateral agreements between Cape Verde and Mozambique, Angola, East Timor and the partial agreement between Portugal and Cape Verde, which exempts citizens of Portuguese nationality from requiring an entry visa for Cape Verde, while the same reciprocal treatment does not apply to Cape Verde citizens.
The basic principles of the agreement are as follows: a) the principle of exemption from visa requirements for holders of diplomatic, official, special and service passports for stays of up to 90 days; b) the mobility of holders of ordinary passports within the territory of the other parties; c) the parties’ freedom to choose their method of mobility and the safeguarding of the parties’ international commitments regarding mobility arising from regional integration agreements to which they are parties. However, more favourable arrangements provided for in the domestic law of the host Party shall not apply.
It also covers the following types of mobility a) CPLP short stays, which waive prior administrative authorization, for a short period of time yet to be defined by each Member State; b) CPLP temporary stay visa, dependent on prior administrative authorization granted to citizens holding ordinary passports for stays of up to 12 months, which allows multiple entries, and may be extended for identical periods, if the domestic law of the country so allows; c) CPLP Residence Visa – administrative authorization to obtain a CPLP residence permit; d) CPLP Residency – initial duration of one year, renewable for successive periods of two or more years, depending on the internal law of the Member State.
As a framework, the Agreement also subdivides holders of ordinary passports into groups, according to the activities they carry out, namely: teachers, researchers, businessmen, cultural agents, artists, sportsmen and representatives of the media, writers, musicians, promoters and organizers of cultural and sporting events and students.
As can be seen, the approval or entry into force of the Agreement does not represent the complete removal of existing restrictions on the mobility of citizens of the Member States. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that new measures will result in a greater flow of people, trade, talent and perhaps greater socio-cultural exchange.
Although the Agreement aims to confer greater freedom of movement on citizens, Member States may restrict the entry into or residence on their territory of nationals of the other Party for reasons of public policy, public security or public health, or because of well-founded suspicions as to the credibility and authenticity of documents attesting to the status required for mobility. On the other hand, it is for the Member States to regulate important matters relating to mobility, which means that they have the power to impose additional requirements which may limit freedom of movement, except in the case of holders of diplomatic, official, special and service passports.
As can be seen, the adoption or entry into force of the Agreement does not represent the complete removal of existing restrictions on the mobility of citizens of the Member States. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that further measures will result in a greater flow of persons, trade, talent and perhaps greater socio-cultural exchange. Another benefit for citizens is the elimination of the costs associated with the bureaucratic procedures of these processes.
Making the mobility systems between the Member States more flexible has been an aspiration for decades, so we believe that the approval of the Agreement is a step towards making that aspiration come true. With this, there are complementary regimes which must be approved, such as those concerning matters of taxation, social security (accounting of contributions, accounting of insurance periods and exportation of social benefits), as well as the recognition of levels of education and the exercise of regulated professions, which until now are regulated by the internal law of each Member State.
The entry into force of the Mobility Agreement depended on the ratification of three of the nine CPLP countries, which has already occurred, since to date Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Portugal and Mozambique (the fourth country) have ratified the agreement. There now follow the next steps of transposition into each of the internal orders and several challenges will be faced by Member States to ensure the effective implementation of the Agreement, given its transversality to so many other matters (as indicated in the previous paragraph), which are crucial to its success.