The European Union's commissioner for research, science and innovation, Carlos Moedas, argued on Wednesday that Portugal "could and should have a central role" in shaping the future of a Europe that he said is faced with "complex choices".
Moedas - who was himself a member of previous, right-of-centre government of Portugal - was addressing Portuguese diplomats, members of the Socialist government and representatives of civil society, business and academia, at the annual Diplomatic Seminar in Lisbon.
"Portugal could and should have a central role in the complex choices that Europe has to take in the near future," he said, adding that if last year was a difficult one for Europe, 2017 will be "still more intense".
"With so many European countries faced with the threat of populism and the so many European leaders failing to remember the benefits of the European project, countries such as Portugal today have an increased obligation to highlight and defend the European Union's many conquests."
Citing the "traditional benefits of the European Union, peace and prosperity, is no longer enough", he warned, confessing surprise at the wave of Euro-scepticism and "ignorance about the total loss of Europe's global influence in the world" - in a reference to the decision by UK voters in a referendum in June to leave the EU.
"The road we must follow is uniting ... or dividing and fragmenting?" he asked rhetorically. "I think that the answer is obvious and Portugal here has a major role", since the country has always managed to "prosper by way of grand alliances and a big dose of pragmatism".