Friday, April 19, 2024

Latest news about Portugal and the EU

Prime Minister Luis Montenegro was speaking in Brussels this week when he emphasised that Portugal has a “very strong commitment” to the European Union, both in domestic and foreign policy, especially regarding Ukraine and the Middle East.

Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs personally told the Iranian ambassador to Lisbon that his country fully condemned Iran’s 13 April drone and missile attack on Israel, which some observers think was a failure and others consider a deliberately confusing plan.

The conflict in the Middle East was high on the agenda of Prime Minister Montenegro in the Spanish capital, Madrid, during his first official visit abroad.  Good Iberian neighbourliness was, of course, paramount.

Portugal joined the European Union in 1986 and has ever since been at the centre of EU decisions with all other members while contributing to EU policies.

Despite this close cooperation, more than half of Portugal’s population is reportedly unaware of the EU parliamentary elections on 9 June. That’s more than double the average in most other EU countries, according to Eurobarometer. The latest opinion poll suggests that more than 70% of EU citizens are likely to vote on 9 June.

Studies show that more than anything, EU voters want to increase the EU fight against poverty and social exclusion, as well as supporting public health institutions , economic  advancements and the creation of new jobs.

Defence and security are also high on the minds of voters, particularly because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.  While the war is also a serious issue in Portugal, it is even more so, of course, for voters in Denmark, Finland and Lithuania.

Portugal’s new minority centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) government expects the country’s economy to grow by 1.5% this year. While not being able to depend on support from the second strongest centre-left Socialist Party, the AD fully expects to be constantly embattled by the far-right Chega party. Portugal’s latest snap election gave the AD 80 seats in parliament, the Socialists 78 and Chega 50. Angry debate and differences are thus inevitable.

Well before the EU elections, Portugal as a democratic republic will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1974 ‘Carnation Revolution’ on 25th April, which ended a long period of dictatorship and colonial wars. The celebrations will include conferences, parades and other performance, many especially for young adults and children..


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Solving Paris Olympics visa problems


By Marla Barret

As the countdown to the 2024 Olympics in Paris begins, Portuguese are gearing up to follow the games, but many may face unexpected hurdles in the form of visa requirements.

With the Olympics fast approaching, enthusiasts and supporters are busy making preparations, from travel arrangements to ensuring they have the necessary documentation to enter France for the event.

According to the latest information from, travelers heading to Paris for the Olympics may need to check their visa requirements carefully. The website provides a helpful tool for determining whether individuals require a visa based on their nationality and the duration of their stay. For Portuguese citizens, this means being aware of any visa requirements well in advance of their departure date.

In response to the visa challenges, As reported by "Ensuring that you have comprehensive coverage can provide peace of mind in case of any unforeseen circumstances or emergencies during your time abroad.

Despite the hurdles, the Portuguese remain determined to support their athletes and enjoy the spectacle of the Olympics. With anticipation building and excitement in the air, they are ready to witness their country's representatives compete on the world stage.

As the Olympics draw nearer, all eyes will be on the athletes as they prepare to showcase their talents in Paris. And for the Portuguese contingent, overcoming visa challenges is just another obstacle to navigating on the journey to experiencing the thrill of Olympic competition.

Friday, April 5, 2024


Parliament building in Lisbon

Prime Minister Luis Montenegro of Portugal’s new centre-right government said at his swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday this week that he expects to serve for the entire four-and-a-half-year term despite his party’s very narrow election victory and the country’s instability.

With just 80 seats in the 360-seat parliament, the minority government will only be able to pass legislation with support from the 78-seat centre-left Socialist Party. The biggest obstacle will be stiff opposition from the 50-seat far-right Chega (Enough) party. 

During the election campaign, Montenegro promised to lower taxes, increase salaries and pensions, and improve public services. As admirable as all that sounded, will he be able to garner sufficient support to deliver, even from the moderates in the new National Assembly?

Things started on a happy note with messages of congratulations from the European Union, the United States, and others. Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa promised a spirit of solidarity and cooperation. He said the new government required “careful dialogue” to increase its support base.  He recommended that the prime minister exercise patience rather than raising illusionary ambitions or expectations for the nation’s citizens.

The prime minister seemed to agree when he warned that Portugal had not become “rich” just because it had the budget surplus reported last year. To do so would be “dangerous, wrong and even irresponsible.”

He promised to reveal an emergency health programme by 2 June. He also announced that the government would seek dialogue with the parliamentarians of all parties to find a way to fight corruption.

The first cabinet meeting was held on Wednesday.  The following day the prime minister had a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekensky during which he pledged Portugal’s political, economic, humanitarian and military backing for Ukraine “for as long as it is needed.” Foreign Minister Paulo Rangel said there would be no repeat of the previous government’s “hesitation” in supporting Ukraine joining the EU.  The foreign minister also announced that the prime minister’s first foreign trip would be to Madrid.

A massive job certainly lies ahead for the prime minister who has never served in a government before. Few of his cabinet have either. Whether they will now be allowed to serve for a full term seems doubtful.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Problems loom for the new parliament


It seems clear that instability looms for the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD), which will try to rule in the new Portuguese government with a very small majority.

The government’s agenda is to be debated in parliament on the 11th and 12th April. This has been announced by the assembly speaker, Pedro Aguiar Branco, who was chosen this week, but only after three failed voting sessions when the 230 members elected on March 10 manage to agree.

The AD alliance led by the Portuguese Socialist Party (PSD) with its 80 seats, and the Socialist Party (PS) with 78,  eventually compromised by agreeing to a rotating speaker arrangement in which the PSD’s Sr Branco will be in office for two years and then replaced by a PS speaker.

The far-right Chega party, which quadrupled its seats since the last parliament to 50, has already been showing opposition that could prove to be paralysing for the two mainstream parties. Founder and leader of Chega, Andre Ventura, has been seeking a long-term deal with the AD, but the AD Prime Minister Luis Montenegro, has repeatedly rejected any such cooperation in return for far-right support.   

The new parliament faces massive challenges to bring stability to Portugal, which is regarded as Europe’s poorest nation despite strong growth since 2015 under repeated PS governments. The AD, perhaps with PS support, will have to try and improve low wage levels, the ongoing housing crisis, severe problems within the national health service, and the country’s ever-present corruption activities.

The new parliament is likely to be the most fragmented since the Carnation Revolution of 25th April 1974 when the coup by left-leaning military officers ended more than 40 years of dictatorship. The revolution turned Portugal’s focus from its colonial wars and fading worldwide empire to joining the many democracies on the European continent.  

Portugal now remains a peaceful country and a dedicated member of the European Union. It is not surprising, even though it has shocked many socialists, that the Chega (Enough) party has followed similar success among populist groups in several other European countries including Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland and Spain, instigated among other things by the failure to properly control the influx of refugees.  

Chega appeals to many younger voters in Portugal as well as some of the older ones who have fond memories of the pre-revolution Salazar dictatorship days. They are dissatisfied with mainstream politicians and want the sort of basic changes that Andre Ventura, 41, is espousing.

He has been deeply critical of things ranging from road tolls to political cronyism, “50 years of corruption” and “50 years of taxes to support parasites.” He has called his party “the last hope.”

Let’s see.    

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Portugal election: counting completed

Prime Minister Montenegro

The more than 1.5 million Portuguese registered voters living abroad had the final say in the outcome of the March 10 parliamentary election.

The overall tally, concluded this week, showed 28.84% for the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) and 28% for the centre-left Socialist Party (PS).  The turnout was 59.8%.

With the counting finished, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa  has appointed Luis Montenegro, leader of the Democratic Alliance as prime minister and asked him to form a new government.  The Democratic Alliance consists of the Portuguese Democratic Party (PSD) and two smaller parties.

The surge in voting for the far-right Chega party means it will play an unprecedented third-place role in the forthcoming National Assembly. Of the 230 seats, a majority would require 116. The DA secured 80, the PS 78, and Chega 50. 

According to data published by the Statista research organisation, roughly 65,000 Portuguese registered voters live in the United States and 57,000 in Canada. These are significant numbers compared with most in Portugal’s worldwide diaspora, but  far fewer than in France (396,000), Brazil  (259,000), the United Kingdom (170,000), and Switzerland (150,300).

The preferred option within the total of 10.9 million registered voters at home and abroad would have been a right-wing coalition government, but Montenegro has dismissed any notion of close collaboration with Chega.  A left-wing coalition was the second favourite, with an AD- PS coalition trailing well behind.

While a million voters are delighted that Chega quadrupled its seats in the Assembly since the 2022 election, this is causing grave concern among centrist and left-wing voters and parliamentarians.

The concern hinges on allegations - right or wrong - that Chega’s founder, Andre Ventura, is xenophobic and a racist. In the past he has harshly criticised the 50,000 Roma and 65,000 Muslim communities in Portugal .

Evilana Dias,  a board member with Portugal’s Association of African Descendants has long worked to quell racism in Portugal, and  has told Ashifa Kassam, European affairs correspondent  for the Guardian newspaper: “We had no idea that there were so many racists in Portugal. It’s like they were hidden.”

Others say that Chega’s remarkable gain is due to decades of socio-economic failure under the centrist governments. An Algarve voter, probably typical of many who voted for Chega, told us: “I am most certainly not a racist. I voted for Chega because Andre Ventura is a very strong, honest leader who is determined to stop corruption and stabilise the many issues that have been so badly mishandled in this country for years. We desperately need positive change and stability with more support for the police, doctors and nurses among others. Only Ventura and Chega can deliver that.”  

Apart from concerns over deteriorating living standards, public opinion polls all showed a lack of enthusiasm for both the new leader of the PS, Pedro Nuno Santos, and his centre-right counterpart.  Under Ventura, the far-right has quadrupled the number of its seats since the last election in 2022. Portuguese citizens living abroad will be very familiar with far-right parties as they have a powerful say in European democracies, including France, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Spain.



Monday, March 11, 2024

Election result: slim centre-right win

This was Portugal’s most hotly contested legislative election since the ‘Carnation Revolution’ 50 years ago.

The outcome has been a slim victory for the centre-right Democratic Alliance over the incumbent centre-left Socialist Party. Both of the main centrist parties will likely jockey with small parties to gain the most seats in parliament, but the far-right made such gains to finish third that it will provide much stronger opposition than ever before. 

A low voter turnout had been expected because of dissatisfaction with politicians in general, but it was higher than the 45% registered for the last election in 2022.  The much respected former Prime Minister Antonio Costa said “it is fundamental that everyone votes.” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also urged all eligible citizens to vote. By noon on Sunday, four hours after the polling stations opened, a quarter of the electorate had done so.  Even by 4 pm well over 50% had been to the ballot boxes.

The polls closed at 7pm on the mainland and an hour later in the Azores archipelago.  With the counting all but concluded, these were the main results:

PSD (AD) – 29.8%

PS – 28.7%

Chega – 18.2%

The key players: Luis Montenegro will be prime minister as leader of the Portuguese Democratic Party (PSD) supported by smaller parties in the Democratic Alliance (AD).

Pedro Nuno Santos of the Socialist Party (PS) has succeeded Antonio Costa who had been prime minister since 2015 with a strong majority before his resignation last November.

Andre Ventura, a former football pundit, has led the far-right Chega (Enough) party since its foundation five years ago. He will be a formidable foe to the centrists who claim he is xenophobic, racist and demagogic.

The challenges facing the new government include low wages, the deterioration in the national health system, the housing shortage and corruption.  It was an influence- peddling investigation that brought down the Socialist government in November and obliged President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to call for this snap election.

While plenty of problems are facing the new administration, Portugal will remain one of the most peaceful countries in the world, although probably the poorest in Europe amid the current global financial crisis.

The outcome of Portugal’s latest election will be viewed with considerable interest within the European Union, which is to hold its own parliamentary election in June. The current EU parliament will be hoping for a majority of moderate candidates, but there have been many shifts to far-right populist parties similar to Chega.  



Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Outlook for Portugal's election

Two weeks of campaigning are well underway among the parties contesting Portugal’s early national election on March 10.

The centre-right Democratic Party (PSD) is predicted to replace the centre-left Socialist Party (PS), both having fought for dominance for decades.

The humiliated centre-left PS will likely finish second, and the far right-Chega party is expected to advance more than ever and become third.

While the moderate PSD may not be on the verge of implementing any fundamental changes, the PS involvement will probably shrink because of the corruption scandal that forced it out of power in November last year and made way for this snap election. The long-serving Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, is now retiring and still claiming he was not involved in any wrong-doing, but many voters seem fed up with the PS and have shifted to the right, if not the far right.

Portugal’s Chega party has similar populist views to those of the other far-right parties that have been doing well recently in a number of European countries.

In the European Parliamentary election in June, nine of the far-right populist groups –   including those in France, Italy, and the Netherlands are expected to gain much ground. Nine others – including those in Germany, Spain, and Portugal - are expected to do much better than ever before.

The PS corruption scandal that brought about the resignation of Prime Minister Costa caused much outrage, yet a little humour. The giant Swedish company, IKEA, posted advertisements in Portugal joking about the scandal. It was posted on an IKEA advertisement in Portugal showing one of its bookshelves, thus referring to the allegation that Costa’s former chief of staff had hidden money in a bookcase. 

There is no joking, however, about the on-going challenges facing the on-going challenges facing the Portuguese government in 2024, including the health service, housing, and cost of living crises, among others.

Portugal remains a relatively small, peaceful, and innocuous country that is doing its very best in a truly dire world. It will no doubt remain committed to proposing peace in Ukraine and the Middle East. But what if Donald Trump wins the national election in the United States in November?