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Portugal country profile

Portugal, a country with a rich history of seafaring and discovery, looks out from the Iberian peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean. When it handed over its last overseas territory, Macau, to Chinese administration in 1999, it brought to an end a long and sometimes turbulent era as a colonial power. The roots of that era stretch back to the 15th century when Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama put to sea in search of a passage to India. By the 16th century these sailors had helped build a huge empire embracing Brazil as well as swathes of Africa and Asia. There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today. Portugal's history has had a lasting impact on the culture of the country with Moorish and Oriental influences in architecture and the arts. Traditional folk dance and music, particularly the melancholy fado, remain vibrant.

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At a glance
Politics: Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho from the Social Democrats heads a coalition with the Popular Party Economy: Eurozone member Portugal was bailed out by the EU and IMF in 2011 with a 78bn-euro package. The loan came in exchange for a pledge to reduce the public deficit International: Portugal is a founding member of Nato and joined the EEC (later EU) in 1986 Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

For almost half of the 20th century Portugal was a dictatorship in which for decades Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the key figure. The dictatorship's stubborn refusal to relinquish its grip on the former colonies as demands for independence gained momentum there resulted in expensive wars in Africa. This period was brought to an end in 1974 in a bloodless coup, picturesquely known as the Revolution of the Carnations, which ushered in a new democracy. By the end of 1975 all of Portugal's former colonies in Africa were independent of Lisbon. Since becoming a member of the then European Community in 1986, Portugal's traditionally largely agricultural economy became increasingly diversified and orientated towards the service sector. It experienced solid growth in the 1990s, but GDP per head remains well under the EU average. The 2008 financial crisis left Portugal with a ballooning budget deficit, and in 2011 it became the third EU country after Greece and Ireland to ask international lenders for emergency assistance. A 78bn-euro EU/IMF bailout was awarded on condition that Portugal reduces its deficit to bring it closer to the official EU target of 3% of GDP, leaving the government with little choice but to pass a series of austerity budgets.

Portugal's Porto region has for long been a source of fine wines

Portugal profile

Full name: Portuguese Republic Population: 10.7 million (UN, 2012) Capital: Lisbon Area: 92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles) Major language: Portuguese Major religion: Christianity Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN) Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents Main exports: Textiles and clothing, wood products, electrical equipment GNI per capita: US $21,250 (World Bank, 2011) Internet domain: .pt International dialling code: +351

Portugal saw solid growth in the 1990s but needed a bail-out in 2011

President: Anibal Cavaco Silva

President Anibal Cavaco Silva

Anibal Cavaco Silva won the January 2006 presidential poll, becoming the first centre-right president since the coup of 1974. He defeated two Socialist candidates to win a first round election victory. Although the role mainly ceremonial, the president can appoint prime ministers, dissolve parliament and call elections. Prime minister: Pedro Passos Coelho

Mr Passos Coelho heads a centre-right coalition government formed in June 2011 and charged with steering the country out of financial crisis.

Passos Coelho has the task of steering the country out of troubled economic waters

His Social Democratic Party won parliamentary elections, but as it failed to gain sufficient seats to govern alone it teamed up with the Popular Party. His government was compelled to implement austerity measures and economic reforms in return for a rescue package. On taking office Mr Passos Coelho said that his new government considered bringing the country's public finances under control to be an "urgent imperative". He said government objectives would be carried out "in conformity" with the bailout agreement signed with the European Union and IMF. Under the deal the country was obliged to cut the budget deficit to 5.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 from 9.1 percent in 2010. The government pushed through several tough packages of public spending cuts, but backed down on a social security tax rise when the proposed increase triggered mass street protests in September 2012. Mr Passos Coelho made progress in reducing the deficit, but faced renewed tension within his coalition in the summer of 2013, with the Popular Party unhappy with the intensity of austerity measures. The debt crisis in Portugal, alongside the crisis in Ireland and the most serious crisis in Greece, has given rise to deep concerns over the resilience of the European Union's economy. Portugal's commercial TVs have a lion's share of the viewing audience, and provide tough competition for the public broadcaster.

Portugal has a lively media scene

Public TV is operated by RTP. The main private networks are TVI and SIC. Multichannel TV is available via cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and internet protocol TV (IPTV). Cable is the dominant platform. The switchover to digital TV was completed in 2012. The public radio, RDP, competes with national commercial networks, Roman Catholic station Radio Renascenca and some 300 local and regional outlets. Press freedom is guaranteed under the constitution and laws against insulting the government or armed forces are rarely enforced, says Freedom House. There were 5.9 million internet users by June 2012 (Internetworldstats).
The press

Diario de Noticias - daily Publico - daily Correio da Manha - daily Jornal de Noticias - daily Expresso - weekly The Portugal News - English-language weekly Algarve Resident - English-language weekly Algarve Daily News - English-language

RTP - public, operates RTP1, RTP2 and external services RTP Africa, RTP Internacional SIC - commercial, channels include cable news station SIC Noticias TVI - commercial

Zon - main pay-TV operator


RDP - public, operates national networks, regional and external services Radio Comercial - national, commercial TSF - national, commercial Radio Renascenca - church-run
News agency

Lusa News Agency

A chronology of key events: 1908 - King Carlos and eldest son assassinated in Lisbon. Second son Manuel becomes king.

Lisbon was the point of departure for many seafaring expeditions

1910 - King Manuel II abdicates amid revolution; Portugal proclaimed a republic. 1911 - New constitution separates church from state. Manuel Jose de Arriaga elected first president of republic. 1916-18 - Portugal fights World War I on Allied side. 1926 - Military coup. General Antonio de Fragoso Carmona becomes president. 1928 - Carmona appoints Antonio de Oliveira Salazar minister of finance.

A prisoner is led away during the 1910 Lisbon Revolution which deposed the king

Salazar era
1932 - Salazar becomes prime minister. 1933 - "New State" ("Estado Novo") constitution. 1936 - Salazar backs General Franco's nationalists in Spanish Civil War. 1939-45 - Portugal maintains official neutrality during World War II, but allows UK to use air bases in Azores. 1947 - Government crushes attempted revolt, deports labour leaders and army officers to Cape Verde Islands.
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Antonio de Oliveira Salazar: PM for 36 years Became finance minister in 1928 Premier from 1932; established authoritarian "Estado Novo" political system Gave up premiership after stroke in 1968; died in 1970

1949 - Portugal becomes founding member of Nato. 1955 - Portugal joins United Nations.

1955 - Indian opposition to Portuguese territory leads to severed diplomatic ties. 1958 - Admiral Americo Tomas appointed president. 1961 - India annexes Portuguese Goa. Rebellion breaks out in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique. 1968 - Salazar succeeded by Marcello Caetano. 1970 - Salazar dies.

1974 - Caetano government overthrown by group of army officers. General Antonio Ribeiro de Spinola becomes president, succeeded by General Francisco da Costa Gomes. 1974-75 - Independence for Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola. After more than 450 years in power, Portugal withdraws from Portuguese Timor now East Timor - which is then occupied by Indonesia. Huge influx of expatriates from former colonies.
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Dawn of a new era

Revolution of the Carnations in 1974 ended Europe's longest dictatorship Military staged bloodless coup on 25 April, now celebrated as a holiday New regime started programme of rapid decolonisation Over next decade a stable two-party system emerged

1974: Rebels seize control of Portugal

1976 - Parliamentary elections. Mario Soares becomes prime minister. General Antonio Ramalho Eanes wins presidency. 1979 - Centre-right alliance wins elections.

Civilian government
1982 - Military Council of the Revolution abolished, civilian government formally restored. 1983 - Soares returns as prime minister. 1985 - Cavaco Silva becomes prime minister. 1986 January - Portugal becomes member of EEC (later EU). Mario Soares elected president. 1987 - Cavaco Silva wins absolute majority in parliament. 1991 - Soares re-elected president. 1995 - Antonio Guterres becomes prime minister. 1996 - Jorge Sampaio elected president. 1999 - Last overseas territory, Macau, handed over to Chinese administration. 2001 - Jorge Sampaio elected for a second presidential term. 2001 December - Alqueva project on the Guadiana River nears completion as Europe's largest artificial lake, condemned by environmentalists as destructive, grandiose and unnecessary. 2001 December - Prime Minister Guterres resigns after his Socialist Party suffers unexpectedly heavy losses in local elections. Parliament is dissolved, early general election set for March 2002. 2002 January - Euro replaces the escudo.

Barroso government

2002 March - Social Democrat leader Jose Manuel Durao Barroso forms centreright coalition after general election in which Socialists are defeated. 2003 August - Government declares a national calamity as forest fires sweep across vast areas of woodland. Officials say an area the size of Luxembourg has been lost to the fires. At least 18 people are killed; damage is estimated at one billion euros. 2004 July - Mr Barroso resigns as prime minister to become president of the European Commission. Pedro Santana Lopes, his successor as leader of Social Democratic Party, forms government. 2004 December - Four months into Prime Minister Lopes' government, President Sampaio calls early elections.

Wildfires swept Portugal following a drought in 2005

2005 February - Socialists sweep to victory in general elections. They usher in economic and social reforms which provoke a series of protest strikes among public sector workers. 2005 August - Portugal calls for outside help as deadly wildfires, exacerbated by drought and said to be the worst in recent times, rage across the country. 2006 January - Anibal Cavaco Silva, centre-right prime minister of 1985-1995, elected president. 2007 March - Mass demonstrations - the largest in recent years - against government's economic reforms. 2007 April - President endorses new law permitting abortion in first ten weeks of pregnancy, aligning Portugal with most other EU countries.

2007 July - Portugal takes over EU presidency. 2008 April - Portuguese parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying EU's new treaty. European leaders had signed the treaty at a special summit in Lisbon in December 2007. 2008 May - Parliament votes to bring spelling of Portuguese language more in line with Brazilian practice. Opponents of the move say it is a capitulation to Brazilian influence. 2009 September - Governing Socialist Party wins re-election but loses its overall majority. 2009 October - Socialist Party leader Jose Socrates forms minority government.

Economic crisis
2010 March - Tens of thousands of civil servants hold one-day strike in protest against plans to freeze public sector workers' pay. Government announces package of austerity measures, including cuts in public spending and tax increases, to reduce Portugal's budget deficit. 2010 March-July - As eurozone debt crisis mounts, several leading credit rating agencies downgrade Portugal's government debt, further undermining confidence in the Portuguese economy. 2010 October - Portugal wins non-permanent seat on UN Security Council. Twoyear term will begin on 1 January 2011. 2010 November - Parliament passes austerity budget aimed at bringing down high public debt levels. 2011 March - Government resigns after parliament rejects new austerity package. Jose Socrates continues as PM in caretaker capacity. 2011 April - Portugal becomes the third European Union country after Greece and Ireland to apply for EU financial assistance to help it cope with its budget deficit.

2011 May - The European Union and International Monetary Fund agree a 78bneuro bailout for Portugal, on condition of sweeping spending cuts.

2011 June - Parliamentary elections. Ruling Socialist Party ousted. Winning Social Democratic Party forms governing coalition with the Popular Party. 2011 July - Credit ratings agency Moody's downgrades Portugal's public debt to junk status. 2011 August - The government announces the country's biggest spending cuts in 50 years. The cuts are intended to reduce public spending from 44.2% of GDP to 43.5% by 2015. 2011 October - Portugal's government submits another package of spending cuts and tax increases to parliament in an effort to meet the terms of the country's 78bn-euro bailout.

2011 November - Hundreds of thousands of workers go on strike a week before parliament is due to vote on the government's programme of spending cuts and tax rises. It is only the third general strike since Portugal became a democracy in the 1970s. Credit ratings agency Fitch downgrades Portugal's public debt to junk status. 2012 January - Credit ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgrades Portugal's rating to junk status. The country's two largest unions, the CGTP and the UGT, split over whether to sign up to the labour law reform proposed by the government under the terms of the international bailout. The more moderate UGT reaches an agreement with the government. 2012 March - Major cities grind to a halt as public sector workers stage 24-hour general strike in protest at the labour law reform and austerity measures agreed by government in return for the international bailout. 2012 August - Figures show that Portugal's GDP shrank 1.2% in the second quarter. 2012 September - The EU, IMF and European Central Bank give Portugal another year to reduce its deficit below the EU target of 3% of GDP, after noting progress in rebalancing the economy. 2012 November - Parliament passes a budget promising another year of austerity measures.

2013 July - Several senior ministers resign over the handling of the economic crisis, but the government survives. 2013 November - Government approves more spending cuts, mainly affecting public-sector employees' wages, conditions and pensions, in order to avoid a second international bailout.