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Full Country Name: The Portuguese Republic
Area: 92 090 km2
Population: 10.555 million (provisional Census 2011 results)
Capital City: Lisbon (population: around 2.million)
People: 95% Portuguese, approx 5% ethnic minorities
Language(s): Portuguese
Religion(s): Predominantly Roman Catholic (over 90%); others Protestant, Muslim and Jewish
Currency: euro (EUR)
Major political parties: Social Democratic Party or PSD (Leader: Pedro Passos Coelho), Socialist Party or PS (Leader: Antonio José Seguro), Christian Democratic Party or CDS/PP (Paulo Portas), Leftwing Block or BE (Leader: Francisco Louçã), (rotational leadership); Portuguese Communist Party or PCP (Leader: Jerónimo de Sousa), the Greens or PEV (in coalition with the Communist Party)

Political system: Parliamentary democracy/semi-presidential system. Parliament is elected for four years and has 230 seats: PSD 108; PS 74; CDS/PP 24; CDU 16; and BE 8. The PSD and CDS together achieved an overall majority of 132 at the early general election held on 5 June 2011. The President is elected every 5 years and can only serve two consecutive terms. Current President Cavaco Silva was re-elected for a second term in January 2011 and the next presidential election due in 2016. The Government serves a four year term and the next general election is due in 2015.

Head of State: President Cavaco Silva
Prime Minister: Pedro Passos Coelho
Foreign Minister: Paulo Portas
Membership of international groups/organisations:
European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), United Nations (UN), Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe, Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP).

Did You Know?

The first circumnavigation of the globe was led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.

The UK’s alliance with Portugal is older than any other and began with a Treaty in 1373.

The Portuguese language is spoken by over 200 million people throughout the world.

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: €172.5 billion (2010, current prices)
GDP per head: 80% of EU 27 (2009, in PPS)
Annual growth: +1.3% (2010); -2.5% (2009)
Inflation: 1.1% (2010)
Unemployment: 13% (October 2011)
Major industries: Automotive components, tourism, textiles, footwear, wood products, metalworking, oil refining, chemicals, wine, pulp and paper.
Major trading partners: EU (especially Spain, Germany, France, & the UK), Angola, US, Brazil.

Portugal has been hit hard by the European sovereign debt crisis and successive years of domestic budget imbalances, low productivity, slow growth and a burdensome State. At the end of the first quarter of 2011 the ruling Socialist Government led by PM Sócrates was forced to negotiate a €78b (£67.5b) loan and associated adjustment programme with the IMF, EU and ECB. The package, backed by the two main opposition parties, was signed in Lisbon on 4 May and endorsed by EU Finance Ministers on 17 May and the IMF board on 20 May. It will be implemented between 2011 and 2013 and is mainly intended to correct fiscal imbalances, improve growth prospects through a range of ‘structural reforms’ and strengthen the banking system. J Sócrates’s Government resigned and early elections held on 5 June 2011 saw the emergence of a PSD-CDS centre right coalition government. Portugal has been the third EU country which has required an EU/IMF bail-out, after Greece and Ireland.

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Portugal gained independence in 1143 and D Afonso Henriques was proclaimed King of Portugal. Under his reign, the kingdom trebled in size.

King Afonso III expanded the borders to the Algarve in 1249. The explorations of the African Coast and the Atlantic began under King João. Portugal's mainland boundaries have not changed since.

Discoveries occupied most of the 15th century: Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde. The Portuguese also discovered the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498 and Pedro Cabral, trying to reach India, discovered Brazil two years later (1500). Other Portuguese explorers reached the Far East, China and Japan.

In 1580, Portugal lost its independence to Spain. King Sebastião disappeared in the battle of Álcacer Quibir, and, since he had no heirs, the throne went to Philip II of Spain – Philip I of Portugal - who was the son of a Portuguese Princess. Portugal regained independence 60 years later, in 1640.

When Napoleon's army threatened Portugal, the Royal Family fled to Brazil and ruled from Rio de Janeiro where they remained for 14 years. The French were expelled in 1811, with the help of the British, under the command of Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington.

The Monarchy was overthrown in Portugal after the assassination of King D Carlos in 1908, and in 1910 Portugal was proclaimed a Republic. The last King of Portugal, D Manuel II died in exile in London in 1932. Portugal celebrated in 2010 the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republican regime.

Between 1936 and 1974 Portugal lived under a right wing dictatorial regime characterised by suppression of dissent and local government growth, isolated from the European mainstream and drawing on natural resources of African colonies.

This period ended with the military-led left wing revolution of 25 April 1974, followed by a rapid and chaotic de-colonisation of its former colonies. The key industrial and commercial enterprises were nationalised, as were many large agricultural estates, some of them owned by British citizens.

Portugal held its first democratic elections and approved its first democratic Constitution in 1976. The country joined the EU (then European Economic Community EEC) in 1986.

Portugal has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Peninsular Wars ( (1807-1814), at the end of which Napoleon’s army was expelled with the help of British troops led by the Duke of Wellington. The highlight of these celebrations occurred in September 2010 on the anniversary of the Battle of Bussaco and the famous defensive Lines of Torres Vedras, constructed by Wellington.

BBC Timeline of Portugal (

British cultural relations in Portugal are led by the British Council. The British Council connects people with learning opportunities and creative ideas from the UK to build lasting relationships around the world. (

The Anglo-Portuguese Society was founded in 1938 to promote friendship between Portugal and the UK, and to increase knowledge of Portugal and its culture and traditions. The Anglo-Portuguese Society ( .


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Portugal's Relations with the International Community

During the 1980's Portugal revitalised her relationship with former colonies in Africa. In July 1996, they formed the Commonwealth of Portuguese speaking countries (CPLP). Following a period of Indonesian occupation, East Timor gained independence in 2002 and was the last to join the CPLP in 2003.

Portugal is a founder member of NATO. Military co-operation with her allies is close, and use is made of her logistic and training facilities. Portugal participated in the Kosovo action (1999), had troops in the NATO force in Bosnia (2003) and contributed towards the coalition intervention in Iraq (2003-05). Portugal’s current military presence in foreign missions includes Afghanistan (NATO- ISAF), Lebanon (UN–UNIFIL) and the Gulf of Aden (EU/NATO).

Portugal's Relations with the UK

England and Portugal have had a Treaty of Alliance since 1373. The two nations signed the Treaty of Windsor in May 1386, which formally confirmed the alliance, the oldest between two sovereign states. In 1387 Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married King João I of Portugal. The Royal couple's youngest son Henrique (Prince Henry the Navigator) paved the way for Portugal's Golden Age with his sea voyages of discovery.

Almost three hundred years later, in 1662, Charles II married the Infanta Catharine of Braganza, who introduced tea to Britain, as well as bringing a dowry of two million cruzados, Tangiers and Bombay. In 1703 Portugal joined Britain and the Netherlands in a ‘Grand Alliance' against the French and Spanish Bourbon dynasty. She also signed the Methuen Treaty, in December 1703, which saw Portuguese wines flow into England. In 1807 when Napoleon's army marched into Lisbon and the Royal family fled to Brazil, Portugal invoked the Treaty of Windsor and British Generals, including Beresford and Wellington, came to the defence of Portugal.

In the 21st century the close links continue. Governmental contacts are frequent at political and official levels as we work together on a wide range of issues. The Queen has paid two State Visits to Portugal (1957 and 1985); and the Prince of Wales has visited Portugal on three occasions (1987, 1998 and more recently in March 2011).
Link to list of historical landmarks and main bilateral visits (

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South-western Europe, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Spain. Maritime temperate - cool and rainy in north, warmer and drier in south. The archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are also autonomous regions of Portugal with their own micro-climates.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports have increased rapidly since Portuguese accession to the EC in 1986, growing by over three times the average increase to the EC in general. Links between the two countries have always been strong and bilateral trade is worth around £3b. In 2010 UK exports to Portugal totalled £1.6b, and UK imports from Portugal totalled £1.7b. Portugal is UK's 11th largest export market in the EU and 30th worldwide.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Portugal (

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After the 1974 leftwing Revolution, the first Constitutional Government was elected in 1976 under Mario Soares, then leader of the Socialist Party (Soares later became President of the Republic from 1986-96). Between 1976 and 1985 a series of coalition and caretaker governments saw Socialist (PS) dominance gradually eroded in favour of the centre-right Social Democrats (PSD). There followed a decade of Social Democratic rule (1985-95) led by economics professor Cavaco Silva (he has been President of the Republic since 2006).
Subsequent Prime Ministers were António Guterres (1995-2002, currently UN High Representative for Refugees), José Manuel Barroso (2002-04, currently European Commission President), Pedro Santana Lopes (2004-05) and José Sócrates (2005-2011).

Since June 2011 Portugal has been ruled by a PSD-CDS centre right coalition Government led by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho (PSD leader). Paulo Portas the leader of the CDS junior coalition partner is the Foreign Minister. Key guidelines of the government programme, largely coincide with the Prime Minister’s strategy to be more liberal, favourable to private initiative and a smaller State, and a more flexible labour market to promote employment and growth. Some of the highlights include the privatisation of TAP and of one of the State TV channels; mutual agreement dismissals in the civil service; the reduction of employers’ contributions towards social security and unemployment scheme; and a review of the State pension scheme to allow the choice of private schemes from above a certain ceiling.

Portugal held the EU Presidency between Jul-Dec 2007 which focused on three key priorities: concluding the Lisbon (EU) Treaty; hosting the EU/Africa and the EU/Brazil summits. The Lisbon Treaty was ratified in Parliament in 2008 (no referendum held).

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Last Updated: February 2012

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