1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

Edali­na Rodrigues Sanches

National economic issues overshadowed European topics

In Por­tu­gal the 2014 Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions were held in the upshot of the three-year Eco­nom­ic Adjust­ment Pro­gramme (EAP), which had been sub­scribed by the Social­ist Par­ty (PS), the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (PSD) and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Social Cen­tre-Pop­u­lar Par­ty (CDS-PP) in May 2011. Due to this tim­ing, much of what was debat­ed dur­ing the cam­paign had to do with the effects that this pro­gramme has had on the econ­o­my and with whether the coun­try would be able to nego­ti­ate an ‘Irish style clean exit’. The gov­ern­ing right-wing coali­tion, the PSD and the CDS-PP, faced a huge test at this elec­tion, since they had com­mit­ted not only to ful­fil this pro­gramme but to go beyond it. At the close of 2013, the min­i­mum wage was 485€ (frozen since 2011), unem­ploy­ment had increased to 16.3 per­cent, emi­gra­tion esca­lat­ed to over 100.000 and the econ­o­my con­tract­ed by 1.4 per­cent (PORDATA).

In the first quar­ter of 2014, a slight decline in unem­ploy­ment rates and in Portugal’s 10 year bond spread, fol­lowed by the last review of the EAP, cre­at­ed momen­tum for the PSD and the CDS-PP to empha­sise the suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme and to blame the PS (and for­mer Prime Min­is­ter José Sócrates) for the country’s need of a bailout. The PS, in turn, saw no rea­sons to cel­e­brate and main­ly high­light­ed the neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions of the aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures car­ried out over the last three years as well as the country’s poor eco­nom­ic performance.

Despite the fact that the con­clu­sion of the EAP over­shad­owed all oth­er polit­i­cal issues dur­ing the cam­paign, there was still some room for EU issues, at least in the par­ties’ man­i­festos. Aliança Por­tu­gal (the PSD and the CDS-PP coali­tion) strong­ly sup­port­ed the Treaty on Sta­bil­i­ty, Coor­di­na­tion and Gov­er­nance (TSCG) and the Sin­gle Super­vi­so­ry Mech­a­nism (SSM). These were per­ceived as cru­cial mech­a­nisms to pre­vent future sce­nar­ios of cri­sis. Under the lem­ma of ‘change’ the PS man­i­festo endorsed these poli­cies but it also expressed a will for changes to hap­pen both at the EU and nation­al lev­el, par­tic­u­lar­ly in what regard­ed the imple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies encour­ag­ing eco­nom­ic growth. On the far-left, the Left Block (BE), the Com­mu­nists and Greens coali­tion (CDU), and the LIVRE-Free­dom, Left, Europe and Ecol­o­gy (L) held more crit­i­cal stances towards the TSCG and the SSM, which they con­sid­ered inef­fec­tive at address­ing the caus­es and the con­se­quences of the cri­sis. With a more pop­ulist approach the con­ser­v­a­tive MPT rather crit­i­cised the EU demo­c­ra­t­ic deficit and the lack of trans­paren­cy in the deci­sion-mak­ing processes.

Euroscepticism primarily promoted by small parties of the far-left

Euroscep­ti­cism was rel­e­vant in the cam­paign, par­tic­u­lar­ly for small­er polit­i­cal par­ties of the far-left. As in the past, the BE held crit­i­cal stances towards the EU. Even though it sup­port­ed the sin­gle cur­ren­cy, it main­tained that Portugal’s pub­lic debt should be restruc­tured under a dif­fer­ent frame­work and strong­ly opposed both the Eco­nom­ic Adjust­ment Pro­gramme and the TSCG. The Com­mu­nist Par­ty, the only one oppos­ing the Por­tuguese EU-acces­sion in 1986, also remained loy­al to its euroscep­tic views. Sev­er­al times it has shown pref­er­ence for with­draw­ing from the Euro or some of the oth­er EU build­ing-block poli­cies, and this elec­tion was no excep­tion. More rad­i­cal par­ties of the far-left, notably the PCTP-MRPP (Por­tuguese Work­ers’ Com­mu­nist Par­ty) and the MAS (Alter­na­tive Social­ist Move­ment), also held sim­i­lar posi­tions. Beyond strong antag­o­nism towards for­eign inter­ven­tion in the coun­try, these par­ties sug­gest­ed the real­i­sa­tion of a ref­er­en­dum to decide whether the coun­try should con­tin­ue using the sin­gle cur­ren­cy or not (see par­ties’ web­sites: http://www.mas.org.pt/ and http://www.pctpmrpp.org/).

The new­com­er L pre­sent­ed itself as a pro-Euro­pean par­ty, yet it also defend­ed a new frame­work where the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment is grant­ed more pow­ers and where there is an improve­ment of the mech­a­nisms of trans­paren­cy and fis­cal activ­i­ty sur­veil­lance. The main­stream par­ties, from the right (PSD and CDS-PP) and the left (PS) side of the polit­i­cal spec­trum dis­played more pos­i­tive stances towards the EU.

Record abstention and fragmented Portuguese party spectrum in the EP

Absten­tion lev­els reached a record of 66 per­cent; with sev­er­al fac­tors con­tribut­ing to this fig­ure (CNE). First, the EP elec­tions have always attract­ed low­er lev­els of inter­est and absten­tion has been above 60 per­cent since 1994. Sec­ond, the absence of TV debates between the can­di­dates and the focus on nation­al issues did not con­tribute to enlight­en the vot­ers about what real­ly divides the par­ties in the run-up to the elec­tions. Last­ly, this year absten­tion in the emi­gra­tion cir­cles was 98 per­cent. While this fig­ure is only one per­cent­age point high­er than the one from 2009, it is worth not­ing that the num­ber of nation­als leav­ing the coun­try strik­ing­ly increased between 2011 and 2013 and this might have also increased the ‘tech­ni­cal abstention’.

At the par­ty lev­el these elec­tions deliv­ered the most frag­ment­ed result ever. The PS came first polling 32 per­cent, close­ly fol­lowed by Aliança Por­tu­gal which got 28 per­cent. CDU improved its results to 13 per­cent and so did the MPT, which record­ed the best elec­toral result ever with 7 per­cent of the vote cast. The BE was one of the main losers of these elec­tions; its 5 per­cent rep­re­sent­ed a drop of six per­cent­age points from 2009. At the end Portugal’s 21 mem­bers of the EP were dis­trib­uted as fol­lows: PS elect­ed 8 par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, Aliança Por­tu­gal 7, CDU 3, MPT 2 and BE 1 (CNE).

To a cer­tain extent these results revealed that the cit­i­zens decid­ed to pun­ish the par­ties that had signed the Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing and the Loan Agree­ment. In fact togeth­er the PSD, the CDS-PP and the PS received the low­est share of votes since 1987. This has ben­e­fit­ted the CDU, but most of all the MPT. Based on a more pop­ulist approach, this par­ty essen­tial­ly empha­sised the need to re-estab­lish the core polit­i­cal val­ues of Europe, name­ly democ­ra­cy, jus­tice and sol­i­dar­i­ty. In the new left, the L might have cap­tured some of BE vot­ers, which has been los­ing ground since 2011.

The post-elec­toral sce­nario is now wide open. The incum­bent par­ties lost but to a nar­row mar­gin and might after all have a chance in the upcom­ing leg­isla­tive elec­tion in 2015. Hav­ing been unable to obtain a land­slide vic­to­ry, the PS is now fac­ing an inter­nal lead­er­ship bat­tle from where the next Prime Min­is­ter can­di­date will emerge. On the far-left, BE’s decline and L’s encour­ag­ing result is like­ly to push fur­ther talks for convergence.


  • Alexan­dra Macha­do, Pas­sos Coel­ho “dá” 17 de Maio aos por­tugue­ses, Jor­nal de Negó­cios, 4 May 2014.
  • Jor­nal Sol, Sócrates rejei­ta cul­pa na entra­da da troi­ka, 5 May 2014.
  • Jor­nal Sol, Assis: Não vejo razão nen­hu­ma para comem­o­rar fim do pro­gra­ma da troi­ka, 25 May 2014.
  • Par­tido Social­ista, Fim do plano de res­gate — António José Seguro (Video), 4 May 2014.
  • Jorge Fer­nan­des and José San­tana Pereira, Os Pro­gra­mas Eleitorais Das Europeias De 2014: Uma Análise Pre­lim­i­nar Das Prin­ci­pais Dimen­sões De Com­petição, RELAÇÕES INTERNACIONAIS MARÇO 2014, Vol. 41, pp. 81–95.
  • Edali­na Sanch­es and José San­tana Pereira, Which Europe do the Por­tuguese Par­ties Want? Iden­ti­ty, Rep­re­sen­ta­tion and Scope of Gov­er­nance in the Por­tuguese Euro­man­i­festos (1987–2004), in: Per­spec­tives on Euro­pean Pol­i­tics and Soci­ety, 2010, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 183–200.
  • José San­tana Pereira and Edali­na Sanch­es, “Por­tu­gal”, in: Nicò­lo Con­ti (Ed.), Par­ties for Europe, Par­ties against Europe. Par­ty Atti­tudes Towards the EU in the Mem­ber States, 2013, Rout­ledge, New York, pp. 115–132.
  • Mari­na Cos­ta Lobo and  Pedro C. Mag­a­l­hães Room for Manoeu­vre: Euroscep­ti­cism in the Por­tuguese Par­ties and Elec­torate 1976–2005, South Euro­pean Soci­ety and Pol­i­tics, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 81–104.

2.  The EU’s Neighbourhood

Ana Mon­i­ca Fonseca

Low interest in the European neighbourhood

In a gen­er­al man­ner, the East­ern Euro­pean bor­der is seen in Por­tu­gal as some­thing too far away to con­cern its inter­ests. That is reflect­ed not only on the absence of any pub­lic state­ment from the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment regard­ing Rus­sia (Portugal’s for­eign pol­i­cy fol­lows, in these mat­ters, the line of action from the EU gen­er­al res­o­lu­tions or offi­cial posi­tions) but also on the lack of a broad pub­lic dis­cus­sion in the Por­tuguese media con­cern­ing the top­ic. Even the news regard­ing the ener­gy sup­ply issues receive lit­tle atten­tion from the pub­lic, as one can observe from the com­ments on the online edi­tions of the major Por­tuguese news­pa­pers (Pub­li­co, Diário de Noti­cias, Jor­nal I). How­ev­er, the excep­tion is among the intellectual/academic elite, which fol­lows atten­tive­ly the mat­ter and dis­cuss­es it in con­fer­ences and Sem­i­nars, both at the Uni­ver­si­ty lev­el and at the think-tank level.

There is not much dis­cus­sion regard­ing the options tak­en by the Kremlin’s lead­er­ship by the gen­er­al pub­lic. The most recent poll con­duct­ed by the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund of the US (GMFUS), the Transat­lantic Trends 2013, reveals that a major­i­ty in Por­tu­gal sees Russia’s lead­er­ship in world affairs as unde­sir­able (54 per­cent), where­as 51 per­cent of the respon­dents have an unfavourable opin­ion regard­ing Rus­sia. This is the high­est val­ue of the last three years. In 2010, only 44 per­cent of the respon­dents had an unfavourable opin­ion of Rus­sia, which decreased in 2011 (30 percent).

Detachment from Eastern Partnership countries

Like­wise, the same detach­ment is felt in what con­cerns the East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries. There is not much atten­tion being giv­en to the East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries, in as much it is under­stood that it does not direct­ly affect Portugal.

In a gen­er­al man­ner, the East­ern enlarge­ment was seen as polit­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary, as it was a very impor­tant fac­tor for the con­sol­i­da­tion of the post-com­mu­nist democ­ra­cies — as it had been the case with Por­tu­gal in the 1980s. How­ev­er, there is a neg­a­tive view regard­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of future enlarge­ments, as there is now a gen­er­al idea that more mem­ber-states will bring a big­ger dis­per­sion of the EU funds and greater com­pe­ti­tion to Portugal.

This mat­ter has been more inten­sive­ly dis­cussed by the academic/intellectual elite, name­ly through the organ­i­sa­tion of sem­i­nars and con­fer­ences. There has been also great atten­tion by the Por­tuguese media and some opin­ion mak­ers, who look at the top­ic from the Euro­pean point of view, more than at the nation­al perspective.

In terms of strate­gic and secu­ri­ty issues, there is obvi­ous­ly some con­cern about the sta­bil­i­ty of the con­ti­nent and an even­tu­al increase of North-Amer­i­can forces in Europe is always used to dis­cuss the rel­e­vance of a US base in Azores. How­ev­er, the most recent events in Ukraine have also con­tributed to the strength­en­ing of the coop­er­a­tion with the Unit­ed States in the field of ener­gy, as Bruno Maçães, the Sec­re­tary of State for Euro­pean Affairs has argued in an opin­ion arti­cle. Maçães argued that it was nec­es­sary to dimin­ish Europe’s depen­den­cy of the Russ­ian gas in order to increase its com­pet­i­tive­ness inter­na­tion­al­ly. Nev­er­the­less, in terms of the offi­cial posi­tion of the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment, there is a ten­den­cy to fol­low the EU’s offi­cial position.

Indifference towards Turkey’s EU accession

This is a top­ic very rarely dis­cussed in Por­tu­gal. In gen­er­al, the Por­tuguese are not very sup­port­ive of fur­ther EU enlarge­ment, but there is not any direct dis­cus­sion regard­ing the spe­cif­ic case of Turkey.

Not even at the lev­el of the aca­d­e­m­ic elite is this top­ic dis­cussed. How­ev­er, through the Transat­lantic Trends 2013 data, one can for­mu­late a gen­er­al view from the opin­ion in Por­tu­gal regard­ing an even­tu­al mem­ber­ship of Turkey in the Euro­pean Union. The major­i­ty of the Por­tuguese respon­dents (57 per­cent) see Turkey’s mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive as “some­thing nei­ther good nor bad”, where­as 21 per­cent con­sid­er it as neg­a­tive and only 13 per­cent see it as a pos­i­tive thing. The evo­lu­tion in the last decade has shown that these answers are more or less con­stant. The high­est rate of pos­i­tive answers to an even­tu­al Turk­ish mem­ber­ship in the EU was reached in 2009 and 2010 (23 per­cent), where­as in the last two years that this ques­tion was asked (2011 and 2013) the assess­ment of Turkey’s acces­sion to EU only reached its peak at 21 percent.


3. Power relations in the EU

Ana Mon­i­ca Fonseca

Divided views on Germany’s role in the EU

There is a gap between the polit­i­cal elite’s point of view regard­ing Germany’s role in Europe and that of the gen­er­al public.

Regard­ing the polit­i­cal elite, the gov­ern­ment par­ties, a coali­tion of cen­tre-right polit­i­cal par­ties, PSD and CDS-PP, see Ger­many as the exam­ple to fol­low and in Berlin the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the Euro­pean Union. On the oth­er hand, the major oppo­si­tion par­ty, the PS, as well as the oth­er left-wing for­ma­tions (PCP and BE) present some alter­na­tives to the Ger­man lead­er­ship — which they acknowl­edge but see in a neg­a­tive man­ner. The BE (Blo­co de Esquer­da, Left Bloc), for exam­ple,  argues that there should be greater action from the oth­er coun­tries affect­ed by the cri­sis in Europe — and here the appeal towards the uni­ty of the oth­er South­ern Euro­pean coun­tries is sound.

In what con­cerns the gen­er­al pub­lic opin­ion there is a much more crit­i­cal vision to Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s gov­ern­ment. In fact, nowa­days Ger­many is asso­ci­at­ed with the aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies imposed on the Por­tuguese by the Troi­ka and the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment is asso­ci­at­ed with fol­low­ing Berlin’s instruc­tions too close­ly. Again, through the inquiries made by the Transat­lantic Trends, we can assess the Por­tuguese opin­ion regard­ing the Chan­cel­lor in the last two years (2012 and 2013), when the ques­tion was pre­sent­ed. In 2012, the aver­age approval rate of the Chan­cel­lor was around 35 per­cent, while its dis­ap­proval was about 61 per­cent. In the last year, 2013, the val­ues have changed to an increase in the dis­ap­proval of the Ger­man head of gov­ern­ment to 65 per­cent. Break­ing down these results in a more detailed man­ner, 40 per­cent of the respon­dents “strong­ly dis­ap­prove” Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s han­dling of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, where­as 25 per­cent only “some­what dis­ap­prove” it. In the last year these val­ues were much more bal­anced, with 29 per­cent answer­ing “some­what dis­ap­prove” and 32 per­cent “strong­ly disapprove”.

Where­as Germany’s grow­ing role in Europe may be some­times seen by the aver­age Por­tuguese as an effort to dom­i­nate the con­ti­nent from the eco­nom­ic point of view, the impor­tance of Ger­many for the sta­bil­i­ty and inter­na­tion­al rel­e­vance of the EU is also acknowledged.

Nowa­days, because of the cri­sis, we observe an intense migra­tion of young peo­ple towards Europe: as in the 1960s, tens of thou­sands of young Por­tuguese are mov­ing north, includ­ing Ger­many, to find bet­ter liv­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and the jobs miss­ing at home.

Left-right divergence regarding solutions for economic crisis

In Por­tu­gal there is a clear left-right diver­gence regard­ing the solu­tions for the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, in par­tic­u­lar con­cern­ing the debate on aus­ter­i­ty vs. growth. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, the cen­tre-right polit­i­cal par­ties, PSD and CDS-PP, which form the gov­ern­ing coali­tion, tend to insist on the ben­e­fits of the aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies fol­lowed since the inter­na­tion­al inter­ven­tion — the Troi­ka is in Por­tu­gal since 2011. The aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies are also very close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the poli­cies fol­lowed in Ger­many and sup­port­ed by Angela Merkel’s government.

On the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal spec­trum, there is a greater ten­den­cy to favour the increase in state expense and thus sup­port­ing and favour­ing the eco­nom­ic growth. How­ev­er, the Por­tuguese Social­ist Par­ty, as it was also one of the sig­na­to­ries of the Adjust­ment Pro­gram, adopts a more ambigu­ous posi­tion, as it is com­pro­mised with the Pro­gram, but also wish­es to dis­tance itself from the Gov­ern­ment policies.

In the gen­er­al public’s point of view, there is a pre­ferred option towards a Euro­pean solu­tion for the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, as the most recent Euro­barom­e­ter data shows. Por­tu­gal is in fact one of the greater sup­port­ers of clos­er coop­er­a­tion of the Euro­pean coun­tries to over­come the finan­cial and eco­nom­ic cri­sis (91 per­cent), being one of the great­est defend­ers of a more impor­tant role of the EU in reg­u­lat­ing the finan­cial ser­vices (82 per­cent) and for a greater coor­di­na­tion of the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial poli­cies among the coun­tries of the Euro area (79 percent).

Addi­tion­al­ly, anoth­er poll reflects the pri­or­i­ties of the Por­tuguese regard­ing the State’s expen­di­ture. Through the Transat­lantic Trends (GMFUS, 2013), one can under­stand in which areas the respon­dents con­sid­er that the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment should spend more mon­ey, and in which there should be less invest­ment. A clear major­i­ty of the respon­dents con­sid­er that the gov­ern­ment should decrease State spend­ing in gen­er­al (70 per­cent in 2013, while in 2010 it was 80 per­cent), but there are some par­tic­u­lar areas in which the respon­dents think that the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment should in fact increase spend­ing or, at least, main­tain its cur­rent lev­els of spend­ing: in the wel­fare state pro­grams (31 per­cent say that there should be an increase of spend­ing; 38 per­cent say it should be main­tained) and in Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy and Edu­ca­tion (55 per­cent in favour of increas­ing the spend­ing, 34 per­cent in favour of main­tain­ing it). On the oth­er hand, the major­i­ty of the respon­dents are in favour of a clear decrease in the spend­ing on Defence (46 per­cent), where­as 41 per­cent say that it should be kept at the same level.

No one should leave the Union

The Unit­ed King­dom is one of Portugal’s old­est allies and Lis­bon has always close­ly fol­lowed Lon­don in its for­eign pol­i­cy — includ­ing the first years of Por­tuguese mem­ber­ship in the Union. As the UK takes a stronger stance in regard to its mem­ber­ship — felt more acute­ly in the sum­mer of 2014 because of Cameron’s reac­tion to Jean-Claude Juncker’s nom­i­na­tion for the EU-Com­mis­sion Pres­i­den­cy — the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a UK exit seems to be clos­er. How­ev­er, in Por­tu­gal the gen­er­al posi­tion, both of the polit­i­cal elite and the gen­er­al pub­lic, main­tains that no one should leave the Union, as there is not any real alter­na­tive in terms of inter­na­tion­al inte­gra­tion. The UK is seen as a fun­da­men­tal mem­ber state of the Euro­pean Union as it assures the “Atlantic,” a top­ic very dear to the Por­tuguese leadership.


This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.