Lisbon Treaty ‘is not dead’

The year 2009 is cer­tain­ly a year of great uncer­tain­ties regard­ing the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’, par­tic­u­lar­ly when this will be cou­pled with the unknown impact of the cur­rent finan­cial and eco­nom­ic cri­sis, that seems to many more struc­tur­al than sim­ply a cycli­cal reces­sion. But it may also be a year of oppor­tu­ni­ties. It will cer­tain­ly be a year of great expec­ta­tions of change in transat­lantic rela­tions and even in glob­al pol­i­tics with the arrival of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma at the White House.[1] The com­bi­na­tion of these fac­tors seems to point to 2009 as a year of both great oppor­tu­ni­ties and great chal­lenges in terms of the future of the EU and of glob­al governance.

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?


There were no major changes in terms of the Por­tuguese debate on this issue from the pre­vi­ous report. The Social­ist gov­ern­ment who was respon­si­ble for pre­sid­ing over the final nego­ti­a­tions and the sign­ing the Lis­bon Treaty con­tin­ues to be, as Prime Min­is­ter José Sócrates made clear imme­di­ate­ly after the Irish ‘No’, “deeply dis­ap­point­ed” with the prob­lems in its rat­i­fi­ca­tion process, but also firm­ly con­vinced that the treaty “is not dead”.[2] Por­tuguese offi­cial posi­tion there­fore con­tin­ues to be very much to pur­sue a pol­i­cy of hav­ing the Lis­bon Treaty rat­i­fied and hav­ing a new ref­er­en­dum in Ire­land after some effort to accom­mo­date some Irish griev­ances, whether real, as in the case of the nation­al Com­mis­sion­ers, or fic­ti­tious, as in the case of abor­tion. Those who con­tin­ued to oppose the Lis­bon Treaty in Por­tu­gal – espe­cial­ly the ‘far left’ – rep­re­sent­ed at the nation­al and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment by the Com­mu­nist Par­ty and the Left Bloc, still believe, and as the latter’s MEP Miguel Por­tas put it, that “the treaty is dead” and any effort to try to revive it will bring dis­cred­it to the EU. In fact, the ‘far left’ had already pre­sent­ed a vote of non-con­fi­dence – pure­ly sym­bol­ic giv­en the absolute major­i­ty held by the Social­ists in par­lia­ment – on the gov­ern­ment, alleg­ing it had not kept its elec­toral promise to hold a ref­er­en­dum on the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Treaty and hence they argued, nec­es­sar­i­ly also on the Lis­bon Treaty.[3]

The fact that the con­clu­sions of the Euro­pean Coun­cil of Decem­ber 2008 on the fate of the Lis­bon Treaty seemed to point in that direc­tion were there­fore seen by Por­tuguese offi­cials as a very pos­i­tive sign. Things were mov­ing in the direc­tion they wished for. The reac­tions of the crit­ics of the EU denounced a per­ver­sion of democ­ra­cy, by hav­ing as many votes as nec­es­sary to have the peo­ple say ‘Yes’ on EU insti­tu­tion­al reform.[4]

The upcom­ing Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in June 2009 have been dis­cussed so far in Por­tu­gal most­ly in the con­text of a rel­a­tive­ly tense polit­i­cal cli­mate aggra­vat­ed by the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and of a very crowd­ed Por­tuguese elec­toral year. In 2009 there will be munic­i­pal, Euro­pean, and last but not least, nation­al par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. There has been a great deal of spec­u­la­tion in polit­i­cal cir­cles regard­ing the dates of these elec­tions. The law makes it dif­fi­cult or even impos­si­ble to have these elec­tions on the same day, yet a great deal of spec­u­la­tion has emerged regard­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of chang­ing this. Yet, this would require agree­ment at least between the gov­ern­ing Social­ists and the main oppo­si­tion par­ty, PSD,[5] as well as the Pres­i­dent of the Por­tuguese Republic.[6]

Aníbal Cava­co Sil­va, as Head of State, is the one with the pow­er to actu­al­ly set a date for the par­lia­men­tary and Euro­pean elec­tions – with the lat­ter, of course, hav­ing to be held in June across the EU. The Prime Min­is­ter is the one who sets the date for the munic­i­pal elec­tions, in prin­ci­ple between Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber. Prime Min­is­ter Sócrates has made clear he would not be will­ing to change the law to allow all three elec­tions to take place on the same day, but he would be will­ing to have nation­al par­lia­men­tary and Euro­pean elec­tions on the same date, cit­ing a prece­dent for this in the past. How­ev­er, this would require the Pres­i­dent to dis­solve par­lia­ment ‘in time’ for the Euro­pean elec­tions. In the absence of an ample con­sen­sus between the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties, which seems high­ly unlike­ly, the Pres­i­dent is not like­ly to make any dra­mat­ic move on such a del­i­cate mat­ter. Still, an argu­ment that has become sig­nif­i­cant­ly salient, reflect­ing the seri­ous­ness of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, is that hold­ing all these elec­tions on the same day would save money.[7]

Ulti­mate­ly, what will be deter­mi­nant in this dis­cus­sion are the polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions in terms of cost-ben­e­fit by the major par­ties. The Social­ist Par­ty is wide­ly expect­ed to do worse in the munic­i­pal elec­tions as well as in the Euro­pean elec­tions than in the nation­al par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. In munic­i­pal elec­tions, because in the more rur­al areas the ‘right’ tra­di­tion­al­ly con­trols a larg­er num­ber of munic­i­pal­i­ties – but also, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the future elec­tions, because the ‘far left’ refus­es to accept any coali­tions with the rul­ings Social­ists – the key point has tra­di­tion­al­ly been whether or not this is then reflect­ed in a major­i­ty of the aggre­gate pop­u­lar vote. The same is broad­ly expect­ed in the Euro­pean elec­tions, tra­di­tion­al­ly a way to show dis­ap­proval of nation­al pol­i­tics, and per­haps also because the right-wing PSD can now play the card that vot­ing for them will mean vot­ing for José Manuel Barroso’s con­tin­u­a­tion as Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which will become dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble in case the Euro­pean Left has a major­i­ty in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The Social­ists are hop­ing that hold­ing par­lia­men­tary and Euro­pean elec­tions as soon as pos­si­ble and togeth­er will con­tain loss­es. Hav­ing the munic­i­pal elec­tions after these two would pro­vide some space for last minute local coali­tions between the dif­fer­ent left-wing parties.

What this shows, how­ev­er, so far, is how depen­dent upon nation­al pol­i­tics Euro­pean elec­tions still are in a coun­try like Por­tu­gal. Cer­tain­ly, the polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions have so far been dom­i­nat­ed entire­ly by nation­al con­cerns, even if there is at the same time, and per­haps some­what para­dox­i­cal­ly, a notion that a lot in the cur­rent cri­sis depends upon effec­tive and coor­di­nat­ed Euro­pean measures.

In terms of the for­ma­tion of the new Com­mis­sion in autumn 2009, the most seri­ous Por­tuguese con­cern is whether or not its cur­rent Por­tuguese Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Bar­roso, will be will­ing and able to con­tin­ue. One of the most influ­en­tial Por­tuguese news­pa­pers is but one exam­ple of the ques­tion every­one is ask­ing: “The Year of the Re-Elec­tion of Bar­roso?” As this arti­cle notes, he seems to be run­ning unop­posed, but this might prove illu­so­ry giv­en three rea­sons: first, how quick­ly events have been chang­ing on the glob­al land­scape for the worst; sec­ond, how like­ly it is that as a result of this a turn towards more euroscep­tic, ‘left-wing’ protest vote in the Euro­pean elec­tions has become; and, third, we would add, how appe­tiz­ing the job is.[8]

There was some spec­u­la­tion in the past that he would be will­ing (or not) to con­sid­er instead becom­ing the first Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, if the Lis­bon Treaty was rat­i­fied. A num­ber of senior Por­tuguese politi­cians, includ­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic and the Prime Min­is­ter, pub­licly expressed their wish that he should con­tin­ue as Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Commission.[9] Now that the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty in time for the new Com­mis­sion seems a thing of the past, how­ev­er, that has become a more aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion, at least for the time being.

There has been some con­cerned spec­u­la­tion also as to why the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty did not for­mal­ly endorse Bar­roso as its can­di­date in the Decem­ber 2008 meet­ing. The pub­lic expla­na­tion offered, that the meet­ing had start­ed late and end­ed ear­ly, did not ful­ly con­vince one of Portugal’s most well-informed EU-watch­ers, Isabel Arria­ga e Cun­ha, who not­ed in her blog that this might sig­nal that Bar­roso was per­haps becom­ing a “falling star” most like­ly because of how dis­pleased Merkel was with the per­ceived align­ment of Bar­roso with Sarkozy and a more state-cen­tred and expen­di­ture hap­py approach towards the cur­rent crisis.[10] If this is the case, iron­i­cal­ly, then it would show that the fre­quent crit­i­cism that Bar­roso is unwill­ing to take a strong posi­tion, and always strives for the mid­dle road, is untrue; he is ready to take polit­i­cal risks and show lead­er­ship in a moment of cri­sis favour­ing the direc­tion he believes is right in the attempt to over­come the cur­rent eco­nom­ic difficulties.

If, how­ev­er, Bar­roso, for any num­ber of rea­sons, does not suc­ceed ‘him­self’ as Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, then a high pro­file Social­ist would most­ly like­ly be con­sid­ered for a role of Com­mis­sion­er; giv­en the new dis­po­si­tion after the Irish ‘No’ that will pre­serve a slot in the Com­mis­sion for each mem­ber state; and also giv­en the fact that even if prob­a­bly with­out an absolute major­i­ty the gov­ern­ing Social­ist – accord­ing to all the polls – still seemed posed to win this year’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and will there­fore con­tin­ue in government.[11] In that event one strong con­tender, who would seem to guar­an­tee an appoint­ment for a high pro­file port­fo­lio would be Maria João Rodrigues, who presided as Min­is­ter over the ini­tial stages of the Lis­bon Agen­da dur­ing the 2000 Por­tuguese EU-Pres­i­den­cy, and under the cur­rent gov­ern­ment and dur­ing the 2008 Por­tuguese EU-Pres­i­den­cy played a key role as a spe­cial advi­sor to the Prime Min­is­ter on Euro­pean affairs. Still, undoubt­ed­ly if that oppor­tu­ni­ty comes oth­er con­tenders will emerge for such a poten­tial­ly impor­tant job.

For the time being, how­ev­er, the Por­tuguese pub­lic sphere seems to be dom­i­nat­ed by short-term con­cerns with the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and qual­i­ty of gov­er­nance and not with longer-term impli­ca­tions and sce­nar­ios for the inte­gra­tion process itself. Still there are those, who try to engage in longer term think­ing, usu­al­ly in rel­a­tive gloomy terms regard­ing the diag­no­sis, but not so gloomy regard­ing the need and abil­i­ty to find some way out. This is the case for instance of the direc­tor of the main Catholic radio, Saars­field Cabral, in an arti­cle titled the “Age of Sus­pi­cion”, where he points the absence of con­trol and reg­u­la­tion over de fac­to transna­tion­al pow­ers, as one of the major caus­es of that loss of faith in the demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem and the need to counter it.[12] Like­wise the for­mer EU Com­mis­sion­er and semi-retired elder states­man, António Vitori­no, also tried to go against the cur­rent and look fur­ther ahead. Along­side a gloomy fore­cast of pro­longed eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties with no end in sight or sure way to get out of them, he puts high hopes in the new poli­cies of US Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and their poten­tial glob­al impact.[13]

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities


EU must engage new US-Presidency to deal with Bush inheritance

The Por­tuguese point of view tends to be gener­i­cal­ly very pos­i­tive regard­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties opened by the elec­tion of Barack Oba­ma in tune with the polls that show his excep­tion­al pop­u­lar­i­ty through­out Europe and glob­al­ly. The gov­ern­ment has expressed in wish­es that the long­stand­ing alliance with the US will be reaf­firmed and enhanced with the new pres­i­den­cy. In fact, Por­tu­gal took the lead in rais­ing pub­licly the ques­tion of Euro­pean states receiv­ing for­mer pris­on­ers of Guan­tanamo – and offer­ing to do so – as a con­crete way of show­ing its will­ing­ness to help the new US Pres­i­dent in solv­ing some of the most com­plex aspects of the inher­i­tance of George W. Bush.[14] At the lev­el of the gov­ern­ment, there­fore, the will­ing­ness to coop­er­ate with the new US Pres­i­dent is clear, both as a result of the tra­di­tion­al strate­gic pri­or­i­ties of Por­tuguese defence and for­eign pol­i­cy, but also through a Euro­peanis­ing of these rela­tions. The cur­rent Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment clear­ly believes that its mem­ber­ship in the EU is an impor­tant way of improv­ing its rela­tions with Wash­ing­ton and acts accordingly.

How­ev­er, despite this almost uni­ver­sal sym­pa­thy, from Com­mu­nist Nobel Lau­re­ate José Sara­m­a­go to right-wing politi­cians and opin­ion-mak­ers who nev­er­the­less expressed their sup­port for Oba­ma, there are some ana­lysts ques­tion­ing the new US President’s abil­i­ty to deliv­er on the very high expec­ta­tions that sur­round­ed his elec­tion; or at least empha­sise the need for Europe to act now in a coor­di­nat­ed and well-thought way so as to prof­it from oppor­tu­ni­ties for a reform of glob­al gov­er­nances cre­at­ed by this admin­is­tra­tion, under­lin­ing that they will not take place on Amer­i­can ini­tia­tive alone.

Among these more scep­ti­cal analy­sis is João Mar­ques de Almei­da, who points to the need to real­ize the many dif­fi­cul­ties and con­straints faced by the new Amer­i­can President.[15] Álvaro de Vas­con­ce­los offers an exam­ple of the kind com­ments made by those who see the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma as a renewed chance for a glob­al part­ner­ship trans­lat­ed in an effec­tive mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. At the same time this cre­ates a chal­lenge for Europe, requir­ing a more proac­tive stance that will go beyond sim­ply crit­i­cis­ing US for­eign pol­i­cy and move towards for­mu­lat­ing con­crete alter­na­tive pro­pos­als to the cur­rent inter­na­tion­al sta­tus quo. The chal­lenges are many, name­ly in terms of inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty, with mat­ters such as NATO enlarge­ment and Afghanistan. But there is also the need for Euro­peans to build and advo­cate a broad­er agen­da that goes beyond the tra­di­tion­al US inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties and towards more tru­ly glob­al con­cerns. This could nat­u­ral­ly include reform­ing inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions, name­ly by an effort of dia­logue and inclu­sion of dif­fer­ent region­al organizations.[16]

In terms of the top pri­or­i­ties for a re-def­i­n­i­tion or re-vital­i­sa­tion of the EU-US rela­tion­ship, a rel­a­tive con­sen­sus emerges in Por­tu­gal among deci­sion-mak­ers and opin­ion-mak­ers. The need for a renew­al of the Mid­dle East peace process and engage­ment with Iran is seen as a pri­or­i­ty giv­en the impor­tance of this for our near neigh­bours in the South­ern Mediter­ranean. Then there is the less urgent, but no less impor­tant need to rein­force mul­ti­lat­er­al insti­tu­tions and by reform­ing or revis­ing them, make sure that they are able to bet­ter inte­grate the so-called emerg­ing pow­ers, per­haps by engag­ing in the dif­fi­cult reform of the UN, but also and more imme­di­ate­ly and eas­i­ly, by per­ma­nent­ly trans­form­ing the G8 into the G20 with a guar­an­teed EU pres­ence – so as to make sure that small­er coun­tries like Por­tu­gal will have a say in such a forum. Last but not least, there is a sense of urgency because of the cur­rent cri­sis, in the need for stronger, more effec­tive glob­al eco­nom­ic reg­u­la­tions and insti­tu­tions name­ly regard­ing the finan­cial sec­tor and the fight against off-shores and oth­er forms of escap­ing reg­u­la­tions and not pay taxes.

How far this ambi­tious agen­da can be achieved, how­ev­er, is less clear. Again more scep­ti­cal or cau­tious voic­es point to the basic unde­ni­able fact that no mat­ter how much Oba­ma was acclaimed as the “can­di­date of the Euro­peans” he will be the “Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent”, as well as the poten­tial dif­fi­cul­ties if we look at the views so far expressed by Oba­ma regard­ing the Mid­dle East, that if tak­en lit­er­al­ly – and not as part of the cam­paign rhetoric – do not nec­es­sar­i­ly point to an easy con­ver­gence on that vital mat­ter with Europe.[17] Also, the old trap of falling into the temp­ta­tion of nation­al pro­tec­tion­ism in these hard eco­nom­ic times may cause seri­ous ten­sions between the US and the EU.[18]

Despite these dif­fer­ent views, what the EU needs to do in order to revi­talise transat­lantic rela­tions also seems rel­a­tive­ly con­sen­su­al­ly. Europe needs to be more proac­tive and co-ordi­nat­ed in its exter­nal pol­i­cy regard­ing the US and the world in gen­er­al, show­ing a greater abil­i­ty to actu­al­ly deliv­er some inter­na­tion­al pub­lic goods, along­side the very sig­nif­i­cant, but often a strate­gic, con­tri­bu­tion that it already makes – pri­mar­i­ly through aid.

This would seem to point to the urgent need for insti­tu­tion­al reforms of the EU exter­nal action along the lines of the Lis­bon Treaty to come into place as soon as pos­si­ble. The fact that Euro­pean lead­ers were able to meet and pre­pare a joint let­ter to the new US Pres­i­dent on the eve of the elec­tion was per­haps a pos­i­tive sign that there is some aware­ness among cur­rent Euro­pean lead­ers of the need for increased coor­di­na­tion in rela­tions with Amer­i­ca. Anoth­er pos­i­tive fact was that Oba­ma made clear his com­mit­ment to mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, diplo­ma­cy, and renew­al and rein­force­ment of tra­di­tion­al alliances, name­ly and explic­it­ly with Europe. In his main for­eign pol­i­cy text so far, pub­lished in “For­eign Affairs” dur­ing the cam­paign, he points to the mis­take made in dis­miss­ing “Euro­pean reser­va­tions about the wis­dom and neces­si­ty of the Iraq war”, and goes on to under­line that “I will rebuild our ties to our allies in Europe and Asia and strength­en our part­ner­ships through­out the Amer­i­c­as and Africa. Our alliances require con­stant coop­er­a­tion and revi­sion if they are to remain effec­tive and relevant.”[19]

How­ev­er, if this gives room for hope of a renewed and more dynam­ic transat­lantic rela­tion­ship, it also means Euro­peans no longer have the easy ali­bi of being unable to work with George W. Bush. The EU faces the chal­lenge of becom­ing an effec­tive actor in the inter­na­tion­al stage, while at the same time avoid­ing the pow­er pol­i­tics (Realpoli­tik) kind of approach so tra­di­tion­al of inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics dom­i­nat­ed by states. A Euro­pean pow­er pol­i­tics approach to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions would cre­ate a seri­ous dis­so­nance with a project of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion born of a rejec­tion of it between its mem­ber states.[20] Last­ly, the present writer believes that there is room to ques­tion whether the cur­rent frag­ile insti­tu­tion­al basis of EU-US rela­tions, with peri­od­ic sum­mits, while many impor­tant issues for the transat­lantic rela­tion­ship actu­al­ly being dis­cussed pri­mar­i­ly either through NATO or through the G8, could not be improved. A stronger insti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion with the cre­ation of a more per­ma­nent forum for a tru­ly Euro­pean-North Amer­i­can part­ner­ship – per­haps with the inclu­sion of Cana­da and Mex­i­co, i.e. a ‘NAFTO’ – would seem to be a poten­tial­ly very pos­i­tive step in achiev­ing effec­tive coor­di­na­tion in transat­lantic rela­tions across the board.

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response


EU initiatives seen as potentially a positive way to deal with financial crisis

The finan­cial cri­sis may have demon­strat­ed once more that the real­i­ty of glob­al­i­sa­tion in the shape of increased eco­nom­ic and social inter­de­pen­dence has its lim­i­ta­tions in terms of gov­er­nance, name­ly in pro­vid­ing effec­tive reg­u­la­tions for glob­alised finan­cial mar­kets. The expec­ta­tions regard­ing the EU in this con­text are very high in Por­tu­gal – Euro­pean ini­tia­tives are large­ly seen as the only way to come up with effec­tive answers to such an inter­na­tion­al and mul­ti­di­men­sion­al cri­sis. Even if some will then use this start­ing point to crit­i­cise the EU dif­fi­cul­ties and hes­i­ta­tions in respond­ing to the cri­sis, and ques­tion whether more effec­tive dif­fer­ent poli­cies could not be pur­sue. Oth­ers still see in these dif­fi­cul­ties pri­mar­i­ly evi­dence of the need to reform the EU, either to strength­en it, or to change the man­date of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank so as to make sure that due account is giv­en to the need to bal­ance growth and employ­ment with price stability.[21]

Still, eco­nom­ic ana­lysts tend to empha­sise the harsh lessons of cri­sis for small­er coun­tries out­side of Euroland and of the EU, most notably Ice­land. Ice­landic dif­fi­cul­ties are gen­er­al­ly seen as evi­dence of what might have hap­pened to a coun­try like Por­tu­gal – even more so because it would not have been shield­ed for so long by prej­u­dices regard­ing North­ern Europe’s fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty and finan­cial pru­dence, twice denied in the last few years by the bank­ing cri­sis in Swe­den and now in Ice­land. In fact, crit­i­cism of the inter­na­tion­al rat­ing firms was wide­spread, most notably point­ing to the pre­con­cep­tions that led to Ice­land being award­ed the high­est pos­si­ble rat­ings until the eve of its finan­cial melt­down. More­over, the belat­ed urge of Ice­land to join the EU and the Euro was seen as evi­dence that nation­al sov­er­eign­ty may not be as effec­tive and as attrac­tive now as it once were. The fact that Slo­va­kia became the six­teenth state to join the Euro was gen­er­al­ly seen as fur­ther proof of the attrac­tive­ness of the Euro­pean cur­ren­cy in times of cri­sis. The fall of the British Pound has often been pre­sent­ed as fur­ther evi­dence of this. While at the same time caus­ing some con­cern regard­ing the increased com­pet­i­tive­ness of British exports vis-à-vis those of coun­tries in Euroland, pos­ing a renewed chal­lenge to the prin­ci­ple of fair com­pe­ti­tion at the heart of the Euro­pean inter­nal mar­ket. The top­ic of the rel­a­tive shield pro­vid­ed by the Euro and the wish of oth­ers to join has, in sum, been a rel­a­tive­ly fre­quent theme in the Por­tuguese press.[22]

One impor­tant eco­nom­ic com­men­ta­tor called atten­tion to the tenth anniver­sary of the Euro, labelling it the most ambi­tious, com­plex and suc­cess­ful mon­e­tary expe­ri­ence in his­to­ry. Still, even he called atten­tion to some prob­lems for the future, main­ly derived from fis­cal irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty result­ing in grow­ing breach­es of the sta­bil­i­ty pact as well as the endur­ing rigid­ness of mar­kets, par­tic­u­lar­ly the labour markets.[23] Tra­di­tion­al­ly more euroscep­tic com­men­ta­tors have empha­sised argu­ments that Europe was per­haps once pro­tec­tive of the Por­tuguese econ­o­my – but in a neg­a­tive way, because it shield­ed com­pa­nies in need of reform – but now is no longer able, because of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the World Trade Organization’s rules, to per­form that role, mak­ing the Por­tuguese eco­nom­ic future even more gloomy.[24]

The role of the Por­tuguese Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, José Manuel Bar­roso, in the devel­op­ment of the stim­u­lus pack­age against oppo­si­tion from some coun­tries, name­ly the tra­di­tion­al­ly Europhile but fis­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Ger­man gov­ern­ment, also deserved some atten­tion and spec­u­la­tion as to its impact in his abil­i­ty to be reap­point­ed to that role lat­er this year. The EU stim­u­lus pack­age was large­ly wel­comed as an impor­tant sign that the EU would sup­port and com­ple­ment the effort being made by nation­al gov­ern­ments to invest more, even if its size had been reduced as a result of pres­sure from a num­ber of coun­tries, notably Germany.[25] Some com­men­ta­tors, par­tic­u­lar­ly from the ‘far left’, have seen it as insuf­fi­cient, advo­cat­ing a much stronger pres­ence of the state in the econ­o­my. While oth­ers wor­ried about where the mon­ey would come from, and how effec­tive­ly it would be spent by the states, with or with­out a clear strat­e­gy that would see spend­ing in key sec­tors – like ener­gy effi­cien­cy, and tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment, and not sim­ply in build­ing infrastructure.[26]

The more rad­i­cal cri­tique was evi­dent in the Left Bloc appeal to a nation­al­i­sa­tion of eco­nom­i­cal­ly impor­tant sec­tors. This, in turn, caused the reac­tion of some ana­lysts point­ing to dif­fi­cul­ties in set­ting bound­aries to a nation­al­i­sa­tion fol­low­ing that ratio­nale – what would be the cri­te­ria for nation­al­is­ing com­pa­nies? Above all, the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of a kind of blind nation­al­i­sa­tion of large sec­tors of the econ­o­my in 1975 was used to illus­trate the point that this rad­i­cal left­ist strat­e­gy had a very neg­a­tive impact in Por­tuguese eco­nom­ic per­for­mance in the past with­out any vis­i­ble eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits for the coun­try. Still, the fact that these pro­pos­als again emerged in the polit­i­cal debate – even if the pos­si­bil­i­ty of such a strat­e­gy being vic­to­ri­ous in the next elec­tions is seen as very remote to say the least in all the polls so far – does show the rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of debate on these mat­ters as a con­se­quence of the cri­sis. The gov­ern­ment tried to show that it was indeed invest­ing more with a vision, name­ly by announc­ing impor­tant fis­cal ben­e­fits and direct sub­si­dis­ing of invest­ment in solar pow­er as well as in the improve­ment of ener­gy effi­cien­cy in pub­lic build­ings. [27]

There is the impres­sion that hard times are ahead. How­ev­er, some point to the fact that Por­tu­gal has the (unfor­tu­nate) advan­tage of being already used to this due to its rel­a­tive­ly slow rate of eco­nom­ic growth in the past. The Pres­i­dent of Repub­lic, Aníbal Cava­co Sil­va, in his New Year address, labelled the past ten years as the “sad decade in Por­tuguese his­to­ry” because there was almost no effec­tive con­ver­gence with the rest of Europe in eco­nom­ic terms. Oth­ers talked of the ‘lost decade’, and per­haps strange­ly in a mar­ket econ­o­my, attrib­uted most of the blame for the rel­a­tive lack of eco­nom­ic growth, and mod­erni­sa­tion of the econ­o­my, to failed gov­ern­ment policies.[28] In terms of the longer term impact of the more recent eco­nom­ic changes, there is not a great deal of dis­cus­sion. But it is clear that while some pre­dict a rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly recov­ery with­in one or two years, and see this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to mod­ernise com­pa­nies and make them more com­pet­i­tive with­out fun­da­men­tal­ly alter­ing the exist­ing eco­nom­ic and inter­na­tion­al sys­tem; oth­ers fear (or wish for) a longer and more struc­tur­al cri­sis of the mar­ket econ­o­my result­ing in a much stronger role for states. Inter­na­tion­al­ly, this would result also in a fun­da­men­tal change in the bal­ance of pow­er, with stronger states emerg­ing among resource rich coun­tries and play­ing a much greater role in glob­al politics.




[1] See e.g. SpiegelOn­line Inter­na­tion­al: The World Pres­i­dent. Great Expec­ta­tions for Project Oba­ma, avail­able at:,1518,589816,00.html (last access: 21 Novem­ber 2008).
[2] Lusa (news agency): José Sócrates “Desapon­ta­do” com vitória do não em ref­er­en­do irlandês, news release, 13 June 2008).
[3] Left Bloc: Miguel Por­tas: Fin­gir que o ‘Não’ irlandês nun­ca exis­tiu é liq­uidar cred­i­bil­i­dade da Europa, press release, 13 June 2008.
[4] Jor­nal de Notí­cias: Irlan­da vol­ta a votar o Trata­do de Lis­boa, 23 Decem­ber 2008; Alexan­dre Car­reira: Irlan­deses votam out­ra vez Trata­do de Lis­boa em 2009, Diário de Notí­cias, 12 Decem­ber 2008.
[5] Right-wing Par­tido Social Democ­ra­ta (PSD).
[6] The Social­ists – Par­tido Social­ista (PS) – rule an absolute major­i­ty but changes in this kind of leg­is­la­tion require a two thirds major­i­ty in parliament.
[7] Jorge Pin­to: Eleições em 2009 cus­tam cem mil­hões, Jor­nal de Notí­cias, 11 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[8] Eva Gas­par: O ano da reeleição de Bar­roso?, Jor­nal de Notí­cias, 29 Decem­ber 2008.
[9] See Bruno C. Reis/Mónica S. Sil­va: Report for Por­tu­gal, in: Insti­tut für Europäis­che Poli­tik (ed.): EU-27 Watch, No. 7, Sep­tem­ber 2008, Berlin, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[10] Isabel Arria­ga e Cun­ha: Durão Bar­roso, estrela cadente?, avail­able at: (last access: 12 Decem­ber 2008).
[11] The lat­est one gave 39.6 per­cent of the votes to the Social­ists (PS) and 24.9 per­cent to the right-wing PSD, see for this and oth­er polls com­ment­ed by the fore­most Por­tuguese poll­ster Pedro Mag­a­l­hães his blog, avail­able at: (last access: 31 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[12] Fran­cis­co Saars­field Cabral: Idade da Descon­fi­ança, Diário de Notí­cias, 6 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[13] António Vitori­no: Pre­visões, Diário de Notí­cias, 2 Jan­u­ary 2008.
[14] Michael Abramowitz: Por­tu­gal Urges E.U. to Accept For­mer Guan­tanamo Detainees, The Wash­ing­ton Post, 12 Decem­ber 2008.
[15] João Mar­ques de Almei­da: A ilusão Oba­ma, Diário Económi­co, 11 Feb­ru­ary 2008.
[16] See e.g. Álvaro de Vas­con­ce­los: O fim do carác­ter úni­co da Europa?, avail­able at: (last acess: 12 Decem­ber 2008); Tere­sa de Sousa: O que o mun­do espera da Améri­ca e o que a Améri­ca espera do mun­do, Públi­co, 20 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[17] João Mar­ques de Almei­da: Bush e Oba­ma, Diário Económi­co, 16 June 2008.
[18] Bruno C Reis: Pres­i­den­ci­ais Amer­i­canas: Vitória Cer­ta da Europa, Resul­ta­dos Incer­tos nas Relações Trans-Atlân­ti­cas, avail­able at: (last access: 10 Decem­ber 2008).
[19] Barack Oba­ma: Renew­ing Amer­i­can Lead­er­ship, in: For­eign Affairs 4/2007, pp. 2–16.
[20] Tere­sa de Sousa: A Europa tem difi­cul­dade em afir­mar-se no pal­co inter­na­cional com uma políti­ca de potên­cia, Públi­co, 12 Decem­ber 2008.
[21] Luís Rego: Europa hesi­ta na respos­ta à crise inter­na­cional, Diário Económi­co, 23 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[22] Sér­gio Aníbal: Ao fim de dez anos, o euro é mais dese­ja­do do que nun­ca, Públi­co, 2 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[23] João César das Neves: O Nasci­men­to do Euro, Diário de Notí­cias, 2 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[24] António Bar­reto: A Europa não é o que era, Públi­co, 1 June 2008.
[25] Isabel Arria­ga e Cun­ha: Plano Bar­roso con­tra a recessão já só con­ta com 195 mil mil­hões, avail­able at: (last access: 2 Decem­ber 2008).
[26] Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment: Pro­to­co­lo para apoiar insta­lação de painéis solares em edifí­cios habita­cionais, press release, avail­able at: (last access: 30 Jan­u­ary 2008).
[27] Ana Taborda/Maria H. Espa­da: Apre­sen­to-vos o meu ami­go Trot­sky, Visão, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[28] Hele­na Gar­ri­do: Décadas per­di­das, Jor­nal de Negó­cios, 14 Jan­u­ary 2009.