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This Iberian peninsula country, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, has a rich history of seafaring and exploration. Since emerging from 40 years of authoritarian rule and the rapid decolonisation of its African colonies in the 1970s, it has undergone many social reforms but has been badly hit by the global economic crisis and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis. Trafficking of children and the treatment of child asylum seekers are among the most prevalent violations of children's rights.
Portugal is largely located in the Iberian Peninsula, but it also has territories in the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. It shares a border with Spain and has extensive coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The country's capital city is Lisbon.
Population and language
The population of Portugal is around 10.7 million, a figure that is increasing very gradually at an annual rate of between 0.2 and 0.5 per cent. The country has a relatively homogenous population of which an estimated 95 per cent of which are of Portuguese decent, while the remaining five per cent is formed by a diverse group of minorities.
The official language is Portuguese.
History and politics
The forty year authoritarian rule of Salazar's Estado Novo came to an end in 1974 with the “Carnation Revolution”, a bloodless military coup in favour of the Socialist Party. The following years were marked by the rapid decolonisation of Portugal's African colonies, alongside socialist economic reforms that included the nationalisation of some major industries. The Socialists remained influential in politics over the next decade, but their influence was gradually eroded in favour of the Social Democrats.
The national political structure is made up of the President, as the head of State, working in conjunction with a unitary Parliament (Assembleia da República) and a government led by the Prime Minister. Portugal operates a multi-party system dominated by the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party, though there are a number of smaller parties in the Parliament, including the Unitarian Democratic Coalition, the Left Bloc and the Democratic and Social Centre People's Party.
Anibal Cavaco Silva is the country's current President. Elected in 2006, he is the first centre right politician to hold the office since the end of the Estado Novo regime. The Prime Minister is Pedro Passos Coelho, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, who took office in June 2011 following the collapse of the previous government as it failed to pass its financial austerity package.
Portugal is a member of the European Union and joined the European single currency in 2002. The Socialist Party instigated a programme of nationalisation following the fall of the Estado Novo regime, but upon joining the EEC (now the EU), Portuguese economic policy demonstrated a marked change. Through the 1980s and 1990s, successive governments adopted liberalisation policies, particularly in the financial and telecommunications sectors.
The country was particularly badly hit by the global economic crisis and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis, and became the third European country to require a bailout in April 2011. Prime Minister, José Sócrates, was forced to approach the EU and IMF for loans after he could not gain support for his Government's austerity package. Mr Sócrates subsequently led a caretaker government and negotiated a €78 billion loan and adjustment programme with the IMF, EU and European Central Bank. The package is aimed at correcting national fiscal imbalances and improving growth through a range of structural reforms, including to the banking system.
Civil society and media
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) rated the state of press freedom in Portugal as “good” and ranked the country 40th out 178 in its 2010 press freedom index. RWB has raised some concerns in recent years, however, particularly in response to the revelation that Portugal's intelligence agency (the SIED) had obtained access to a journalist's mobile phone calls and messages.
Human rights and children's rights
Portugal has a good record on human rights, particularly in relation to the rights of children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has welcomed substantial reforms in the area, particularly those of a legislative nature. There are, however, a number of areas in which various human rights organisations have been critical. Corporal punishment remained legal at the time of the 2001 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee has raised concerns about the treatment of child asylum seekers.
- UNDESA 2011. Population Statistics
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Country Reports: Portugal
- Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (2005 Revision), Article 11
- Orlando Abreu, "Portugal's boom and bust: lessons for euro newcomers" Economic Analysis from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Economic Affairs
- Reporters Without Borders, "Intelligence agency spied on newspaper reporter" 29 August 2011
- Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, November 2001
- UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Country Profiles: Portugal
- The Economist, "Portugal: The Third Bailout" 7th April 2011
- Orlando Abreu, “Portugal's boom and bust: lessons for euro newcomers”
- Reporters Without Borders, Intelligence agency spied on newspaper reporter" 29 August 2011