U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Portugal, June 1997
Released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs

Official Name: Republic of Portugal


Area: 94,276 sq. km.(36,390 sq. mi.), including the Azores and Madeira 
Islands; about the size of Indiana. 
Cities: Capital--Lisbon (pop. 1.9 million). Other major city--Oporto 
(pop. 1.7 million). 
Terrain: Mountainous in the north; rolling plains central south. 
Climate: Maritime temperate.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Portuguese (sing. and pl.). Population 
(1995): 9.9 million.
Population density: 105/sq. km. (272/sq. mi.). 
Annual growth rate: 0.0%.
Ethnic groups: Homogeneous Mediterranean stock with small black African 
Religion: Roman Catholic 97%.
Language: Portuguese.
Education (1995): Years compulsory--nine. Completing nine years--23%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--9.1/1,000. Life expectancy--74.7 years. 
Work force (1996): 4.6 million: Government, commerce, and services--56%. 
Industry--32%. Agriculture--12%.


Type: Parliamentary democracy. 
Constitution: Effective April 25, 1976. Revised October 30, 1982, June 
1, 1989, and November 25, 1992
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state), Council of State 
(presidential advisory body), Prime Minister (head of government), 
Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral Assembly of the Republic 
(230 deputies). Judicial--Supreme Court, district courts, appeals 
courts, Constitutional Tribunal. 
Major political parties: Socialist Party (PS), Social Democratic Party 
(PSD), Popular Party (CDS/PP), Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). 
Suffrage: Universal at age 18. 
Subdivisions: 18 districts, two autonomous regions, and one dependency. 

GDP (1996): $107.2 billion. 
Annual growth rate (1996): 2.8%.
Per capita GDP (1996): $10,824. 
Avg. inflation rate (1996): 3.1%
Natural resources: Fish, cork, tungsten, iron, copper, tin, and uranium 
Agriculture (5% of GDP): Forestry, fisheries. 
Industry (36% of GDP): Types--textiles, clothing, footwear, wood and 
cork, paper, chemicals, manufacturing, food and beverages. 
Services (59% of GDP): Commerce, government, housing, banking, and 
Trade (1996): Exports--$25.8 billion: clothing, footwear, machinery, 
vehicles, cork and paper products, and food products. Imports--$34.2 
billion: machinery, vehicles, agriculture products, chemicals. Partners-
-European Union (30%), United States, Portuguese-speaking African 
countries, European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Middle East. 
Official exchange rate (June 1997): US$1=170 escudos.

The United States encourages a stable and democratic Portugal that is 
closely associated with the industrial democracies of Western Europe and 
NATO; it has supported Portugal's successful entry into the West 
European economic and defense mainstream. Portugal's commitment to 
democratic values is demonstrated by the country's transition from 
authoritarian rule to constitutional democracy following a nearly 
bloodless 1974 coup and its excellent human rights record.

Bilateral ties date from the earliest years of the United States. On 
February 21, 1791, President George Washington opened formal diplomatic 
relations, naming Col. David Humphreys as U.S. minister. Portugal's 
history of looking toward the Atlantic rather than continental Europe 
and the U.S. position as an Atlantic power have fostered close contact 
between the two nations. Emigration and sizable Portuguese communities 
in the United States contribute to a strong cultural bond.

The U.S. and Portugal enjoy an even trade balance, with $2 billion in 
direct bilateral trade in 1996. While total Portuguese trade has 
increased dramatically over the last 10 years, the U.S. percentage of 
it--both exports and imports--has declined. The Portuguese Government is 
seeking to increase exports of textiles and footwear to the United 
States and is encouraging greater bilateral investment. 

U.S.-Portuguese defense cooperation continues to be excellent. The 
Agreement on Cooperation and Defense, signed June 1, 1995, provides for 
continued U.S. access to the Lajes Air Base in the Azores as well as 
cooperation in non-military endeavors. The air base provides valuable 
service, as illustrated most recently by Operation Joint Endeavor in 
Bosnia and the follow-on mission, Operation Joint Guard. The United 
States provides equipment and training to the Portuguese military. 

From 1975 through 1992, U.S. economic assistance to Portugal, managed by 
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was $1.3 billion, 
including refugee and disaster assistance, agriculture, schools and 
rural education, health, low-income housing and housing guaranties, 
basic sanitation, consultants and training, balance-of-payment loans, PL 
480 loans, and Economic Support Funds (ESF) cash transfers. The 
economically underdeveloped Azores Islands group was a major recipient 
of targeted USAID assistance. All forms of economic assistance ended by 
1993. Portugal continues to participate in U.S. military training 

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gregory Mattson
Political/Economic Affairs--Julien LeBourgeois
Consular Affairs--Leslie Rowe
Administrative Affairs--R. Chris Nottingham
Public Affairs--Alfred Head
Commercial Affairs--Daniel Thompson
Agricultural Affairs--Franklin Lee
Defense and Air Attache--Col. David Bell
Army Attache--Maj. Kelly Langdorf
Navy Attache--Commander J. R. Mathers
Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Jesse Perez
Consul, Ponta Delgada--Bernice Powell

The U.S. Embassy is at Avenida das Forcas Armadas, 1600 Lisbon, Portugal 
(telephone 351-1-727-3300). The embassy homepage is located at 
The Ponta Delgada consulate is at Avenida Infante D. Henrique, Ponta 
Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores 9502 (tel. 096-22216).
The consular agent in Funchal, Madeira is Antonio Drummond Borges (tel. 

Portugal's economy is based on traditional industries such as textiles, 
clothing, footwear, cork and wood products, beverages (wine), porcelain 
and earthenware, and glass and glassware. AutoEuropa, a $2.5-billion 
joint venture between Ford and VW, has consolidated Portugal's position 
in the European automobile industry. In 1996, AutoEuropa generated sales 
of $2.36 billion (2.2% of GDP) and produced 119,000 Ford "Galaxy" and VW 
"Sharan" vans at its state-of-the-art plant in Setubal (98% of which 
were for export to European markets). Major foreign investments by 
Siemens and Texas Instruments/SamSung have strengthened Portugal's 
position in electronics. Portugal also is a major European tourist 
destination. In 1995, 22.9 million visitors arrived in Portugal from 
Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the United States. 

Portugal traditionally runs a large merchandise trade deficit, which is 
made possible by large net receipts from tourism, remittances from 
Portuguese workers abroad, and net transfers from the European Union 
(EU). Net EU transfers in 1996 were $4.3 billion or 4% of GDP and were 
used mainly to co-fund public investment in transport, 
telecommunications, education, and training. During 1994-96, the 
country's current account was broadly in balance, and foreign direct 
investment averaged close to $1 billion per year. Portugal's public 
external debt is about $13 billion (12% of GDP), versus foreign exchange 
reserves (including gold) of more than $21 billion (20% of GDP), the 
highest relative to GDP of any EU country. 

Portugal's privatization program has reduced the weight of the state-
owned sector in the economy from 20% in 1989 to 10% in 1996 and yielded 
$12.2 billion in receipts to the government. The partial privatization 
of EDP (the state-owned electric company) and Transgas (the state-owned 
natural gas company), together with sale of a third tranche of Portugal 
Telecom (the 51% state-owned telephone monopoly), are expected to raise 
some $3.5 billion in receipts for the government in 1997.

Portugal has made significant progress in raising its standard of living 
closer to that of its EU partners. GDP per capita on a purchasing power 
parity basis rose from 51% of the EC average in 1985 to 68% of the EU 
average in 1996. 

Unemployment remains a problem, but at 7.2% in 1996 is still low 
compared to the EU average of 10.8%, and is expected to decline as the 
economy continues to strengthen in 1997. Real wages are flexible, but 
high social costs and severance raise fixed labor costs and slow the 
recovery in employment. Wage settlements have declined in recent years.

Portugal's April 25, 1976 constitution reflected the country's 1974-76 
move from authoritarian rule to provisional military government to a 
parliamentary democracy with some initial communist and left-wing 
influence. The 1976 constitution, which defined Portugal as a "Republic. 
. .engaged in the formation of a classless society," was revised in 1982 
and in 1989.

The 1982 revision placed the military under strict civilian control, 
trimmed the powers of the president, and abolished the Revolutionary 
Council (a non-elected committee with legislative veto powers). The 1989 
revision eliminated much of the remaining Marxist rhetoric of the 
original document, abolished the communist-inspired "agrarian reform," 
and laid the groundwork for further privatization of nationalized firms 
and the government-owned communications media.

The constitution provides for progressive administrative 
decentralization and calls for future reorganization on a regional 
basis. The Azores and Madeira Islands have constitutionally mandated 
autonomous status. A regional autonomy statute promulgated in 1980 
established the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores; the 
Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira operates under a 
provisional autonomy statute in effect since 1976. Apart from the Azores 
and Madeira, the country is divided into 18 districts, each headed by a 
governor appointed by the Minister of Internal Administration. Macau, a 
dependency which will revert to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, is headed 
by a presidentially nominated governor general. The four main organs of 
the national government are the presidency, the prime minister and 
Council of Ministers (the government), the Assembly of the Republic 
(parliament), and the courts. 

The president, elected to a five-year term by direct, universal 
suffrage, also is commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential 
powers include appointing the prime minister and Council of Ministers, 
in which the president must be guided by the assembly election results; 
dismissing the prime minister; dissolving the assembly to call early 
elections; vetoing legislation, which may be overridden by the assembly; 
and declaring a state of war or siege. 

The Council of State, an advisory body to the president, is composed of 
the incumbents of six senior civilian offices, any former presidents 
elected under the 1976 constitution, five members chosen by the 
assembly, and five chosen by the president himself. 

The government is headed by the presidentially appointed prime minister, 
who names the Council of Ministers. A new government is required to 
define the broad outline of its policy in a program and present it to 
the assembly for a mandatory period of debate. Failure of the assembly 
to reject the program by a majority of deputies confirms the government 
in office.

The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral body composed of up to 235 
deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of 
proportional representation, deputies serve terms of office of four 
years, unless the president dissolves the assembly and calls for new 

The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. Military, 
administrative, and fiscal courts are designated as separate court 
categories. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the 
constitutionality of legislation.


The Socialist Party, under Antonio Guterres, won the October 1995 
parliamentary elections, falling four seats short of an absolute 
majority. Socialist Jorge Sampaio won the February 1996 presidential 
elections with nearly 54% of the vote. Sampaio's election marked the 
first time since the 1974 revolution that a single party held the prime 
ministership, the presidency, and a majority of the municipalities. 
Local elections will be held in December 1997. 

Prime Minister Guterres has continued the privatization and 
modernization policies begun by his predecessor. Guterres has been a 
vigorous proponent of the effort to include Portugal in the first round 
of countries to join the European single currency (EMU) in 1999. In 
international relations, Guterres has pursued strong ties with the U.S. 
and greater Portuguese integration with the European Union while 
continuing to raise Portugal's profile through an activist foreign 
policy. One of his first decisions as Prime Minister was to send 900 
troops to participate in the IFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. 
Portugal later contributed 320 troops to SFOR, the follow-on Bosnia 
operation. In January 1997, Portugal began a two-year term as an elected 
non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Principal Government Officials

President of the Portuguese Republic--Jorge Sampaio
Prime Minister--Antonio Guterres
Ambassador to the United States--Fernando Andresen Guimaraes
Ambassador to the United Nations--Antonio Monteiro

Portugal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2125 Kalorama Road 
NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-328-8610); consulates general in New 
York City, Boston, and San Francisco; consulates in Providence, RI, 
Newark, NJ, and New Bedford, MA; and honorary consulates in Honolulu, 
Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Puerto 
Rico, and Waterbury, CT. The Portuguese National Tourist Office in the 
United States is located at 548 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10036 (tel: 

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:  
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). 
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will 
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. 
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is 
required). The CABB also carries international security information from 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication 
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a 
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous 
areas, are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a 
country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this 
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an 

Further Electronic Information: 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; Country Commercial Guides; 
daily press briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service 
posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www/stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information. 

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