U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Portugal, June 1998
Released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs
Official Name: Portuguese Republic
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
Religion: Roman Catholic 97%.
Education (1995): Years compulsory--nine. Completing nine
Health: Infant mortality rate--9.1/1,000. Life expectancy--74.7
Work force (1996): 4.6 million: Government, commerce, and services--56%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: Effective April 25, 1976. Revised October 30, 1982,
June 1, 1989, November 25, 1992, and September 3, 1997
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
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
Subdivisions: 18 districts, two autonomous regions, and one dependency.
GDP (1996): $107.2 billion.
Annual growth rate (1997): 3.5%.
Per capita GDP (1996): $10,824.
Avg. inflation rate (1997): 2.2%
Natural resources: Fish, cork, tungsten, iron, copper, tin, and
Agriculture (5% of GDP): Forestry, fisheries.
Industry (36% of GDP): Types--textiles, clothing, footwear,
wood and cork, paper, chemicals, manufacturing, food and beverages.
Services (55% of GDP): Commerce, government, housing, banking,
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.
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 programs.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Gerald S. McGowan
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
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
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 1997,
produced 131,400 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 1996, 23.3 million visitors arrived in Portugal
from Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the United
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 1997 were $3.1 billion or 3.9% 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 1997
and yielded $15 billion in total proceeds 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), raised 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 53% of the EC average
in 1985 to 70% of the EU average in 1998.
Unemployment remains a problem, but at 6.7% in 1997 is still low
compared to the EU average of 10.8%, and is expected to decline
as the economy continues to strengthen in 1998. 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, 1989, 1992, and 1997.
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
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 elections.
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 plurality of the
municipalities. Local elections were 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
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: 212-354-4403).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Information Program provides Travel Warnings and
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:
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
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
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 emergency.
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; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides;
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 an 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.
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
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