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Portugal

Dignified But Debt-Ridden, Portugal Faces Tough Choices

Proud of their quickly constructed but costly welfare state, the Portuguese have always wanted to play in Europe’s big league. Now that it’s time to pay the bill, they may have to reconsider.

Student protester in Lisbon (Pedro Simoes)
Student protester in Lisbon (Pedro Simoes)
Joëlle Kuntz

LISBON - It took Portugal only 36 years to build the social institutions and infrastructure that other European democracies needed 60 years to create. The result, however, is a national debt that has grown so cumbersome it recently brought down the Socalist prime minister, José Sócrates.

Portugal has three options, says Luciano Amaral, author of an essay on his country's economic deficiencies. First, it might get lucky and experience a sudden Irish-like miracle that brings in investors capable of promoting the kinds of highly productive activities that could actually interest global markets. A second possibility is that Portugal declare itself insolvent and run the risk, just like some Latin American countries did only a few years ago, of totally destroying its international reputation. The third and final option is that Portugal acknowledge its inability to cope with its own economic problems, accept the status of a simple European region, and wait for income transfers to offset its low productivity.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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