Portugal: 5 Stories Making Headlines At Home

Portugal: 5 Stories Making Headlines At Home

This week, we shine the spotlight on Portugal:


After years in the doldrums, the Portuguese economy is showing signs of picking up, with the country’s GDP growing â€" albeit slowly â€" and unemployment figures reaching five-year lows, Diário Económico reports. According to official data from Portugal’s National Statistical Institute INE, private and public consumption are up as well as investments, pushing the GDP 0.4% higher in the second quarter, up 1.5% compared to the same period the previous year. The country’s long-lasting unemployment issue is also improving although it remains high, at 12.1% for July 2015, the lowest rate in nearly five years.

And with a general election just one month away, the good news comes at a crucial time for the governing center-right coalition, which has implemented harsh austerity measures under a 78-billion-euro bailout plan from the “troika” that ended a year ago. But it might not be enough for Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to keep his job after Oct. 8.

Recent polls published in Público suggest the governing coalition are trailing the Socialist Party, although the 37,6% of the vote the centre-left party, led by former Lisbon mayor António Costa, is projected to obtain is nowhere near enough to secure an absolute majority. Unlike other crisis-hit countries Greece and Spain, Portugal hasn’t seen support for radical left parties soar, but that hasn’t prevented a growing part of the population from becoming disillusioned with its political leaders.


As pressure mounts on the European Union with thousands of migrants entering its borders every day, Portugal is preparing to welcome its share of refugees (an estimated 1,500) in the best possible conditions and ease the burden on Italy and Greece.

In an article published this week in Público, a reporter travelled to the small town of Penela, in the center of the country, where four families (three from Syria and one from Sudan â€" a total of 21 people) will be accommodated from Sept. 11. A local association funded in part by the government and the EU has already made plans to rent four apartments for the migrants and to place their children in schools and kindergartens, despite criticism from the locals who have been pointing out that some people in their midst also desperately need help.

The town of Penela and its medieval castle â€" Photo: Carlos Luis M C da Cruz

To make the refugees’ integration in the local community a success, the association has also organized Portuguese classes for men and women and is planning to teach them about Portuguese history and culture. “It’s very important that both sides show openness to know and respect the others’ culture,” explained Natáliya Bekh, a sociologist who leads the program and who, incidentally, arrived in Portugal from Ukraine 12 years ago without speaking a word of Portuguese. “Even for their own self-esteem, it’s very important that they learn to appreciate the country, that they feel proud for being here and, if it ever comes to that, that they take the Portuguese nationality.”


It all started in a small town just south of Lisbon, with an old rottweiler that barked â€" too much, according to Rogério Coelho, 77, a retired construction worker. Last Saturday, Aug. 30, he lost it. He took out his hunting riffle and shot dead the dog's owner, a 50-year-old police officer. The killing, however, didn’t stop there, Coelho kept shooting from a window in his house. In the end, the neighbor's 23-year-old son and a 25-year-old police officer were also killed.

Rogério Coelho then attempted to kill himself, but failed and was taken to hospital. Other neighbors and members of Coelho family later explained to Jornal de Notícias that there had been bad blood for years between the shooter and the owner of the dog, and that Coelho, who reportedly kept a "kill list" had repeatedly threatened to kill his neighbor. “We just never thought he’d actually do it.”


New legislation on parental leave came into force this week, granting 15 days of compulsory paternity leave in the first 30 days of a newborn child’s life instead of 10 previously, Correio da Manhã reported. Both mother and father will also be able to share up to 150 consecutive days of parental leave simultaneously. And until the child is three years old, working parents will also be able to ask to work from home, provided this is compatible with their employers’ activity. Finally, parents of children under 12 or suffering from a chronic disease or disability will be eligible to work part time without being penalized in their career’s progress.

Not sure Cristiano Ronaldo will work part time to look after Cristiano Junior â€"

Photo: Marcio Machado/ZUMA

These reforms come amid what the Financial Times recently described as a “perfect demographic storm.” Portugal indeed has the lowest fertility rate in Europe. Between 2010 and 2014, at the peak of the economic crisis, the country lost 198 inhabitants, 2% of its population. Deaths overcame births and emigration rose to levels unseen since the 1960s and the last years of the dictatorship.


There’s a lot more to Portuguese wine than just Port. Or Madeira. As a matter of fact, Portugal is the world’s 12th biggest wine producer and ranks 9th in terms of global exports, an impressive achievement given the country’s relatively small size. According to specialized magazine Revista de Vinhos, the most renowned wine competition in China has honored Portuguese producers with 54 gold and 21 double gold medals, its highest distinction.

As Diário Económico pointed out, the wine consumption per capita in China is low â€" about 1.5 liters annually â€" but it’s now the world’s biggest importer and Portugal is hoping to tap into more of the demand.

For all wine lovers out there, here’s a comprehensive beginner’s guide to Portuguese wine. Saúde!

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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