This week, we shine the spotlight on Portugal:
DOES RECOVERY SPELL REELECTION?
After years in the doldrums, the Portuguese economy is showing signs of picking up, with the country's GDP growing — albeit slowly — 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.
PREPARING THE REFUGEES" ARRIVAL
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.
[rebelmouse-image 27089350 alt="""" original_size="1200x630" expand=1]
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 — 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.
[rebelmouse-image 27089351 alt="""" original_size="1024x683" expand=1]
The town of Penela and its medieval castle — 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."