5th Mar 2024

Portuguese PM under fire over tax questions

Portugal’s Pedro Passos Coelho, the face of austerity in the Iberian country, is under fire for allegedly not paying social security contributions during a five-year period before he was prime minister.

He was questioned before parliament on Wednesday (11 March) but appears to have emerged unscathed from the process.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I wasn’t aware of the obligation to pay," he told MPs. "I don’t accept political manipulation about my contributions and tax situation," he added.

A report on 28 February in Publico newspaper suggested that between 1999 and 2004, when Passos Coelho was self-employed, he did not pay into the social security system.

The debt, according to the newspaper, was €7,430. Passos Coelho himself suggested it was €3,914, which he paid in order to “put an end to unfounded accusations”.

Expresso newspaper also reported in recent days that between 2003 and 2007 Passos Coelho had five enforcement proceedings for delays in tax payment.

He put it down to “distraction and lack of money”.

Passos Coelho, a centre-right politician, has led a coalition government with the conservative CDS since June 2011.

He took office a month after the previous Socialist government asked for a €78bn bailout and implemented a series of tough austerity measures, including cuts to wages and pensions, cuts to spending on healthcare, justice and education, as well as tax hikes.

This has left the country with a purchasing power that was 24 percent below the EU average in 2012 and 21 percent below in 2013.

However the revelations about the prime minister's "contributive evasion", as it is being termed, has failed to really unsettle the political scene.

The socialist opposition party, during the parliament debate, was seen as lobbing only softball questions on the issue.

Meanwhile, in a country where thousands of workers end up not paying social security contributions, due to lack of money, Passos Coelho’s popularity has hardly been affected – 35.5 percent of Portuguese have confidence in their PM, down from 36.1 percent in February.

His party (PSD) is second in the polls on 28.9 percent behind the Socialists on 36.1 percent. General elections will happen later this year, after September.


Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour

Ukrainians struggle to match the kindness of individual Hungarians with the nationalist government's pro-Russia rhetoric. "Ukraine's primary enemies are Russians and Putin, obviously. But the number two is Viktor Orbán," Viktoria Petrovszka, a Ukrainian woman living in Hungary, says.


I'll be honest — Moldova's judicial system isn't fit for EU

To state a plain truth: at present, Moldova does not have a justice system worthy of a EU member state; it is riven with corruption and lax and inconsistent standards, despite previous attempts at reform, writes Moldova's former justice minister.


The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Latest News

  1. EU pushes for stronger defence and joint weapons purchases
  2. Running away from the Ukraine war will only bring it closer
  3. EU agrees rules to ban products made with forced labour
  4. I'll be honest — Moldova's judicial system isn't fit for EU
  5. Rafah invasion — a red line for EU on Israel?
  6. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  7. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  8. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us