11th Dec 2023

Portugal's Costa resigns as PM amid green corruption scandal

  • António Costa has been the prime minister of Portugal since 2015 (Photo: Partido Socialista)
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Portugal's prime minister António Costa has resigned amid a high-level corruption scandal linked to lithium and hydrogen deals.

"The dignity of the functions of prime minister is not compatible with any suspicion about his integrity, his good conduct and even less with the suspicion of the practice of any criminal act," Costa told reporters at his official residence in São Bento on Tuesday (7 November).

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"I close this stage with a clear conscience."

Costa has been embroiled in an investigation over irregularities in the contracting of lithium exploration concessions in northern Portugal and a hydrogen project in Sines.

His resignation comes after Portugal's Supreme Court confirmed that Costa was under an official investigation over alleged corruption and influence peddling.

Costa said he has full trust in the justice system and promised to collaborate.

Earlier on Tuesday, Portuguese police raided the residence of the socialist prime minister, the ministry of environment, the ministry of infrastructure and other public offices as well as private residences.

Costa's chief of staff, his personal adviser, and the mayor of the municipality of Sines, were arrested. The climate minister Duarte Cordeiro and the infrastructure minister João Galamba (former secretary of state for energy) have also come under the scrutiny of Portuguese prosecutors.

Meanwhile, the liberal party of Portugal, Iniciativa Liberal (IL), argued that snap elections are the only viable solution.

Costa said he will not re-run for the prime minister position.

For his part, the president of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that dissolving the parliament and calling for new elections would be counterproductive, given the current financial situation and the implementation of the recovery funds.

Responding to the corruption scandal, the environmental NGO Climáximo said the process of installing renewables in Portugal has placed public money in the hands of private industries, creating "the perfect conditions for banal corruption," Portuguese media reported.

Costa, who has been the prime minister of Portugal since 2015, gained an outright majority in 2022 — after several years of governing with a minority government.

Back then, Costa was praised for boosting Portugal's economy after years of crisis and running one of Europe's most successful Covid-19 vaccination programs.

Amid discussions over the debt crisis arising from the pandemic, Costa also gained attention in Brussels for labelling a comment from 'frugal' Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra (current EU climate commissioner) as "repugnant".

He was also one of the close allies of Spain's prime minster Pedro Sánchez, as seen during their lobbying efforts to get approved the so-called 'Iberian exception' for gas prices.

Costa's name had also emerged as a potential candidate to succeed Charles Michel as the head of the European Council.

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