Tuesday

18th Dec 2018

Anti-austerity Portuguese PM warns of financial crisis risks

Portugal's prime minister Antonio Costa told the European Parliament on Wednesday (14 March) that the future stability of the single currency remains at risk.

Speaking to a half empty chamber, the socialist prime minister warned against complacency in addressing what he described as structural weaknesses in the eurozone.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"As long as the economic and monetary union is still incomplete, there will still be a risk of further crises," he said.

His speech is part of a series of debates on the future Europe and aimed to present Portugal in a new light, as a country that managed to exit from the depths of a 2008 financial crisis with both renewed growth and a strong social policy.

"In Portugal, we devised an alternative to the austerity policy, focusing on higher growth, more and better jobs, and greater equality," he said.

The measures imposed at the time by the then-conservative government had slapped additional taxes on incomes and cut benefits and pensions, given the conditions of a €78bn bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Those initial results saw education, health and social security plummet as poverty increased and unemployment reached new heights. Many such measures were later reversed by the Costa government in 2015, which then saw a rise in economic growth.

"The rise in earnings made economic operators more confident resulting in the fastest economic growth since the beginning of the century," said Costa.

Last week, the European Commission removed Portugal from the list of countries with serious macro-economic imbalances.

Last year, the country exited the so-called excessive deficit procedure. It means Portugal has reined in public debt and managed a budget deficit that no longer misses the EU three-percent target of gross domestic product.

"Who would have believed this a couple of years ago?" said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking after Costa.

Juncker said the employment rate in Portugal continues to increase as a result, in part, of huge efforts by the Portuguese.

But Costa also issued warnings and pressed for greater convergence, a term that broadly describes the process behind better European economic integration. It includes, among other things, the completing of the internal market and economic and monetary union.

"We cannot continue to perceive the eurozone just as a group of economies that compete with each other and the rest of the world. We have to view it as an integrated space," he said.

Costa also pressed his case for a bigger European Union budget and said Portugal was prepared to put in more contributions. But budget hawks such as Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden are likely to reject his views.

The issue is part of a larger debate triggered by the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, followed by a 2016 Bratislava declaration where national leaders pledged their loyalty to the Union.

It also feeds into last year's paper from Juncker that sets out five scenarios for the future of Europe ahead of the European Parliament elections in 2019.

Costa's address to the parliament was the third by a EU leader in a series on the subject. In April, it will be French president Emmanuel Macron's turn to lay out his vision.

Portugal held up as symbol of EU recovery

Portugal to sail out of troubled waters after eight years of financial crisis, EU commission predicted, amid broad but "fragile" recovery in European economy.

Opinion

Is this the future of Europe?

European Parliament debates with EU leaders have become a repetitive series of monologues that forget to ask what citizens want from the EU.

Orban protests target state media in new front

Unprecedented protests against Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban's "illiberal" style mark a rare united front of opposition parties, amid new violence against opposition MPs.

News in Brief

  1. 3,500 UK troops on standby for no-deal Brexit
  2. Brexit: Opposition disagrees over no confidence vote
  3. EU court confirms suspension of Polish judges law
  4. France to tax Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon
  5. EU negotiators agree CO2 targets for cars
  6. May: Brexit vote will be week of 14 January
  7. Rome finds extra budget funds to fit EU demands
  8. Polish climate talks end in agreement on rulebook

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU
  2. Orban protests target state media in new front
  3. Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice
  4. EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal
  5. Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating
  6. EU capitals see weekend of tear gas and water cannon
  7. Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice
  8. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us