Europe

Portugal country profile

  • 22 December 2015
  • From the section Europe
Map of Portugal

Portugal, a country with a rich history of seafaring and discovery, looks out from the Iberian peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean.

When it handed over its last overseas territory, Macau, to Chinese administration in 1999, it brought to an end a long and sometimes turbulent era as a colonial power.

The roots of that era stretch back to the 15th century when Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama put to sea in search of a passage to India. By the 16th century these sailors had helped build a huge empire embracing Brazil as well as swathes of Africa and Asia. There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today.

For almost half of the 20th century Portugal was a dictatorship in which for decades Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the key figure.

This period was brought to an end in 1974 in a bloodless coup, picturesquely known as the Revolution of the Carnations, which ushered in a new democracy.

FACTS

Portuguese Republic

Capital: Lisbon

  • Population 10.7 million

  • Area 92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles)

  • Major language Portuguese

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 77 years (men), 83 years (women)

  • Currency euro

LEADERS

President: Anibal Cavaco Silva

Image copyright Getty Images

Anibal Cavaco Silva won the January 2006 presidential poll, becoming the first centre-right president since the coup of 1974.

A former prime minister from 1985 to 1995, he defeated two Socialist candidates to win a first round election victory.

Although the role is mainly ceremonial, the president can appoint prime ministers, dissolve parliament and call elections.

Prime minister: Antonio Costa

Image copyright Getty Images

Socialist Party leader Antonio Costa formed a centre-left government in November 2015 after a month of political drama, amid expectations of an end to three years of fiscal austerity.

He joined forces with two far-left parties to oust the centre-right coalition of incumbent Pedro Passos Coelho that topped the poll in inconclusive October parliamentary elections.

Born in 1961, Mr Costa is a veteran Socialist Party politician, serving as a government minister twice before being elected mayor of the capital Lisbon in 2007, resigning to become the Socialists' candidate for premier in 2015.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Portugal's commercial TVs have a lion's share of the viewing audience, and provide tough competition for the public broadcaster.

Public TV is operated by RTP. The main private networks are TVI and SIC. Multichannel TV is available via cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and internet protocol TV (IPTV). Cable is the dominant platform.

The switchover to digital TV was completed in 2012.

The public radio, RDP, competes with national commercial networks, Roman Catholic station Radio Renascenca and some 300 local and regional outlets.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Portugal's history:

1908 - King Carlos and eldest son assassinated in Lisbon. Second son Manuel becomes king.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 25th of April Bridge over the Tagus River, Lisbon.

1910 - King Manuel II abdicates amid revolution; Portugal proclaimed a republic.

1911 - New constitution separates church from state. Manuel Jose de Arriaga elected first president of republic.

1916-18 - Portugal fights First World War on Allied side.

1926 - Military coup. General Antonio de Fragoso Carmona becomes president.

1928 - Carmona appoints Antonio de Oliveira Salazar minister of finance.

1932 - Salazar becomes prime minister, a post he will retain for 36 years, establishing authoritarian "Estado Novo" (New State) political system.

1936 - Salazar backs General Franco's nationalists in Spanish Civil War.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Revellers celebrate the feast of St Anthony, Lisbon's patron saint

1939-45 - Portugal maintains official neutrality during Second World War, but allows UK to use air bases in Azores.

1949 - Portugal becomes founding member of Nato.

1955 - Portugal joins United Nations.

1968 - Antonio Salazar gives up premiership after stroke; dies in 1970.

1974 - A near-bloodless military coup sparks a mass movement of civil unrest, paving the way for democracy. The 25 April coup becomes known as the Carnation Revolution.

1974-75 - Independence for Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola.

1982 - Military Council of the Revolution abolished, civilian government formally restored.

1986 - Portugal becomes member of EEC (later EU). Mario Soares elected president.

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