Portugal /ˈpɔrtʃʉɡəl/ (Portuguese: Portugal, IPA: [puɾtuˈɣaɫ]), officially the Portuguese Republic (Portuguese: República Portuguesa) is a country located in Southwestern Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. The Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are Portuguese territory as well. The country is named after its second largest city, Porto, whose Latin name was Portus Cale.
The land within the borders of the current Portuguese Republic has been continuously settled since prehistoric times: occupied by Celts like the Gallaeci and the Lusitanians, integrated into the Roman Republic and later settled by Germanic peoples such as the Suebi and the Visigoths. In the 8th century most of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish invaders professing Islam, which were later expelled by the Knights Templar under the Order of Christ. During the Christian Reconquista, Portugal established itself as an independent kingdom from León in 1139, claiming to be the oldest European nation-state.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded western influence and established a global empire that included possessions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America, becoming one of the world's major economic, political and military powers. The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history, and also the longest lived of the European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the grant of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002. However, the country's international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century, especially following the Independence of Brazil, its largest colony.
After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established being then superseded by the "Estado Novo" authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974, after which Portugal's last overseas provinces became independent (most prominently Angola and Mozambique); the last overseas territory, Macau, was ceded to China in 1999.
Portugal is a developed country with a very high Human Development Index, the world's 19th-highest quality-of-life as of 2005, and a strong healthcare system. It is one of the world's most globalized and peaceful nations: a member of the European Union and the United Nations, and a founding member of the Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, OECD, NATO, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Eurozone and the Schengen Agreement.
The early history of Portugal is shared with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. The name of Portugal derives from the Roman name Portus Cale. The region was settled by Pre-Celts and Celts, giving origin to peoples like the Gallaeci, Lusitanians, Celtici and Cynetes, visited by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, incorporated in the Roman Republic dominions as Lusitania and part of Gallaecia (both part of Hispania), after 45 BC until 298 AD, settled again by Suebi, Buri, and Visigoths, and conquered by Moors. Other minor influences include some 5th century vestiges of Alan settlement, which were found in Alenquer, Coimbra and even Lisbon.
Portugal was part of the Arab-Muslim world for slightly under five and a half centuries following the Umayyad Caliphate conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 until 1249 with the taking of the Algarve by King Afonso III of Portugal during the Reconquista.
After beating the Visigoths in a striking conquest that took only a few months, the Umayyad Caliphate started expanding rapidly in the peninsula from 711.
Beginning in 711, the land that is now Portugal became part of the vast Umayyad Caliphate's empire of Damascus that stretched from the Indus river in India up to the South of France until its collapse in 750, a year in which the west of the empire gained its independence under Abd-ar-Rahman I with the creation of the Emirate of Córdoba. After almost two centuries, the Emirate turned into the Caliphate of Córdoba in 929 until its dissolution a century later in 1031 to no less than 23 small kingdoms, called Taifa kingdoms.
The governors of the taifas proclaimed themselves each Emir of his province and established diplomatic relations with the Christian Kingdoms of the north. Most of Portugal fell into the hands of the Taifa of Badajoz of the Aftasid Dynasty, and after a short spell of an ephemera taifa of Lisbon in 1022, fell within the dominion of the Taifa of Seville of the Abbadids poets. The Taifa period ended with the conquest of the Almoravids that came from Morocco in 1086 with a decisive victory in the Battle of Sagrajas followed one century later by the Almohads also coming from Marrakesh in 1147 after the second period of taifa.
Al-Andalus was divided into different districts called Kura. Gharb Al-Andalus at its largest was constituted of ten kuras, each with a distinct capital and governor. The main cities of the period were Beja, Silves, Alcácer do Sal, Santarém, Lisbon and Coimbra.
The Muslim population of the region consisted mainly of Arabs, Berbers and Latin converts to Islam. The Arabs were principally noblemen coming from Yemen, though they were only few in numbers they constituted the elite of the population. The Berbers were originally from the Atlas mountains and Rif mountains of North Africa and were essentially nomads. The Muslim conquerors, that were not of great numbers, stayed largely in the Algarve region, and in general south of the Tagus.
During the Reconquista period, Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim and Moorish domination. In 868, the First County of Portugal was formed. A victory over the Muslims at Battle of Ourique in 1139 is traditionally taken as the occasion when the County of Portugal as a fief of the Kingdom of León was transformed into the independent Kingdom of Portugal.
Henry, to whom the newly formed county was awarded by Alfonso VI for his role in reconquering land from the Moors, based his newly formed county in Bracara Augusta (nowadays Braga), capital city of the ancient Roman province, and also previous capital of several kingdoms over the first millennia.
On 24 June 1128, the Battle of São Mamede occurred near Guimarães. Afonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, defeated his mother Countess Teresa and her lover Fernão Peres de Trava, thereby establishing himself as sole leader. Afonso Henriques officially declared Portugal's independence when he proclaimed himself king of Portugal on 25 July 1139, after the Battle of Ourique. He was recognized as such in 1143 by King Alfonso VII of León and Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.
Afonso Henriques and his successors, aided by military monastic orders, pushed southward to drive out the Moors, as the size of Portugal covered about half of its present area. In 1249, this Reconquista ended with the capture of the Algarve on the southern coast, giving Portugal its present-day borders, with minor exceptions.
In 1348 and 1349, like the rest of Europe, Portugal was devastated by the Black Death.
In 1373, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the longest-standing alliance in the world.
In 1383, the king of Castile, husband of the daughter of the Portuguese king who had died without a male heir, claimed his throne. An ensuing popular revolt led to the 1383-1385 Crisis. A faction of petty noblemen and commoners, led by John of Aviz (later John I), seconded by General Nuno Álvares Pereira defeated the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota. This celebrated battle is still a symbol of glory and the struggle for independence from neighboring Spain.
Exploration, colonization and trade
In the following decades, Portugal spearheaded the exploration of the world and undertook the Age of Discovery. Infante Dom Henry the Navigator, son of King João I, became the main sponsor and patron of this endeavor.
In 1415, Portugal acquired the first of its overseas colonies by conquering Ceuta. It was the first prosperous Islamic trade center in North Africa. There followed the first discoveries in the Atlantic: Madeira and the Azores, which led to the first colonization movements.
Throughout the 15th century, Portuguese explorers sailed the coast of Africa, establishing trading posts for several common types of tradable commodities at the time, ranging from gold to slaves, as they looked for a route to India and its spices, which were coveted in Europe.
The Treaty of Tordesillas, intended to resolve the dispute that had been created following the return of Christopher Columbus, was signed on 7 June 1494, and divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Portugal and Spain along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa).
In 1498, Vasco da Gama finally reached India and brought economic prosperity to Portugal and its population of 1.7 million residents.
In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. Ten years later, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa in India, Ormuz in the Persian Strait, and Malacca, now a state in Malaysia. Thus, the Portuguese empire held dominion over commerce in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic. The Portuguese sailors set out to reach Eastern Asia by sailing eastward from Europe landing in such places as Taiwan, Japan, the island of Timor, they were also the first Europeans to discover Australia and even New Zealand.
The Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 22 April 1529 between Portugal and Spain, specified the antimeridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas. All these facts made Portugal the world's major economic, military, and political power from the 15th century to the beginning of the 16th century.
Iberian Union and Restoration
Portugal's sovereignty was interrupted between 1580 and 1640. This occurred because the last two kings of the House of Aviz – King Sebastian, who died in the battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco, and his great-uncle and successor, King Henry of Portugal – both died without heirs, resulting in the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580. Subsequently, Philip II of Spain claimed the throne and so became Philip I of Portugal. Although Portugal did not lose its formal independence, it was governed by the same monarch who governed the Spains, briefly forming a union of kingdoms, as a personal union. At this time Spain was a geographic territory The joining of the two crowns deprived Portugal of a separate foreign policy, and led to the involvement in the Eighty Years' War being fought in Europe at the time between the Spains and the Netherlands. War led to a deterioration of the relations with Portugal's oldest ally, England, and the loss of Hormuz. From 1595 to 1663 the Dutch-Portuguese War primarily involved the Dutch companies invading many Portuguese colonies and commercial interests in Brazil, Africa, India and the Far East, resulting in the loss of the Portuguese Indian Sea trade monopoly.
In 1640, John IV spearheaded an uprising backed by disgruntled nobles and was proclaimed king. The Portuguese Restoration War between Portugal and the Spains on the aftermath of the 1640 revolt, ended the sixty-year period of the Iberian Union under the House of Habsburg. This was the beginning of the House of Braganza, which reigned in Portugal until 1910.
Official estimates — and most estimates made so far — place the number of Portuguese migrants to Colonial Brazil during the gold rush of the 18th century at 600,000. Though not usually studied, this represented one of the largest movements of European populations to their colonies to the Americas during the colonial times. According to historian Leslie Bethell, "In 1700 Portugal had a population of about two million people." During the 18th century, hundreds of thousands left for the Portuguese Colony of Brazil, despite efforts by the crown to place severe restrictions on emigration.
In 1738, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the talented son of a Lisbon squire, began a diplomatic career as the Portuguese Ambassador in London and later in Vienna. The Queen consort of Portugal, Archduchess Maria Anne Josefa of Austria, was fond of Melo; and after his first wife died, she arranged the widowed de Melo's second marriage to the daughter of the Austrian Field Marshal Leopold Josef, Count von Daun. King John V of Portugal, however, was not pleased and recalled Melo to Portugal in 1749. John V died the following year and his son, Joseph I of Portugal was crowned. In contrast to his father, Joseph I was fond of de Melo, and with the Queen Mother's approval, he appointed Melo as Minister of Foreign Affairs. As the King's confidence in de Melo increased, the King entrusted him with more control of the state. By 1755, Sebastião de Melo was made Prime Minister. Impressed by British economic success he had witnessed while Ambassador, he successfully implemented similar economic policies in Portugal. He abolished slavery in Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies in India; reorganized the army and the navy; restructured the University of Coimbra, and ended discrimination against different Christian sects in Portugal.
But Sebastião de Melo's greatest reforms were economic and financial, with the creation of several companies and guilds to regulate every commercial activity. He demarcated the region for production of Port to ensure the wine's quality, and this was the first attempt to control wine quality and production in Europe. He ruled with a strong hand by imposing strict law upon all classes of Portuguese society from the high nobility to the poorest working class, along with a widespread review of the country's tax system. These reforms gained him enemies in the upper classes, especially among the high nobility, who despised him as a social upstart.
Disaster fell upon Portugal in the morning of 1 November 1755, when Lisbon was struck by a violent earthquake with an estimated Richter scale magnitude of 9. The city was razed to the ground by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and ensuing fires. Sebastião de Melo survived by a stroke of luck and then immediately embarked on rebuilding the city, with his famous quote: "What now? We bury the dead and take care of the living."
Despite the calamity and huge death toll, Lisbon suffered no epidemics and within less than one year was already being rebuilt. The new downtown of Lisbon was designed to resist subsequent earthquakes. Architectural models were built for tests, and the effects of an earthquake were simulated by marching troops around the models. The buildings and big squares of the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon still remain as one of Lisbon's tourist attractions: They represent the world's first quake-proof buildings. Sebastião de Melo also made an important contribution to the study of seismology by designing an inquiry that was sent to every parish in the country.
Following the earthquake, Joseph I gave his Prime Minister even more power, and Sebastião de Melo became a powerful, progressive dictator. As his power grew, his enemies increased in number, and bitter disputes with the high nobility became frequent. In 1758 Joseph I was wounded in an attempted assassination. The Távora family and the Duke of Aveiro were implicated and executed after a quick trial. The Jesuits were expelled from the country and their assets confiscated by the crown. Sebastião de Melo showed no mercy and prosecuted every person involved, even women and children. This was the final stroke that broke the power of the aristocracy and ensured the victory of the Minister against his enemies. Based upon his swift resolve, Joseph I made his loyal minister Count of Oeiras in 1759.
In 1762 Spain invaded Portuguese territory as part of the Seven Years' War, however by 1763 the status-quo between Spain and Portugal before the war had been restored.
Following the Távora affair, the new Count of Oeiras knew no opposition. Made "Marquis of Pombal" in 1770, he effectively ruled Portugal until Joseph I's death in 1779. However, historians also argue that Pombal’s "enlightenment," while far-reaching, was primarily a mechanism for enhancing autocracy at the expense of individual liberty and especially an apparatus for crushing opposition, suppressing criticism, and furthering colonial economic exploitation as well as intensifying book censorship and consolidating personal control and profit.
The new ruler, Queen Maria I of Portugal, disliked the Marquis because of the power he amassed, and never forgave him for the ruthlessness at which he dispatched the Távora family, and upon her accession to the throne, she did what she had long vowed to do: she withdrew all his political offices. Pombal died peacefully on his estate at Pombal in 1782.
In the autumn of 1807, Napoleon moved French troops through Spain to invade Portugal. From 1807 to 1811, British-Portuguese forces would successfully fight against the French invasion of Portugal, while the royal family and the Portuguese nobility, including Maria I, relocated to the Portuguese territory of Brazil, at that time a colony of the Portuguese Empire, in South America. This episode is known as the Transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil.
With the occupation by Napoleon, Portugal began a slow but inexorable decline that lasted until the 20th century. This decline was hastened by the independence in 1822 of the country's largest colonial possession, Brazil. In 1807, as Napoleon's army closed in on Portugal's capital city of Lisbon, the Prince Regent João VI of Portugal transferred his court to Brazil and established Rio de Janeiro as the capital of the Portuguese Empire. In 1815, the Portuguese Empire changed its name to the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.
Due to the change in its status and the arrival of the Portuguese royal family, Brazilian administrative, civic, economical, military, educational, and scientific apparatus were expanded and highly modernized. Portuguese and their allied British troops fought against the French Invasion of Portugal and by 1815 the situation in Europe had cooled down sufficiently that João VI would be able to safely return to Lisbon. However, the King of Portugal remained in Brazil until the Liberal Revolution of 1820, which started in Porto, demanded his return to Lisbon in 1821.
Thus he returned to Portugal but left his son Pedro in charge of Brazil. When the king attempted the following year to return the Kingdom of Brazil to subordinate status as a principality, his son Pedro; with the overwhelming support of the Brazilian elites, declared Brazil's independence from Portugal. Cisplatina (today's sovereign state of Uruguay), in the south, was one of the last additions to the territory of Brazil under Portuguese rule.
At the height of European colonialism in the 19th century, Portugal had already lost its territory in South America and all but a few bases in Asia. Luanda, Benguela, Bissau, Lourenço Marques, Porto Amboim and the Island of Mozambique were among the oldest Portuguese-founded port cities in its African territories. During this phase, Portuguese colonialism focused on expanding its outposts in Africa into nation-sized territories to compete with other European powers there.
With the Conference of Berlin of 1884, Portuguese Africa territories had their borders formally established on request of Portugal in order to protect the centuries-long Portuguese interests in the continent from rivalries enticed by the Scramble for Africa. Portuguese Africa's cities and towns like Nova Lisboa, Sá da Bandeira, Silva Porto, Malanje, Tete, Vila Junqueiro, Vila Pery and Vila Cabral were founded or redeveloped inland during this period and beyond. New coastal towns like Beira, Moçâmedes, Lobito, João Belo, Nacala and Porto Amélia, were also founded. Even before the turn of the 20th century, railway tracks as the Benguela railway in Angola, and the Beira railway in Mozambique, started to be built to link coastal areas and selected inland regions.
Other episodes during this period of the Portuguese presence in Africa include the 1890 British Ultimatum. This forced the Portuguese military to retreat from the land between the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola (most of present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia), which had been claimed by Portugal and included in its "Pink Map," which clashed with British aspirations to create a Cape to Cairo Railway. The Portuguese territories in Africa were Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Portuguese Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique. The tiny fortress of São João Baptista de Ajudá on the coast of Dahomey, was also under Portuguese rule. In addition, the country still ruled the Asian territories of Portuguese India, Portuguese Timor and Macau.
Republic and turmoil
On 1 February 1908, the king Dom Carlos I of Portugal and his heir apparent, Prince Royal Dom Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, were murdered in Lisbon. Under his rule, Portugal was twice declared bankrupt – on 14 June 1892, and again on 10 May 1902 – causing social turmoil, economic disturbances, protests, revolts and criticism of the monarchy. Manuel II of Portugal become the new king, but was eventually overthrown by the 5 October 1910 revolution, which abolished the regime and instated republicanism in Portugal. Political instability and economic weaknesses were fertile ground for chaos and unrest during the Portuguese First Republic, which aggravated by the Portuguese military intervention in World War I, led to a military coup d'état in 1926 and the creation of the National Dictatorship (Ditadura Nacional).
This in turn led to the establishment of the right-wing dictatorship of the Estado Novo under António de Oliveira Salazar in 1933. Portugal was one of only five European countries to remain neutral in World War II. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Portugal was a founding member of NATO, OECD and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Gradually, new economic development projects and relocation of white mainland Portuguese citizens into the overseas colonies in Africa were initiated, with Angola and Mozambique, as the largest and richest overseas territories, being the main targets of those initiatives.
After India attained independence in 1947, pro-Indian residents of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, with the support of the Indian government and the help of pro-independence organisations, liberated the territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954. In 1961, São João Baptista de Ajudá's annexation by the Republic of Dahomey was the start of a process that led to the final dissolution of the centuries-old Portuguese Empire. According to the census of 1921 São João Baptista de Ajudá had 5 inhabitants and, at the moment of the ultimatum by the Dahomey Government, it had only 2 inhabitants representing Portuguese Sovereignty. Another forcible retreat from overseas territories occurred in December 1961 when Portugal refused to relinquish the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu. As a result, the Portuguese army and navy were involved in armed conflict in its colony of Portuguese India against the Indian Armed Forces. The operations resulted in the defeat of the limited Portuguese defensive garrison, which was forced to surrender to a much larger military force. The outcome was the loss of the remaining Portuguese territories in the Indian subcontinent. The Portuguese regime refused to recognize Indian sovereignty over the annexed territories, which continued to be represented in Portugal's National Assembly until the military coup of 1974.
Also in the early 1960s, independence movements in the Portuguese overseas provinces of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea in Africa, resulted in the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974), that would only end in 1974 after a military coup in Lisbon the Carnation Revolution.
Revolution and colonial end
Throughout the colonial war period Portugal had to deal with increasing dissent, arms embargoes and other punitive sanctions imposed by most of the international community. However, the authoritarian and conservative Estado Novo regime, firstly installed and governed by António de Oliveira Salazar and from 1968 onwards led by Marcelo Caetano, tried to preserve a vast centuries-long intercontinental empire with a total area of 2,168,071 km2. The Portuguese government and army successfully resisted the decolonization of its overseas territories until April 1974, when a bloodless left-wing military coup in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, led the way for the independence of the overseas territories in Africa and Asia, as well as for the restoration of democracy after two years of a transitional period known as PREC (Processo Revolucionário Em Curso, or On-Going Revolutionary Process). This period was characterized by social turmoil and power disputes between left- and right-wing political forces. Some factions, including Álvaro Cunhal's Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), unsuccessfully tried to turn the country into a communist state. The retreat from the overseas territories and the acceptance of its independence terms by Portuguese head representatives for overseas negotiations, which would create independent states in 1975 (most notably the People's Republic of Angola and the People's Republic of Mozambique), prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens from Portugal's African territories (mostly from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique).
Over a million destitute Portuguese refugees fled the former Portuguese colonies. Mário Soares and António de Almeida Santos were charged with organising the independence of Portugal's overseas territories. By 1975, all the Portuguese African territories were independent and Portugal held its first democratic elections in 50 years. However, the country continued to be governed by a military-civilian provisional administration until the Portuguese legislative election of 1976 that took place on 25 April, exactly one year after the previous election, and two years after the Carnation Revolution. It was won by the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS) and Mário Soares, its leader, became Prime Minister of the 1st Constitutional Government on 23 July. Mário Soares would be Prime Minister from 1976 to 1978 and again from 1983 to 1985. In this capacity Soares tried to resume the economic growth and development record that had been achieved before the Carnation Revolution, during the last decade of the previous regime. On the other hand, he initiated the process of adhesion to the European Economic Community (EEC) by starting adhesion negotiations as early as 1977. However, the country bounced between socialism and adherence to the neoliberal model. Land reform and nationalizations were enforced; the Portuguese Constitution (approved in 1976) was rewritten in order to accommodate socialist and communist principles. Until the constitutional revisions of 1982 and 1989, the constitution was a highly charged ideological document with numerous references to socialism, the rights of workers, and the desirability of a socialist economy. Portugal's economic situation after its transition to democracy, obliged the government to pursue International Monetary Fund (IMF)-monitored stabilization programs in 1977–78 and 1983–85.
In 1986, Portugal joined the European Economic Community (EEC) that later became the European Union (EU). In the following years Portugal's economy progressed considerably as result of EEC/EU structural and cohesion funds and Portuguese companies' easier access to foreign markets.
Portugal's last overseas territory, Macau, was handed over to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1999, under the 1987 joint declaration that set the terms for Macau's handover from Portugal to the PRC. In 2002, the independence of East Timor (Asia) was formally recognized by Portugal, after an incomplete decolonization process that was started in 1975 because of the Carnation Revolution.
On 26 March 1995, Portugal started to implement Schengen Area rules, eliminating border controls with other Schengen members while simultaneously strengthening border controls with non-member states. In 1996 the country was a co-founder of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) headquartered in Lisbon. Expo '98 took place in Portugal and in 1999 it was one of the founding countries of the euro and the Eurozone.
On 5 July 2004, José Manuel Barroso, then Prime Minister of Portugal, was nominated President of the European Commission, the most powerful office in the European Union. On 1 December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, after had been signed by the European Union member states on 13 December 2007 in the Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon, enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and improving the coherence of its action.
Economic disruption and an unsustainable government debt in the wake of the late-2000s financial crisis, led the country to negotiate in 2011 with the IMF and the European Union, through the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM) and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a loan to help the country stabilise its finances.
The territory of Portugal includes an area in the Iberian Peninsula (referred to as the continent by most Portuguese) and two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean: the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores. It lies between latitudes 32° and 43° N, and longitudes 32° and 6° W.
Mainland Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus that flows from Spain and disgorges in Tagus Estuary, near Lisbon, before escaping into the Atlantic. The northern landscape is mountainous towards the interior with several plateaus indented by river valleys, whereas the south, that includes the Algarve and the Alentejo regions, is characterized by rolling plains.
Portugal's highest peak is the similarly named Mount Pico on the island of Pico in the Azores. This ancient volcano, which measures 2,351 m (7,713 ft) is a highly iconic symbol of the Azores, while the Serra da Estrela on the mainland (the summit being 1,991 m (6,532 ft) above sea level) is an important seasonal attraction for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.
The archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores are scattered within the Atlantic Ocean: the Azores straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on a tectonic triple junction, and Madeira along a range formed by in-plate hotspot geology (much like the Hawaiian Islands). Geologically, these islands were formed by volcanic and seismic events, although the last terrestrial volcanic eruption occurred in 1957–58 (Capelinhos) and minor earthquakes occur sporadically, usually of low intensity.
Portugal's Exclusive Economic Zone, a sea zone over which the Portuguese have special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, has 1,727,408 km2. This is the 3rd largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the European Union and the 11th largest in the world.
Portugal is defined as a Mediterranean climate (Csa in the south, interior, and Douro region; Csb in the north, centre and coastal Alentejo; and also Semi-arid climate or Steppe climate (Bsk in certain parts of Beja district) according to the Koppen-Geiger Climate Classification), and is one of the warmest European countries: the annual average temperature in mainland Portugal varies from 12 °C (53.6 °F) in the mountainous interior north to over 18 °C (64.4 °F) in the south and on the Guadiana river basin. The Algarve, separated from the Alentejo region by mountains reaching up to 900 metres in Pico da Foia, has a climate similar to that of the southern coastal areas of Spain or Southern California.
Annual average rainfall in the mainland varies from just over 3,000 mm (118.1 in) in the northern mountains to less than 300 mm (11.8 in) in the area of the Massueime River, near Côa, along the Douro river. Mount Pico is recognized as receiving the largest annual rainfall (over 6,250 mm (246.1 in) per year) in Portugal, according to Instituto de Meteorologia (English: Portuguese Meteorological Institute).
In some areas, such as the Guadiana basin, annual average temperatures can be as high as 20 °C (68 °F), but summer highest temperatures may be over 45 °C (113 °F) . The record high of 47.4 °C (117.3 °F) was recorded in Amareleja, although this might not be the hottest spot in summer, according to satellite readings.
Snowfalls occur regularly in the interior North and Center of the country in particular in the districts of Vila Real, Bragança, Viseu and Guarda. In winter temperatures may drop below −10 °C (14.0 °F) in particular in Serra da Estrela, Serra do Gerês and Serra de Montesinho. In these places snow can fall any time from October to May. In the south of the country snowfalls are rare but still occur in the highest elevations.
The country has around 2500 to 3200 hours of sunshine a year, an average of 4–6 h in winter and 10–12 h in the summer, with higher values in the southeast and lower in the northwest.
The sea surface temperature on the west coast of mainland Portugal varies from 13 °C (55.4 °F)-15 °C (59.0 °F) in winter to 18 °C (64.4 °F)-20 °C (68.0 °F) in the summer while on the south coast it ranges from 15 °C (59.0 °F) in Winter and rises in the summer to about 23 °C (73.4 °F) occasionally reaching 26 °C (78.8 °F).
Both the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira have a subtropical climate, although variations between islands exist, making weather predictions very difficult (owing to rough topography). The Madeira and Azorean archipelagos have a narrower temperature range, with annual average temperatures exceeding 20 °C (68 °F) along the coast (according to the Portuguese Meteorological Institute). Some islands in Azores do have drier months in the summer. Consequently, the island of the Azores have been identified as having a Mediterranean climate (both Csa and Csb types), while some islands (such as Flores or Corvo) are classified as Maritime Temperate (Cfb) or Humid subtropical (Cfa), respectively, according to Koppen-Geiger classification. Porto Santo island in Madeira has a semi-arid Steppe climate (BSh). The Savage Islands, which are part of the regional territory of Madeira are unique in being classified as a Desert climates (BWh) with an annual average rainfall of approximately 150 mm (5.9 in). The sea surface temperature in the archipelagos varies from 17 °C (62.6 °F)-18 °C (64.4 °F) in winter to 24 °C (75.2 °F)-25 °C (77.0 °F) in the summer occasionally reaching 26 °C (78.8 °F).
Owing to humans occupying the territory of Portugal for thousands of years, little is left of the original vegetation. Protected areas of Portugal include one national park (Portuguese: Parque Nacional), 12 natural parks (Portuguese: Parque Natural), nine natural reserves (Portuguese: Reserva Natural), five natural monuments (Portuguese: Monumento Natural), and seven protected landscapes (Portuguese: Paisagem Protegida), which include the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês, the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela and the Paul de Arzila. These natural environments are shaped by diverse flora, and include widespread species of pine (especially the Pinus pinaster and Pinus pinea species), the chestnut (Castanea sativa), the cork-oak (Quercus suber), the holm oak (Quercus ilex), the Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea), and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). All are prized for their economic value. Laurisilva is a unique type of subtropical rainforest found in few areas of Europe and the world: in the Azores, and in particular on the island of Madeira, there are large forests of endemic Laurisilva forests (the latter protected as a natural heritage preserve).
There are several species of diverse mammalian fauna, including the fox, badger, Iberian lynx, Iberian Wolf, wild goat (Capra pyrenaica), wild cat (Felis silvestris), hare, weasel, polecat, chameleon, mongoose, civet, brown bear (spotted near Rio Minho, close to Peneda-Gerês) and many others. Portugal is an important stopover for migratory birds, in places such as Cape St. Vincent or the Monchique mountain, where thousands of birds cross from Europe to Africa during the autumn or in the spring (return migration). Most of the avian species congregate along the Iberian Peninsula since it is the closest stopover between northern Europe and Africa. Six hundred bird species occur in Portugal (either for nesting or during the course of migration), and annually there are new registries of nesting species. The archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are transient stopover for American, European, and African birds, while continental Portugal mostly encounters European and African bird species.
There are over 100 varieties of freshwater fish species, varying from the giant European catfish (in the Tagus International Natural Park) to some small and endemic species that live only in small lakes (along the western lakes for example). Some of these rare and specific species are highly endangered because of habitat loss, pollution and drought. Upwelling along the west coast of Portugal makes the sea extremely rich in nutrients and diverse species of marine fish; the Portuguese marine waters are one of the richest in the world. Marine fish species are more common, and include thousands of species, such as the sardine (Sardina pilchardus), tuna and Atlantic mackerel. Bioluminescent species are also well represented (including species in different colour spectrum and forms), like the glowing plankton that are possible to observe in some beaches.
There are many endemic insect species, most only found in certain parts of Portugal, while other species are more widespread like the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and the cicada. The Macronesian islands (Azores and Madeira) have many endemic species (like birds, reptiles, bats, insects, snails and slugs) that evolved independent from other regions of Portugal. In Madeira, for example, it is possible to observe more than 250 species of land gastropods.
Portugal has been a democratic republic since the ratification of the Constitution of 1976, with Lisbon, the nation's largest city, as its capital. The constitution grants the division, or separation, of powers among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The four main institutions as described in this constitution are the President of the Republic, the Parliament, known as the Assembleia da República (English: Assembly of the Republic), the Government, headed by a Prime Minister, and the courts.
The President, who is elected to a five-year term, has a supervisory non-executive role: the current President is Aníbal Cavaco Silva. The Parliament is a chamber composed of 230 deputies elected for a four-year term. The government, whose head is the Prime Minister (currently Pedro Passos Coelho), chooses a Council of Ministers, that comprises the Ministers and State Secretaries. The courts are organized into several levels: judicial, administrative, and fiscal branches. The Supreme Courts are institutions of last resort/appeal. A thirteen-member Constitutional Court oversees the constitutionality of the laws.
Portugal operates a multi-party system of competitive legislatures/local administrative governments at the national-, regional- and local-levels. The Legislative Assembly, Regional Assemblies and local municipalities and/or parishes, are dominated by two political parties, the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party, in addition to the Unitarian Democratic Coalition (Portuguese Communist Party plus Ecologist Party "The Greens"), the Left Bloc and the Democratic and Social Centre – People's Party, which garner between 5 and 15% of the vote regularly.
The President, elected to a five-year term by direct, universal suffrage, is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Presidential powers include the appointment of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (where the President is obligated by the results from Legislative Elections); dismissing the Prime Minister; dissolving the Assembly (to call early elections); vetoing legislation (which may be overridden by the Assembly); and declaring a State of War or siege.
The President is advised on issues of importance by the Council of State, which is composed of six senior civilian officers, any former Presidents elected under the 1976 Constitution, five-members chosen by the Assembly, and five selected by the president.
The Government is headed by the presidentially-appointed Prime Minister, who names a Council of Ministers to act as the government and cabinet. Each government is required to define the broad outline of its policies in a program, and present it to the Assembly for a mandatory period of debate. The failure of the Assembly to reject the program by a majority of deputies confirms the government in office.
The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral body composed of up to 230 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation, deputies serve four-year terms of office, unless the President dissolves the Assembly and calls for new elections.
Law and criminal justice
The Portuguese legal system is part of the civil law legal system, also called the continental family legal system. Until the end of the 19th century, French law was the main influence. Since then, the major influence has been German law. The main laws include the Constitution (1976, as amended), the Civil Code (1966, as amended) and the Penal Code (1982, as amended). Other relevant laws are the Commercial Code (1888, as amended) and the Civil Procedure Code (1961, as amended).
Portuguese law applied in the former colonies and territories and continues to be the major influence for those countries. Portugal's main police organizations are the Guarda Nacional Republicana – GNR (National Republican Guard), a gendarmerie; the Polícia de Segurança Pública – PSP (Public Security Police), a civilian police force who work in urban areas; and the Polícia Judiciária – PJ (Judicial Police), a highly specialized criminal investigation police that is overseen by the Public Ministry.
Portugal was one of the first countries in the world to abolish the death penalty. Maximum jail sentences are limited to 25 years.
Portugal has arguably the most liberal laws concerning possession of illicit drugs in the Western world. In 2001 Portugal decriminalized possession of effectively all drugs that are still illegal in other developed nations including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD. While possession is legal, trafficking and possession of more than "10 days worth of personal use" are still punishable by jail time and fines. People caught with small amounts of any drug are given the choice to go to a rehab facility, and may refuse treatment without consequences. Despite criticism from other European nations, who stated Portugal's drug consumption would tremendously increase, overall drug use rose only slightly, whilst use among teenagers dropped, along with the number of HIV infection cases, which had dropped 50% by 2009.
On 31 May 2010, Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage on the national level. The law came into force on 5 June 2010.
Administratively, Portugal is divided into 308 municipalities (Portuguese: municípios or concelhos), which are subdivided into 4260 civil parishes (Portuguese: freguesia). Operationally, the municipality and civil parish, along with the national government, are the only legally identifiable local administrative units identified by the government of Portugal (for example, cities, towns or villages have no standing in law, although may be used as catchment for the defining services). For statistical purposes the Portuguese government also identifies NUTS, inter-municipal communities and informally, the district system, used until European integration (and being phased-out by the national government). Continental Portugal is agglomerated into 18 districts, while the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are governed as autonomous regions; the largest units, established since 1976, are either mainland Portugal (Portuguese: Portugal Continental) and the autonomous regions of Portugal (Azores and Madeira).
The 18 districts of mainland Portugal are: Aveiro, Beja, Braga, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Lisbon, Portalegre, Porto, Santarém, Setúbal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Viseu – each district takes the name of the district capital.
Within the European Union NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) system, Portugal is divided into seven regions: the Azores, Alentejo, Algarve, Centro, Lisboa, Madeira and Norte, and with the exception of the Azores and Madeira, these NUTS areas are subdivided into 28 subregions.
A member state of the United Nations since 1955, Portugal is also a founding member of NATO (1949), OECD (1961) and EFTA (1960); it left the latter in 1986 to join the European Economic Community, that would become the European Union in 1993. In 1996 it co-founded the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which seeks to foster closer economic and cultural ties between the world's Lusophone nations.
In addition, Portugal is a full member of the Latin Union (1983) and the Organization of Ibero-American States (1949). It has a friendship alliance and dual citizenship treaty with its former colony, Brazil. Portugal and England (subsequently, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) share the world's oldest active military accord through their Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (Treaty of Windsor), which was signed in 1373.
There are two international territorial disputes, both with Spain:
Olivenza. Under Portuguese sovereignty since 1297, the municipality of Olivenza was ceded to Spain under the Treaty of Badajoz in 1801, after the War of the Oranges. Portugal claimed it back in 1815 under the Treaty of Vienna. However, since the 19th century, it has been continuously and peacefully ruled by Spain which considers the territory not only de facto but also de jure as an integral part of Spain.
The Ilhas Selvagens (Savage Islands) are a small archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, between Madeira and the Canary Islands, consisting of two small rocky islands with a total dry area of about 275 hectares. The archipelago is under Portuguese domination but is geographically closer to the Canary Islands (165 km) than to Madeira (280 km). Found in 1364 by Italian navigators, the islands belonged to private owners until 1971, when the Portuguese government bought them and established a natural reserve area covering the whole archipelago. The islands are claimed by Spain since 1911 and the dispute has caused some periods of political tension between the two countries. The main problem is not so much their intrinsic value but the fact that they expand considerably to the south the Exclusive Economic Zone of Portugal.
The armed forces have three branches: Navy, Army and Air Force. They serve primarily as a self-defense force whose mission is to protect the territorial integrity of the country and provide humanitarian assistance and security at home and abroad. As of 2008, the three branches numbered 39,200 active personnel including 7,500 women. Portuguese military expenditure in 2009 was $5.2 billion, representing 2.1 percent of GDP. Military conscription was abolished in 2004. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18 years.
The Army (21,000 personnel) comprises three brigades and other small units. An infantry brigade (mainly equipped with Pandur II APC), a mechanized brigade (mainly equipped with Leopard 2 A6 tanks and M113 APC) and a Rapid Reaction Brigade (consisting of paratroopers, commandos and rangers). The Navy (10,700 personnel, of which 1,580 are marines) has five frigates, seven corvettes, two submarines, and 28 patrol and auxiliary vessels. The Air Force (7,500 personnel) has the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet as the main combat aircraft.
In addition to the three branches of the armed forces, there is the National Republican Guard, a security force subject to military law and organization (gendarmerie) comprising 25,000 personnel. This force is under the authority of both the Defense and the Interior Ministry. It has provided detachments for participation in international operations in Iraq and East Timor.
The United States maintains a military presence with 770 troops in the Lajes Air Base at Terceira Island, in the Azores. The Allied Joint Force Command Lisbon (JFC Lisbon) – one of the three main subdivisions of NATO's Allied Command Operations – it is based in Oeiras, near Lisbon.
In the 20th century, Portugal engaged in two major military interventions: World War I and the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974). After the end of the Portuguese Empire in 1975, the Portuguese Armed Forces have participated in peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq (Nasiriyah) and Lebanon. Portugal also conducted several independent unilateral military operations abroad, as were the cases of the interventions of the Portuguese Armed Forces in Angola in 1992 and in Guinea-Bissau in 1998 with the main objectives of protecting and withdrawing of Portuguese and foreign citizens threatened by local civil conflicts.
Since the Carnation Revolution (1974) which culminated with the end of one of its most notable phases of economic expansion (that started in the 1960s), there has been a significant change in annual economic growth. After the turmoil of the 1974 revolution and the PREC period, Portugal has been trying to adapt itself to a changing modern global economy. Since the 1990s, Portugal's economic development model has been slowly changing from one based on public consumption to one focused on exports, private investment, and development of the high-tech sector. Business services have overtaken more traditional industries such as textiles, clothing, footwear, cork (of which Portugal is the world's leading producer), wood products and beverages.
Most industry, business and finance are concentrated in Lisbon and Porto metropolitan areas. The districts of Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, and Leiria are the biggest economic centres outside those two main metropolitan areas.
The Portuguese currency is the euro (€) and the country's economy is in the Eurozone since its starting. Portugal's central bank is the Banco de Portugal, which is an integral part of the European System of Central Banks.
Agriculture in Portugal is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. However, the sector also includes larger scale intensive farming export-oriented agrobusinesses backed by companies (like Grupo RAR's Vitacress, Sovena, Lactogal, Vale da Rosa, Companhia das Lezírias and Valouro). The country produces a wide variety of crops and livestock products, including green vegetables, rice, corn, barley, olives, oilseeds, nuts, cherries, bilberry, table grapes, edible mushrooms, dairy products, poultry and beef. Forestry has also played an important economic role among the rural communities and industry (namely paper industry that includes Portucel Soporcel Group, engineered wood that includes Sonae Indústria, and furniture that includes several manufacturing plants in and around Paços de Ferreira, the core of Portugal's major industrial operations of IKEA). In 2001, the gross agricultural product accounted for 4% of the national GDP.
Traditionally a sea-power, Portugal has had a strong tradition in the Portuguese fishing sector and is one of the countries with the highest fish consumption per capita. The main landing sites in Portugal (including Azores and Madeira), according to total landings in weight by year, are the harbours of Matosinhos, Peniche, Olhão, Sesimbra, Figueira da Foz, Sines, Portimão and Madeira. Portuguese processed fish products are exported through several companies under a number of different brands and registered trademarks like Ramirez, the World’s oldest canned fish producer still in operation, Bom Petisco, Nero, Combate, Comur, General, Líder, Manná, Murtosa, Pescador, Pitéu, Tenório, Torreira, Vasco da Gama, etc.
Portugal is a significant European minerals producer and is ranked among Europe's leading copper producers. It is also a noted producer of tin, tungsten and uranium. However, the country lacks hydrocarbon exploration potential, as well as iron, aluminium and coal deposits, a feature that has hindered its mining and metallurgy sector's development. The Panasqueira and Neves-Corvo mines are among the most noted Portuguese mines in operation.
Industry is diversified, ranging from automobile (Volkswagen Autoeuropa, Peugeot Citroen), aerospace (Embraer), electronics and textiles, to food, chemicals, cement and wood pulp. Volkswagen Group's AutoEuropa motor vehicle assembly plant in Palmela is among the largest foreign direct investment projects in Portugal.
Modern non-traditional technology-based industries like aerospace, biotechnology and information technology, have been developed in several locations across the country. Alverca, Covilhã,Évora, and Ponte de Sor are the main centres of Portuguese aerospace industry, which is led by Brazil-based company Embraer and the Portuguese company OGMA. Since after the turn of the 21st century, many major biotechnology and information technology industries have been founded and are concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Coimbra and Aveiro.
Travel and tourism continues to become extremely important for Portugal, with visitor numbers forecast to increase significantly over the next years. However, there is increasing competition from Eastern European destinations such as Croatia who offer similar attractions, which are often cheaper. Consequently, the country is almost obligated to focus on its niche attractions such as health, nature and rural tourism in order to stay ahead of its competitors.
The banking and insurance sectors performed well until the late-2000s financial crisis, partly reflecting a rapid deepening of the market in Portugal. While sensitive to various types of market and underwriting risks, both the life and non-life sectors, overall, are estimated to be able to withstand a number of severe shocks, even though the impact on individual insurers varies widely.
Major State-owned companies include Águas de Portugal (water), ANA (airports), Caixa Geral de Depósitos (banking), Comboios de Portugal (railways), Companhia das Lezírias (agriculture), CTT (postal services), RTP (media) and TAP Portugal (airline). Some of the former are managed by state-run holding company Parpública, which is a shareholder of several companies, both public and private.
Companies listed on Euronext Lisbon stock exchange like EDP, Cimpor, Corticeira Amorim, Galp, Jerónimo Martins, Millennium bcp, Portucel Soporcel, Portugal Telecom and Sonae, are among the largest corporations of Portugal by number of employees, net income or international market share. The Euronext Lisbon is the major stock exchange of Portugal and is part of the NYSE Euronext, the first global stock exchange. The PSI-20 is Portugal's most selective and widely known stock index.
The Global Competitiveness Report for 2005, published by the World Economic Forum, placed Portugal's competitiveness in the 22nd position, but the 2008–2009 edition placed Portugal in the 43rd position out of 134 countries and territories. Research about quality of life by the Economist Intelligence Unit's quality of life survey placed Portugal as the country with the 19th-best quality of life in the world for 2005, ahead of other economically and technologically advanced countries like France, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, but 9 places behind its only neighbour, Spain. This is despite the fact that Portugal remains the country with the lowest per capita GDP in Western Europe.
The poor performance of the Portuguese economy was explored in April 2007 by The Economist, which described Portugal as "a new sick man of Europe". From 2002 to 2007, the unemployment rate increased by 65% (270,500 unemployed citizens in 2002, 448,600 unemployed citizens in 2007). By early December 2009, unemployment had reached 10.2% – a 23-year record high. In December 2009, ratings agency Standard and Poor's lowered its long-term credit assessment of Portugal to "negative" from "stable," voicing pessimism on the country's structural weaknesses in the economy and weak competitiveness that would hamper growth and the capacity to strengthen its public finances and reduce debt. In July 2011, ratings agency Moody's downgraded its long-term credit assessment of Portugal after warning of deteriorating risk of default in March 2011.
Corruption has become an issue of major political and economic significance for the country. Some cases are well known and were widely reported in the media, such as the affairs in several municipalities involving local town hall officials and businesspersons, as well as a number of politicians with wider responsibilities and power. Nevertheless the Transparency International report for 2010 places Portugal in 31st position in terms of perceived corruption, just below Israel and Spain, and 34 positions above Italy.
A report published in January 2011 by the Diário de Notícias, a leading Portuguese newspaper, demonstrated that in the period between the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and 2010, the democratic Portuguese Republic governments encouraged over expenditure and investment bubbles through unclear public-private partnerships. This has funded numerous ineffective and unnecessary external consultancy and advising committees and firms, allowed considerable slippage in state-managed public works, inflated top management and head officers' bonuses and wages, causing a persistent and lasting recruitment policy that boosted the number of the expensive and highly privileged redundant public servants. In addition to risky credit and out of control public debt creation, the state-run services and departments mismanaged a wealth of European structural and cohesion funds for almost four decades. Apparently, the Prime Minister Sócrates's cabinet was not able to forecast or prevent any of this when symptoms first appeared in 2005, and in 2011 the country was on the verge of bankruptcy.
If analysed under a wider time span, the convergence of the Portuguese economy to EU levels has been impressive, especially from 1986 to the early 2000s (decade). According to Barry (2003), "what appears to have been crucial in the Portuguese case, relative to Spain at least, is the degree of labour-market flexibility that the economy exhibits. (...) Thus Portuguese convergence has been impressive, even though, consistent with its relatively low human-capital stock, the economy has specialised in low-tech production."
On April 6, 2011 Prime Minister José Sócrates announced on national television that the country would request financial assistance from the IMF and the European Financial Stability Facility, like Greece and the Republic of Ireland had done before. It was the third time that external financial aid was requested to the IMF – the first was in the late 1970s following the Carnation Revolution.
In October 2011, Moody's Analytics downgraded nine Portuguese banks, blaming financial weakness.
Although a developed country and a high income country, Portugal has the lowest GDP per capita in Western Europe and its population has one of the lowest incomes per head among member states of the European Union. According to Eurostat, in 2009, Portugal's GDP per capita stood at 80% of the EU27 average, the 10th lowest in the Union.
The average wage in Portugal is 1,039 € per month (net), and the minimum wage, which is regulated/ref by law, is €485 per month. Officially, in 2008 the unemployment rate decreased to 7.3% in the second quarter of 2008. However, it immediately rose again to higher rates. Influenced by events worldwide, by December 2009, unemployment had surpassed the 10% mark nationwide, by 2010, it was about 11%, and in 2011 it was above 12%. As of March 2012, the unemployment rate is at 14.8%.
Portugal is among the 20 most visited countries in the world, receiving an average of 13 million foreign tourists each year. Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in Portugal's economy, contributing to about 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Tourist hotspots in Portugal are Lisbon, Algarve and Madeira, but the Portuguese government continues to promote and develop new tourist destinations, such as the Douro Valley, the island of Porto Santo, and Alentejo. Lisbon is, after Barcelona, the European city which attracts the most tourists (with seven million tourists occupying the city's hotels in 2006, a number that grew 11.8% compared to previous year). Lisbon in recent years surpassed the Algarve as the leading tourist region in Portugal. Porto and Northern Portugal, especially the urban areas north of Douro River valley, was the tourist destination which grew most (11.9%) in 2006, surpassing Madeira (in 2010), as the third most visited destination.
Most tourists in Portugal are British-, Spanish- or German-origin visitors, travel by low cost airliners, and not only seek sun and beaches, but increasingly search for cultural, gastronomic, environmental or nautical experiences (or travel for reasons of business).
The main tourist regions can be broken-down into (by order of importance): the Greater Lisbon (Portuguese: Lisboa), the Algarve, Greater Porto and Northern Portugal (Portuguese: Porto and Norte), the Portuguese Islands (Portuguese: Ilhas Portuguesas: Madeira and Azores), and Alentejo. Other tourist regions include Douro Sul, Templários, Dão-Lafões, Costa do Sol, Costa Azul, Planície Dourada, that are unknown to many tourists or visitors.
Most of these regions are grouped in tourism reference areas, which continue to be in a state of reorganization and evolution, some based on the traditional regions of Portugal: the Costa Verde (Green Coast); Costa da Prata (Silver Coast)); Costa de Lisboa (Lisbon Coast); Montanhas (Mountains); Planícies (Pl
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