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Portuguese report Portuguese report
by Euro Reporter
2013-02-27 07:53:25
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Portugal opposition chief demands renegotiation of bailout

Portugal should renegotiate the terms of its international bailout because its program of budget cuts has failed and sent the economy into a slump, the head of the main centre-left opposition said on Tuesday. The Socialists, who agreed Portugal's original deal with the IMF and European Union in 2011, have been calling for some time for an easing of the spending cuts and tax hikes that have driven the small euro zone member state into deep recession. But until now they had stopped short of demanding new talks on the terms of the 78 billion euro ($103 billion) bailout.

"We need more time and a delay of interest payments," Socialist head Antonio Jose Seguro told journalists. "There cannot be more austerity, there has to be a strategy of growth." He was speaking a day after Portugal's creditors started their seventh review of the bailout and after Italy's inconclusive election renewed euro zone crisis fears. The government is expected to request an easing of budget goals, but has also said it has plans for contingency measures to reduce deviation from these goals, mainly further spending cuts.

"I hope the government refuses proposals (by the 'troika' of lenders) for more austerity," said Seguro. "A renegotiation implies more time for our budget consolidation and it means lower interest payments. The Portuguese cannot take any more." The economy is mired in its worst recession since the 1970s and unemployment is at record highs at just under 17 percent. The centre-right coalition government has a majority in parliament so Seguro's demand cannot change policy, but his party is close to unions that are stepping up opposition to more austerity. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said Tuesday the country does not need more time to complete its adjustment program.

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Protesters hijack Portugal Prime Minister’s NI number

Portugal’s Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, could face a tax probe after a protest group “hijacked” his national insurance number. The protest, which has the backing of the political pressure group Revolucao Blanco, has been mounted against a new law cracking down on tax evasion, which makes it obligatory for Portuguese consumers to put the equivalent of their National Insurance number on all financial documents.

Protesters have responded by leaking the Prime Minister’s number, the plan being – with no document or name needed to accredit the number given in financial operations under €1,000 (£870) – to flood Portugal’s Inland Revenue with bills in Mr Passos Coelho’s name from restaurants, bars and shops. When combined, the bills would amount to a sum beyond the Prime Minister’s declared income, thus sparking a tax investigation into his affairs. According to the Portuguese media, since 15 February, thousands of such bills in Mr Passos Coelho’s name have already reached the tax offices.

Two other government officials, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas, are also reported to have had their tax numbers “hijacked”. But at least one fiscal expert, according to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, told Portuguese television Mr Passos Coelho had nothing to fear, pointing out that the moment different bills showed him eating in several different restaurants at the same time any investigation would be abandoned.

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Portugal, Pro-European but without really knowing why

Portuguese citizens tend to be broadly pro-European but lack knowledge on the rights that come along with European Union membership according to the most recent study by Eurobarometer. The opinion poll study taken back in autumn of last year found 59% of Portuguese citizens responded positively to experiencing a sense of European citizenship, just fractionally below the 27 member state average of 63%. While Luxembourg topped the list, Portuguese sentiment significantly outstripped those propping up the table, with the Greeks (46%), Bulgarians (47%) and British (48%) feeling the least European.

While the elderly, cleaners and rural inhabitants were less prone to this European-ness, the report found that “Portugal would seem to be a society in which the feeling of European citizenship is relatively transversal”. However, this contrasted with a lack of knowledge about just what was involved with European membership with only 35% claiming they knew about the rights involved or were interested in finding out more, against European Union averages of 45% and 62% respectively. The free circulation of people and goods is the most positive reported result of the European Union closely followed by peace between member states and economic prosperity.
 
However, while often able to mention the Erasmus student exchange programme, Portuguese citizens otherwise struggle to provide details. “On the question of benefits, the Portuguese sample is characterised by significant percentages who either do not know how to answer this question or state that European citizenship does not bring any benefits”, the study stated.


         
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Emanuel Paparella2013-02-27 12:55:03
“Portugal, Pro-European but without really knowing why”

That is quite a statement to ponder and could be construed as the best diagnosis of the problematic facing the cultural identity of the EU at the moment. It is the same in fact as the one expressed by the Italian patriot Massimo Dazeglio right after the completion of Italian Unification in 1860: “Now that we have made Italy, we need to make the Italians.” Similarly now that we have made the European Union we need to make the Europeans.”

Metaphorically, it is called putting the cart before the horse and expecting the cart to find its way home, the prognosis advocated by the current crop of visionless politicians and bureaucrats.

What is insanity? Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results. Marx’s diagnosis is simpler and perhaps more lucid: those who don’t know or ignore their history are bound to repeat it.


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