Snacks

The only food the Portuguese are more crazy about than fish is soup.

Caldo verde is a thick soup made with thinly-cut strips of Galician kale and potato, and always a lump or two of chorizo floating in it. It is thought to originate from the northern Minho province in the 15th century and goes very well with Broa.

Broa de milho is cornbread consisting of plain flour, cornmeal, yeast, water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. It is often used for dipping in soups and stews. In the past, broa de milho was considered a poor man’s food but is enjoyed today by all tiers of society.

Açorda is bread soup in numerous varieties. Most have a smooth and thick consistency and contain olive oil, salt, herbs (coriander), garlic, eggs, and boiling water poured over diced bread.


Bolinhos de bacalhau or pasteis de bacalhau are little deep-fried patties of salt-dried cod and potatoes.

Bifana is a sandwich that consists of pork steaks simmered in a garlic sauce and then placed inside a bun. It is suggested to have appeared first in Vendas Novas. When beef instead of pork is used, the snack is called prego. Both are such fast-food classics that Mc Donald’s produces a McBifana and a McPrego for the  Portuguese market.

Sardinhas assadas are synonymous with Portugal. First, the sardines are coated with salt before grilled over a hot charcoal grill. You usually eat them on a simple slice of bread with soaks up the delicious juices. There is even a sardine festival in Lisbon on the 13th of June when the city is filled with smoke.

Caracóis are seasonal and available from May until September. When you see signs saying ‘Há caracóis’ at cafés and restaurants you’ll know they are around. 

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is a simple dish named after the 19th-century poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato. It combines clams and a flavourful sauce based on olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, and fresh coriander.

Queijo da Serra is the country’s most famous cheese from the mountainous region of Serra da Estrella. The primary ingredient of this soft and salty cheese is unpasteurized ewes milk to which thistle is added to coagulate the milk.

Pasteis de nata is the famous egg custard tart, originally made around the 18th century by Catholic monks and nuns in Santa Maria de Bélem in Lisbon. The tart was made from leftover egg yolks, used in the starching of nuns’ habits. The owners of the shop Pasteis de Belém – a former sugar refinery next to the Jerónimus Monastery – are said to have acquired the recipe – they still use – in 1837 directly from the monks.

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Metro

The controversial plan to extend the Lisbon metro by constructing a circle line – joining the existing yellow and green ones – has finally moved forward thanks to a solid financial injection of € 83 million from the EU’s Cohesion Fund. Works – which will link Rato to Cais Sodré and São Sebastião to Campo Ourique, including new stations in Estrela and Santos – should move forward in phases up to 2024.


The Estrela station will be built at the top of the Calçada da Estrela, 54 meters below ground level and be twelve meters lower than the Ameixoeira station, currently Lisbon’s deepest metro station.


According to Brussels, the improved public transport service will not only reduce CO2 emissions with around 5000 tons per year but also contribute to the creation of employment, much needed at the time of the pandemic.

The € 215 million project nearly didn’t make it when Parliament supported at the beginning of this year a proposal by PAN (People, Animals and Nature party) to suspend the plan of the socialist government, as it wasn’t wide-ranging enough. PAN – backed by almost all opposition parties – wanted a much larger expansion, including outlying areas in the Lisbon Metropolis, like Loures, Sintra and Cascais.

Construction of the first leg of the Portuguese metro started 65 years ago, in August 1955. The initial line consisted of 6,5 kilometres, had 11 stations and two-carriage trains.
the Lisbon Metro currently consists of four lines and 56 stations.

Furthermore, this summer, the municipalities of Lisbon, Loures and Oeiras have jointly decided to construct a light rail along the Tagus river, linking Alcântera to Cruz Quebrada and Santa Apolónia to Sacavém. The estimated investment totals € 490 million. The new line will have a total length of 25 kilometres and will be connected to the existing riverside, tram and train lines to the west and the north of the capital.

Extension of the public transport facilities not only benefits the environment by reducing air pollution from cars but is supposed to lead as well to a reduction of the urban mortality rate in pedestrians. A study by the ETSC (European Transport Safety Council) showed that between 2010  and 2019 nearly 1400 pedestrians died on Portuguese streets, placing the country in an unwanted fifth place among 28 European states.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic público/sapo)






Rules

Six months after the first Covid case was detected in Portugal, a new set of coronavirus related rules is underway as from September 15, when the entire country will most likely return to a State of Calamity, leaving the lighter State of Alert, in place since June.

The decision is taken because of the significant changes this month with the holidays over and an expected increase in the use of public transport, inevitable with people returning to work and children to school.

Until now, only in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley the State of Calamity prevailed with tighter rules than throughout the rest of the country in terms of how many people can meet in a group and business opening times.

Referring to the arrival of colder weather in the autumn, the Minister for the Presidency Mariana Vieira da Silva declared: ‘What we have been seeing is an increase in the number of corona cases, both in our country and in the countries around us. The government cannot remain indifferent to this increase.’

In practise this means continuation of the general measures of the Alert State – physical distance, hand hygiene and the use of masks in public services and transport.
In addition the rules of the State of Calamity are going to apply across the entire country, such as closing at 8 pm of commercial establishments (supermarkets at 10 pm), fuel supply, clinics, offices, pharmacies and funeral homes; prohibition on selling alcohol at service stations and gatherings limited to 10 people.

Immigrants, including asylum seekers, with pending applications at the borders agency SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) and whose legislation has been held up by the pandemic, will see their rights extended until March 2021, granting them full access to the National Health Service, welfare benefits and rental contracts.

In the meantime, the Banco Alimentar contra Fome (Food Bank) – the NGO that feeds people who cannot feed themselves – reported that the pandemic has seen demand on its services increase with at least 60,000 (from 380,000 to 440,000).

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Population

New research predicts the European population to fall more sharply than previously expected; from 450 million today to 310 million by the end of the century. The reason is a further decline in the fertility rate – the average number of children per woman.

Many variables have an effect of the fertility rate such as marriage age, access to birth control, the right to abortion and education to women. If the rate falls below approximately 2.1, the size of the population starts to fall, as is the case in Portugal, that has a fertility rate of 1.4.
However, with the new estimates of the study, Portugal will see their population further reduce by more than half by 2100.

In 2019 Portugal had a population of 10,3 million, about 280 thousand people less than a decade ago. The 2,7% decrease observed was mainly driven by a decrease in births but the migratory balance ended up attenuating this trend, given the fact that in the last ten years over 400 thousand immigrants entered the country as ‘new citizens’.

Aside from fewer people, the country registers a progressively older population, verifiable by the fact that only the group of people over 65 years of age increased between 2009 and 2019. In fact, Portugal is – after Italy and Greece –  the third most aged EU country with the lowest percentage of young people. More than 20% of the Portuguese is over 65 and only 14% less than 15 years of age. There are now 163 elderly people for every 100 young ones.

About 52% of the population over 15 years has no more than basic education; the lowest percentage in Europe! In contrast, the percentage of people with secondary or higher education increased in the last decade to 33%. Though in 2019 still, 6% of the population over 15 years of age has no schooling whatsoever.

A WHO study of youngsters done before the corona epidemic revealed that Portuguese teenagers are more home-keeping than European and like less school. Only 9,5% of them say they like to go there. If performed now the survey might show surprising results as the pandemic seems to have improved the relationship between adolescents and schools, according to Tânia Gaspar, a psychologist and one of the researchers of the study. ‘Youngsters are more responsible now and closer to their teachers, who had to reinvent work methods – such as technologies – that were already familiar to their students.’

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Isabel

One of the best ways to launder money is to buy a bank

Cross-border journalistic investigation has uncovered an enormous corruption case orchestrated by Africa’s richest woman Isabel dos Santos, the first daughter of Angola’s former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and known in her home country as ‘the Princess’. The Angolan government claims that she has caused over a billion-dollar of losses to the Angolan state.

At the centre of the charges are claims that she used her position as chairwoman of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol – of which she was the main shareholder until sacked in November 2017 – to illicitly make millions of dollars payments via her EuroBic bank in Portugal to companies in Dubai controlled by her friends.

BPI (the Portuguese Investment Bank)party owned by the Angolan billionaire – willingly provided dubious services to her by opening a bank account for an offshore shell company on the Isle of Man to facilitate her buying of a 60 million worth real estate in Monte Carlo.

Joaõ Batalha of the Portuguese branch of Transparency International believes the Bank of Portugal – that under Portuguese law regulates banking activities in the country – was blatantly complicit. Former Euro MP of Portugal’s Socialist Party Ana Gomes has no doubt about it. ‘Portugal has become a laundry for corrupt money, that is bad for our reputation.’

Gomes points to EuroBic as an example of the complicity between former coloniser Portugal and Angola for the personal enrichment of the elites on both sides of the Atlantic. ’Under the former Portuguese finance minister Fernando Teixeira, the collapsed BNP bank was saved by the state with a huge injection of € 5 billion, creating EuroBic.
The bank was then sold to Isabel dos Santos for € 40 million and who became its CEO? Indeed, Fernando Teixeira!’

The level of complicity is very much political. It isn’t just Isabel and her husband, the Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo. She was acting as frontwoman for her father, the former president of Africa’s fifths biggest economy, who since 2018 lives in Barcelona and is said to have been stolen over 100 billion from the Angolan state during his four-decade presidency.

As more details about the corruption scandal become unveiled, Portuguese companies exposed to Isabel’s empire – energy giants like Galp and Efacec and telecommunications firm NOS – are holding their breath.

Questions are being asked about the Dos Santos 6% stake in Portugal’s oil firm Galp, the second biggest company on the Lisbon stock exchange market, with operations in Angola, Brazil and Mozambique. With a loan from Sonangol € 75m was paid for the stake, which was well worth over € 700m in February.
Last month alone millions ‘in cash’ were discovered in a safe deposit box that she holds at a branch of Novo Banco in Porto.

In April a Lisbon court ordered the ‘preventive seizure’ of Isabel’s 26% stake in Portuguese telecoms company NOS after a generalized freeze in February of all her bank accounts in Portugal in response to a request from Angola’s attorney general, who threatened to issue an international arrest warrant against her if she fails to cooperate with the investigations.

Isabel dos Santos– who in the summer of 2018 moved from Luanda to London – maintains that she is the victim of a political witch-hunt and doesn’t believe in a fair trial if she returns to Angola to defend herself.

Opinions remain divided over whether the Judiciary in Lisbon will be able – and willing – to flex its muscles given that investigating Angolan corruption will implicate senior Portuguese officials from across the country’s political spectrum.


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72%

Government takes majority shares in TAP and Efacec in midst of pandemic

The minority government of António Costa saved this month two strategic companies, securing thousands of jobs. It bailed out flagship airline TAP and nationalised Efacec, the technological company – with over 2500 highly qualified employees and activities in more than 60 countries – brought down by its association with the former first daughter of Angola and richest women in Africa, Isabel dos Santos.

Efacec Power Solutions is not nearly as important as TAP. The idea is only for a temporary nationalisation until the end of the year in order to guarantee that salaries and bank loans can be paid, and the confidence of clients and suppliers restored. A dozen potential buyers from Portugal, Spain, the US and China are on the horizon and it’s only a matter of time before the company is reprivatized.

Buying up Isabel dos Santos’ majority (72%) share in Efacec is moreover a decent way to get rid of her involvement – which has done the company no good since her name was reviled across the media around the world for pillaging her homeland of hundreds of millions, and her assets frozen in Portugal and Angola.

Despite the nightmare of what to do with TAP – crippling losses in recent years exacerbated by a further 395 million loss in the first two months of this year – on the long run, the government has taken a clear stand. ‘TAP is fundamental for our territorial continuity, for our connection to the world and our economic development’, declared PM António Costa. The airline – with a workforce of 10.000 and contributing 2.6 billion to the export in 2019 – is just too important for the nation to let it fall.

By spending 55 million to buy out the American private shareholder David Neeleman, and committing to an injection of 1,2 billion – approved by Brussels – into the company, the state now effectively controls TAP with 72% of the capital and took the ‘worst-case scenario of nationalisation’ off the table.

As the company is in technical bankruptcy with a debt of over 775 million euros, the approval of Brussels will, by all means, imply a substantial restructuring, including a reduction in the number of routes and planes and consequences on employment.
Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, more than 1000 fixed-term workers have been dismissed due to non-renewal of contracts but undoubtedly more layoffs will follow in the next months.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Sapo)



Xenophobia

From now on, every time we – black women – look at the steps of the Parliament, we will not see each other with buckets and mops to clean – we are inside and have a voice ’  (Romualda Fernandes, MP)

A hundred protesters marched on Saturday the 27th of June through downtown Lisbon shouting ‘Portugal is not racist’. The demonstration was organized by Andre Ventura, the leader of the Far Right-party Chega (Enough).

Last October, Ventura won the first far right’s seat in Parliament, where he will face strong opposition of three newly elected black deputies with a Guinean background, Joacine Katar, Beatriz Gomes Dias and Romualda Fernandes. Never before in history was the composition of the Assembly of the Republic that diverse.

The march was held three weeks after thousands gathered in the capital in protest against racism and police brutality and took place at a time when the authorities are worried about a new wave of coronavirus cases in the outskirts of Greater Lisbon, where new lockdown measures have been installed in 19 parishes of Sintra, Loures, Odivelas, Amadora and Santa Clara.

The European Social Survey (ESS) recently showed that nearly two-thirds of the Portuguese people have prejudices on racism; either biological (‘Are there ethnic or racial groups, by nature, more intelligent?’) or cultural (‘Are there cultures, by nature, more civilized than others?’). One in three Portuguese manifest racist opinions on both biological and cultural racism. Only 11% of the population disagrees with all racist beliefs. 

The older the Portuguese are, the greater the number of people who manifest racism.
Although the majority of young people disagree that there are more intelligent ethnic or racial groups, 70% believes that certain cultures are more civilized than others.
Higher levels of education or income do not completely erase racism even though less racism is noted among these citizens.

The good news in the survey is that in recent years the position of the Portuguese against immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds has improved.
Five years ago Portugal belonged to the three EU countries that were most opposed to receiving immigrants from poor countries but it evolved towards greater openness and has become one where this objection dropped significantly.

 ‘However it remains to be seen how these immigrants are integrated’, underlines Alice Ramos, a sociologist at the Social Science Institute of the University of Lisbon. ‘You would have to know why people think that immigrants should enter, what jobs they should do and what they think about nationality and family reunification?
The results do not contradict the results of racist beliefs. It is one thing to give an opinion, the other is an attitude of discrimination against someone with a different ethnic background.’

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Homeless

The street is not a choice – we want houses’

Once upon a pre-Covid time, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa promised that he would personally see to it, that all 400 homeless in the capital got off the street in 2023. Since the new virus hijacked the country’s economy very little has changed. In fact, there are a lot more new faces on the street.

On the 15th of June tens of homeless people gathered before Parliament to express their displeasure. Sara – one of the protesters – has no job and feels discriminated against by the government. ‘I am not a number, I am a person. We have a right to housing!’

Many homeless people, don’t believe in shelters as they lump too many problematic individuals together under one roof.
The best solution would be to discuss with the homeless the needs of each and every one.

‘The government give us a minimum income of 189 euros per month but that is not nearly enough to rent a room.
When the landlords know we are homeless, they ask a six months deposit for a room.
There are a lot of abandoned houses in Lisbon. Why can’t they be used to rehouse the homeless?’

Manuel Grilo – Lisbon’s councillor for Education and Social Rights – declared that since the beginning of the pandemic 500 homeless people have been attended in four emergency centres created by the municipality.

47 of them have been referred to the Housing First program, a project financed by the City Council in which people are integrated into individual housing and supported by professionals. The municipality hopes that by the end of the year a total of 380 people will be accommodated through this program.

According to Guerreiro – another homeless protester in front of Parliament – the councillor of the Left Bloc lives out of reality. ‘Until today, there is not one municipal house attributed to a homeless person!’

In order to judge the evolution of homeless cases ‘on the ground’, the President recently paid a visit to the Avenida AlmiranteReis, Cais do Sodré and Santa Apolonia in Lisbon.

‘It is sad to see that the new crisis means an increase in homelessness, especially among young people. Now saying that the 2023 goal will be met, would be a lie with over 100.000 unemployed in Portugal due to Covid’.

Stay healthy                 Fique saudável             (pic PtRes/Público/JEcon)






Recovery

Before the pandemic, the Portuguese economy grew at a faster pace than the eurozone and the country ranked 28 on the list of wealthiest nations, despite its low rates in advanced education (50% of the population has only primary education; the highest percentage in Europe!) and average income (807 euro/month).

When the Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Portugal 18 months ago, the country willingly signed a multitude of cooperation agreements. At that time the socialist minority administration felt positive about the so-called ‘new Silk Route’.

In the meantime, its ‘golden visa program’ had opened the floodgates to Chinese buying up all sorts of property, banks, hotels and insurance companies.

But the tide has turned. The current public health crisis will drive a contraction in real GDP, and the long-lasting impact of the coronavirus on tourism will prevent a quick recovery in 2021.

An important economic lesson learnt, is to reduce dependence on imports from China. ‘This is the moment for Portugal to return to producing much of what we have been habitually importing’, Prime Minister António Costa declared.

To support the economy and prevent a debt crisis, Portugal can get 26.361 billion euros – 15.526 billion in grants and 10.835 billion in loans – from the European Economic Recovery Fund.

In order to access these funds, the country has to commit to the implementation of a reform plan program approved by the European Commission and the majority of the EU Council.


The government intends to use these assets to decarbonize the economy and reduce the imports of natural gas by developing an industry around hydrogen.
A European hub of ‘green energy’ (so-called because it is produced from renewable energy) close to Sines, one of the country’s major ports.

Sines is the perfect choice with its coal and oil-fired plants being disabled, and the network of existing gas pipelines 70% ready to distribute hydrogen. ‘Green hydrogen will be very cheap to produce and boost qualified employment’, says João Pedro MatosFernandes, the Minister for the Environment and Energetic transition  

Another strategy to overcome the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, is to transform the country into ‘a cluster of industrialisation’, explains Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva. ‘Portugal wants to be at Europe’s reindustrialisation forefront. We are talking here about textiles, clothing, shoes but also engineering, pharmaceuticals and agrifoods’.

He stressed that the country has important assets it can use like, qualified human resources, low wages, technology, quality of services and dominance in renewable energies.

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Release

‘As long as there is Covid , there will be no normal life’  (António Costa)

Portugal’s State of Emergency has changed into a State of Calamity as from the beginning of May and with approximately 100 deaths per million inhabitants.

This implicates that ‘the future depends on the efforts of every single citizen to make a success of the country’s return into the world of business’, according to prime minister António Costa.
In other words, social distancing and hand hygiene should remain in place.

Contrary to other European countries, Portugal rejects contact tracing. Both the president and the prime minister consider the measure to start putting citizens under permanent increased surveillance ‘unconstitutional’.

The release began on the 4th of May with the reopening of small local commerce (including opticians and dentists), bookshops, libraries, driving schools, hairdressers, beauty salons, public services and transport. All required special measures, in particular the use of masks. Not wearing one in public transport may be fined with 350 euros.

Without a spike in the number of infections, it was decided on May 18 to reopen restaurants, cafés and pastelarias (all running at 50% capacity), terraces, museums, art galleries, shops of up to 400 sq m, schools for 11th and 12th-year pupils taking national exams (with pupils and teachers wearing masks) and creches (as yet on a voluntary basis).

Other details of the State of Calamity involve a restriction on gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, funerals involving family members only (without restrictions on the number) and teleworking to be continued until June 1. The end of restrictions on ‘religious gatherings’ and resumption of the Premier Football League (without public) are scheduled for the final weekend of May.

The official beach season will start on June 6 although the country is set for a spring heatwave at the end of May. A ‘traffic-light system’ is being rolled out as a way of avoiding ‘militarised order’ on the more popular beaches Costa da Caparica, Cascais, Oeiras, Carcavelos and in the Algarve . The idea is that beachgoers adhere to the traffic lights or lose access to the beach altogether.

Sunshades (for max five persons and to be rented for half a day) have to be placed three metres from each other, the general 1.5 meter distance rule has to be respected at all times and masks are mandatory when entering beach restaurants and bars. Moreover, a new mobile phone app will carry information on supervised beaches, allowing beachgoers to plan ahead.


Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Sapo)