Tag Archive for: EU

Portuguese fishing communities swallowed by giant Dutch family company

The North Atlantic waters are valuable for their cod, redfish, and halibut species. With fish prices increasing, the fish right is big business. National governments and the EU no longer control fishing rights but a few giant fish companies do, like the Dutch Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, one of Europe’s most powerful fishing conglomerates with at least 50 vessels sailing under 10 flags.

In 2015, the family company expanded its business in Portugal by acquiring fishing rights in lucrative international waters between Greenland and Canada, according to Follow the Money, an international platform for investigative journalism.

The rampant expansion of Parlevliet & Van Der Plas is possible thanks to the EU’s fisheries policy that allows for quotas to be transferred between companies and ships, whereby the access is privatized and goes to the highest bidder.

The Portuguese deal in 2015, however, was a special one. By buying three rusty cod trawlers from the Portuguese company Verdemar – that collected fishing boats from family-owned businesses in Aveiro, a coastal town some 250 km north of Lisbonthe company got wider access to the lucrative Norwegian and Atlantic international waters.

Their big ships engage in an intense hunt for overfished species in the North Atlantic, contributing to the decline of fish stock in the area. Dragging the nets near the ocean’s bottom not only needs more fossil fuel but also has broader environmental implications like bycatch and destruction of marine habitats. The enormous size of the company makes it nearly impossible for Portuguese fishermen to compete.

In most EU countries – including Portugal – fishing rights are linked to a ship, so once a company buys the vessel it obtains its fishing rights. Big companies like Parlevliet & Van Der Plas – whose revenue almost doubled from 800 million in 2016 to 1.5 billion euros in 2021 – are not so much interested in the vessel itself but more in the right to fish a particular species in a particular area. They need quota, and cod quota is precious.

Catching cod in large-scale fishing also has wide-reaching social consequences. In Portugal, bacalhau (cod) is the country’s national dish and each Portuguese citizen eats – on average – around 15 kg of cod per year, especially during the Christmas season. But owing to overfishing and rising ocean temperatures the fish has become increasingly scarce and expensive.

The cod industry in Portugal was already struggling at the end of the 1960s after cod stocks declined in Newfoundland and dictator Salazar’s protective fishing laws were changed. Even so, the country was able to negotiate cod quotas in the Northern Atlantic until 1986 when the country joined the EU and conceded control of fisheries to Brussels.
Today, only 4% of the cod is caught by Portuguese vessels. The rest is imported.

Boa semana               Enjoy the week          (pic Público/Sapo)

‘Economy should serve people, not the opposite’

According to Eurostat minimum wages in the EU member states range from 399 euros per month in Bulgaria to 2,387 euros per month in Luxembourg. As of this year, the minimum wage in Portugal is 760 euros per month. In the case of salaries, the country also remains at the tail end of average salaries in the EU, ranking 17th out of 22 member states.

Last year more than 55% of workers received wages of less than 1,000 euros per month, a percentage that rises to 65% in the case of young people under 30 years of age, according to data from the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security.

The INE (Instituto Nacional de Estatística) latest report from December shows that the total average monthly gross earnings per worker increased last year by 3,6% to 1,411 euros. Activities related to agriculture and fishing paid the lowest (an average of 933 euros/month), whereas jobs in electricity and gas paid substantially better (an average of 3,621 euros/month).

Although the average gross monthly salary rose, the rise hides a real drop of 4% if the effect of inflation (on average 7,6% in 2022) is taken into account, according to ECO (Economia Online). Only top managers and representatives of the legislative power had salary increases above inflation (by 9,6%). In highly qualified professions –doctors, teachers, and scientists – salaries only rose 1%.

Portuguese emigrants with higher qualifications – representing a quarter of all citizens who left the country in the last decade – are able to receive salaries three times more abroad, according to the study ‘Exodus of skills and academic mobility from Portugal to Europe’ from the Institute of Sociology of the University of Porto. ‘One of the reasons for emigrating is precisely the low salary level in our country’, points out João Teixeira Lopes, one of the authors.

This accounts not only for nurses but also for doctors. Medical specialists in Portugal are among the least paid in the EU and the country is located in the 6th lowest position, just above Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. In Germany and Belgium they would easily earn three times more and in the Netherlands and Ireland even four times more.

Property prices in Portugal are skyrocketing whereas household incomes are left behind. Nowadays a Portuguese citizen needs the equivalent of 11,4 years of salary to be able to buy a 100 square meter house.

According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the country appears above the middle of the table, ahead of countries such as the US (4.1 years), Norway (7.8 years), and the UK (11 years) but behind Switzerland (12.6 years), Luxembourg (15.8 years) and New Zealand (18.7 years).

The CNJP ( National Committee on Justice and Peace) warns that the salary of many Portuguese workers does not allow them to overcome poverty. ’Economy, business, and work should serve people, not the opposite.

Enjoy your week          aproveite a sua semana      (pic Ptnews/Sapo)

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.

Stay healthy        Fique saudavel            (pic Público/Sapo)

Five years after the peak of its economic crisis, Portugal’s future looks bright. There is more confidence, more consumption and there are more young people in college.
In December the country succeeded in paying off the last installment of the 78 billion euro loan to the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The accelerated repayment saves the country 1.2 billion in interest costs.

The resident population consists of 10,3 million people, that is 2% of the population in all 28 EU member states. One-fifth of the Portuguese (2 million) lives abroad.
As a result of a very low birth rate and a negative migratory balance, the number of Portuguese is decreasing, despite the fact, that in the last decade nearly half a million ‘new citizens – mainly from Brazil and Cape Verde – have been added.

Thanks to the increased life expectancy – 81 years on average – the population is not only shrinking but also aging. There are nowadays much fewer children under 15 years (14%) than elderly over 65 years (21%).

The country’s workforce is relatively low skilled. The majority (54%) has no secondary or higher education, much more than in the rest of the EU (16%).
Special in this respect is, that more women than men are in the possession of a doctor’s (PhD) degree (55%), therewith ranking 5th in Europe.

Unemployment has – since the crisis – been halved to 6,7% but compared to northern European countries the minimum wage is still low ( 676 euros per month ).

Furthermore, the percentage of temporary contracts (22%) is relatively high ( 14% in the EU).

Remarkable is the low number of women working at the police force (7,5%), with its second to last position – just before Italy – in Europe.

In digital terms, the country is also lagging behind. Two-thirds of the companies have a website (77% in the EU) and three-quarters of the households are in the possession of an internet connection ( 87% in EU). That might also be the reason, that by far the most popular girl’s name – Maria – hasn’t changed since ages.

Bom fim de semana                                                    Enjoy the weekend



“Zodra ik hoorde van die nieuwe wet in Portugal, zei ik tegen mijn vrouw: als de Brexit doorgaat, ga ik de Portugese nationaliteit aanvragen”, aldus een teleurgestelde joodse Engelsman in de Britse krant de Guardian. “Ik ben Europeaan, kosmopoliet en ik haat nationalisme.”
Inmiddels behoort hij tot de snel groeiende groep Britten, die sinds de beslissing van het Verenigd Koninkrijk op 23 juni 2016, om de Europese Unie te verlaten, zo’n aanvraag heeft gedaan.

In januari 2015 is in Portugal een wet van kracht geworden, die het mogelijk maakt voor Joden in het buitenland om de Portugese nationaliteit te verkrijgen. Zij moeten dan wel kunnen aantonen af te stammen van de Sefardische Joden – ‘Sefardim’ is het Hebreeuwse woord voor Spanje – die ruim 500 jaar geleden van het Iberisch schiereiland werden verdreven.

“Er zijn goede redenen om de Portugese nationaliteit aan te vragen” zegt Yoram Zara, die als advocaat de 3,5 miljoen afstammelingen van Sefardische Joden in de wereld vertegenwoordigt. “Ze zijn gewend onderdeel uit te maken van de Europese Unie met alle privileges en rechten van dien. Nu de toekomst onduidelijk is, geeft een Portugees-Europees paspoort zekerheid als je in de EU wilt wonen, werken en vrij wilt blijven reizen”.

Joden in 15e eeuw uit Portugal verdreven

Voorwaarde voor zijn huwelijk met de Spaanse prinses Isabel in 1496 was, dat de koning van Portugal alle joden uit zijn land zou verbannen. De joden werden voor de keus gesteld het land te verlaten of zich te bekeren tot het christendom.
Naar schatting 200.000 van hen zijn het Iberisch schiereiland ontvlucht. De meesten naar het Ottomaanse rijk – het huidige Turkije – en Noord Afrika en een kleinere groep naar Frankrijk, Engeland en de Lage Landen. Zij die bleven en zich bekeerden werden ‘nieuwe christenen’ genoemd.

Pogrom van Lissabon

Met Pasen, op 19 april 1506, heerste er in Lissabon honger door droogte en de pest. Op het Dominicanenplein een menigte met fakkels, veel zwarte rook en de geur van verbrand vlees.

In drie dagen werden duizenden ‘nieuwe christenen’ – die voor het onheil in de stad verantwoordelijk waren gehouden – op brandstapels om het leven gebracht. Het monument tegenover de Dominicanenkerk in het centrum van de stad herinnert aan de tragedie.

Geniet van het weekend                       Tenha um ótimo fim de semana