Portugal Has an Opaque Foreign Policy

Quo vadis, Portugal? You are becoming very popular: you attract tourists, you repeal investors (due to anti-business socialist policies); you have a great national soccer team, lots of sun, good food; and you are represented at the UN by the new Gen Sec António Guterres. But you are also very opaque, in political terms. So, what's your foreign policy all about? What do you want and where do you see yourself in 30 years?

The Portuguese Foreign Policy

The Portuguese foreign policy (FP) has historically focused on the preservation of its independence and the maintenance of the 630 year old Anglo-Portuguese Alliance. In contemporary terms, its FP objectives have been to keep the political stability of the Iberian Peninsula, and the affirmation of Portuguese interests in Europe, in Africa and in Brazil.

When it comes to national interests in Europe, the perception is that when Portugal voices its support for the integrity of the European Union, it only does so because it wants to secure European funding and other benefits. Regarding national interests in Africa, the country seems to solely monitor the levels of Portuguese emigration to the former colonies, the number of businesses going to operate there, and giving assistance to Expats through its diplomatic missions (though the quality of assistance is debatable). With respect to national interests in Brazil, Portuguese politicians offer their lobbying services to Brazilian businessmen (who maintain a very promiscuous relationship with politicians, resulting in high profile corruption cases) – in other words, Portugal is Brazil's instrument to penetrate Europe, in exchange for commissions.

There are two blocs that Portugal co-founded: CPLP (the community of countries whose official language is Portuguese) and PALOP (African countries whose official language is Portuguese). Yet, Portugal is not the leading figure in neither of them; having the former metropolis been reduced to bowing down to Brazil and Angola, while ignoring Mozambique (an equally rich country that was handed on a silver late to Pakistani and Lebanese thugs). Cape Verde, a truly African success story, is not enthusiastically praised by Portugal – who had every reason to be proud of this nation (created from scratch by the Portuguese).

What does Portugal Want?

It is a good question. People often ask me what exactly Portugal wants or seeks through its foreign policy, because no one has any clue. It seems like the Portuguese political class just wants to surf the international political wave in search of fun and funds; and to ride the waves just to avoid drowning.

It is easier to say what Portugal doesn't seem to want:

  • It does not want to influence, it wants to be influenced. And by being influenced we are to understand being bought out: there is some sort of promiscuity between the so-called national 'elites' and certain countries that result in the injection of millions of euros in the country that somehow do not have a greater impact in its Macroeconomics. 
  • It does not want to make alliances with the proper entities that can surely help the country succeed in the international arena (we are talking about, for instance, technological and scientific cooperation; intelligence and security cooperation; agricultural cooperation and medical tourism). 
  • It doesn't want to lead. Having a failed PM as the head of the United Nations is not leading; having a former PM (and former President of the EU Commission) working at Goldman Sachs is not leading; having the best soccer player in the world, is not leading; having the best soccer national team is not leading; having an ethnically mixed Prime Minister (who practically usurped power) is not leading. Portugal does not lead because it is stuck in the 1970's (the Revolution and Decolonisation decade); Portugal is not a leader because deep down it knows what mistakes have been made and its leaders haven't even bothered to apologise for them. Portugal cannot lead as long as the old political class remains in place. 

Where Will Portugal Be in 30 Years?

41 years ago, it was expedient to force Portugal to relinquish its colonies in a sloppy and irresponsible way to decrease its economic power and international standing. In 2016, it remains convenient to have the country divided, marred by corruption, tainted by socialist/communist doctrine (i.e. ideology above the people's welfare), weakened by a feeble economy, and lulled...

Some countrymen will say I am being unfair, others will accuse me of being ignorant, but none of those accusations obliterate the withstanding truth: Portugal's Foreign Policy is dense, it is everything but transparent and if the country continues that way, in 30 years - after the demise of the European Union, the rise and development of African nations, and the Brazilian rebirth - Portugal will be relegated to obscurity.

Small countries are the future. So, Portugal has a very serious decision to make: is it on board or does it want to remain in the same old path leading to nowhere? Remember:

“He who hallowed you, made you Portuguese.
Of the sea and us, in you he gave us a sign.
The Sea was accomplished, and the Empire was undone.
Lord, Portugal is yet to be accomplished!” 
(Fernando Pessoa in The Message)

So let it be written, so let it be done...

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Portugal is known for football and that's pretty much about it! It's irrelevant in terms of foreign policy and I read it's even a burden to the Eurocrats in Brussels, so why should we care about it?

  2. Portugal's goals are out of date, yeah? If her goal is to defend her independence how come it accepted to join the EU, why does she stay in it? Maybe Portugal suffers from transparency issues, cause I can't find material on it. Do we have to rely on Wikipedia to learn stuff about your country, Max?

    1. Hi Jake :D!

      lol No, you should not have to rely on Wikipedia to know things about my country; but unfortunately transparency is not Portugal's forte, though they are trying to make themselves more accessible. Give them time. Cheers for your comment.

  3. Don't know a lot about Portugal. The UN voted for Mr Guterres cause they know him, they all go to same parties, yes? But knowing politicians now Portuguese politicians will want to ride on Mr Guterres' back, you know to take advantage!

  4. Portugal doesn't have a foreign policy! Unless her foreign policy is Angola! Is it? As far as I'm concerned, Portugal doesn't have to lead anything cause she doesn't know how to, she forgot!! Fernando Pessoa like many of us had too much hope in little Portugal, yes he did!


Post a Comment

Dissecting Society welcomes all sorts of comments, as we are strong advocates of freedom of speech; however, we reserve the right to delete Troll Activity; libellous and offensive comments (e.g. racist and anti-Semitic) plus those with excessive foul language. This blog does not view vulgarity as being protected by the right to free speech. Cheers