Country Information: Portugal


  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Area: ca. 92,200 km²
  • Population: 10,620,000 inhabitants 
  • Population Density: 115.13 residents per km²
  • Religion: 85-95 % Catholic
  • Language: Portugese
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary Republic
  • Climate: mild climate
  • Unemployment: ca. 13.5 % (2015)


Size and Geography

Portugal is located in the south-west of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula ans also includes the Archipelago of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. In the north and east, Portugal boarders Spain, both countries sharing a frontier of 1,215 kilometers. In the south nd west, the Atlantic Ocean forms the natural border. The total coast length is 1,793 kilometers.

Population

Portugal has a total population of 10.6 million. The largest population density here is in the urban areas around the capital, Lisbon, and the economic city of Porto. The coastal areas and interior are less populated.

Between 85-95% of the Portuguese population profess to the Roman Catholic faith. In Portugal there is also religious freedom and official equality between religions. However, many important cultural institutions, such as the Catholic University of Portugal and private schools, are run by the Roman Catholic Church.

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. Brazil, Mozambique and Angola are some other countries where Portuguese is spoken. Due to the proximity to Spain, one might think that it is an offshoot of Spanish. This is by no means the case! Portuguese is an independent language and has more similarities to Italian than Spanish. English is spoken only by about 20% of the Portuguese, therefore only places with a large international visitors are bilingual.

Climate

Portugal stretches over several climatic zones. The north and center of Portugal belong to the temperate climate, which is significantly influenced by the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. The further you go into the interior, the influence decreases and the weather is more unstable. In the south of Portugal, in the Algarve, you’ll find a Mediterranean climate. This makes the south the main destination for sunbathing and swimming. Peniche is located north of Lisbon and thus in the temperate zone and, due to the big waves, is a hotspot for surfers.

History

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Portugal’s long stretch of coast has always been an important and popular destination for sailors around the world and they all brought with them a piece of their culture. The influences of the Greeks, Romans, Moors and many more can still be felt today. Above all due to this favorable situation, the history of Portugal is characterized by territorial wars and struggles for political power.

  • 2000 BC: Immigration of the Iberians
  • 600 BC: Immigration of the celts (by mixing with the Iberians, the tribe of the Celtiberians was formed)
  • 450 BC: Conquest by Cathage
  • 1143: Portugal becomes independent
  • 1256: Lisbon becomes the capital of Portugal
  • 1498: Vasco da Gama discovers he sea route to India and concludes a trade agreement with the ruler of Calicut
  • 1500: Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered and conquered Brazil
  • 1536: The church introduces the Inquisition
  • 1557: Portuguese fleet reaches China, Macau becomes trading base, Portugal is leading sea and trading power with colonies in South America, Africa, Arabia, India and China
  • 1580: The house Avis dies, Portugal falls to the Spanish line Habsburg and becomes Spanish province with loss of parts of its colonies
  • 1640: The duke of Braganza successfully leads an aristocratic uprising against the Spanish rule and proclaims himself to King John IV
  • 1668: Peace of Lisbon, Spain accept Portugal's independence
  • 1949: Portugal becomes a founding member of the NATO
  • 1955: Portugal joins the United Nations
  • 1986: Portugal joins the European Community
  • 2002: Portugal introduces the euro

 

Politics

The Portuguese government has been the parliamentary republic since the 1970s. The president is elected directly by the people every 5 years. He appoints the government, which consists of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. Added to this is the Parliament, which is also determined by the people every four years. The judiciary is the supervisory body.

Portugal was a founding member of NATO and has been a member of the UN since 1955. Since 1986 Portugal has been a member of the EU. Since then, Portugal has been one of the poorest early Member States of the EU. The recession caused by the Eurozone crisis has greatly impacted the economy. The most important economic factors are wine production and tourism.