“Accumulated exhaustion”: PM takes medical advice in form of three days off

Dia de Portugal celebrations going ahead without António Costa

Portugal’s PM António Costa is missing from the whirlwind calendar of ‘Portugal Day’ celebrations today due to what has been described as “accumulated exhaustion”.

He is ‘ill’, says President Marcelo – who is carrying on with the various fixtures moving from the city of Braga to London, UK – “but it is not Covid”. Nor is it a serious illness, says the president. It is just “an illness” which would make ‘making an effort foolish’.

Mr Costa himself has commemorated the day with a tweet, saying he salutes “all the Portuguese who throughout the world commemorate our language, our culture, our history and everything that constructs the identity of a people. We celebrate Portugal and continue to work for a better country”.

Today is, in President Marcelo’s own words, “a very intense day” with “a very heavy programme” in the evening, and indeed tomorrow.

“It makes sense for the prime minister to stay and rest and recover”, said the 73-year-old head of State who was in Braga for the start of celebrations, and is now on his way to England to meet with members of the Portuguese diaspora.

Reports explain that 60-year-old Mr Costa was ‘running a fever’ when he returned from a visit with French president Emmanuel Macron, and it was at this point that his doctor said he needed “between two and three days to recover”.

June 10 is not just ‘Portugal Day’ – a day that in the times of the dictatorship was known as ‘Dia de raça’, the day of the (Portuguese) race – it is the moment the country commemorates the poetry of Luís Camões and the contribution made by ‘the Portuguese communities’.

As such, President Marcelo put a new spin on celebrations when he took office in 2016, declaring June 10 should always be commemorated in different locations: one within Portugal, and another with a Portuguese community somewhere else in the world.

The idea was that he would do this in the company of the prime minister – and since 2016 this is exactly what has happened.

Marcelo’s first year in office, saw him and António Costa commemorating the day between Lisbon and Paris; 2017 saw the day divided between Porto and Brazil; 2018 between the Azores and the United States; 2019 between Portalegre and Cape Verde and then the pandemic threw a spanner in the works on foreign travel and celebrations, as much as they could be, were confined to Portugal.

This year is the first in which the presidential/prime ministerial double-act has been absent.

Marcelo will be meeting representatives of the Portuguese communities for a gala dinner in London this evening, going on to visit the city’s Anglo-Portuguese school on Saturday morning, then the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital, concluding with a dinner at Imperial College, London, in the evening.

On Sunday at midday he will be flying out of London for a trip to Andorra.

The plan to visit London this year comes very much in the context of England no longer being a member of the EU, but having a considerable number of Portuguese as residents.

There are ““very different Portuguese communities” in England, Marcelo acknowledges: One is the ‘older, quite numerous’ one; the other is made up of “very much younger” Portuguese who are either students, lecturers, investigators, scientists or other professionals, working out of leading British institutions – some of which the president will be visiting in the next 24-hours.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this Portugal Day is that Portugal’s president has the stamina for so much national promotion/ attention. He is a phenomenon – whichever way you look at it – and has even been the subject of a rather irreverent Instagram post by American rapper Snoopdogg recently, showing just how many people he manages to kiss – and how quickly – on official engagements.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com