PM António Costa

“Peace, solidarity and confidence”: PM’s Christmas message

Party hails “humanist” touch as Opposition generally grumbles

Portugal’s governing Socialist Party (PS) has hailed what Lusa calls the “humanism” of yesterday’s Christmas message from the prime minister – “rejecting opposition suggestions that it was “overly optimistic” and lacking in substance”.

António Costa said in a video message released for Christmas Day that there were reasons for people in Portugal to have confidence, in spite of ‘the uncertain global backdrop’, stressing that the path of deficit and debt reduction that the country is following means that it is “sheltered from the turbulence of the past.”

This was the 8th traditional Christmas message that Mr Costa has delivered since becoming prime minister in 2015.

He described the three words that best express what one wishes for at this time of year: peace, solidarity and confidence – and in his view there are reasons for the Portuguese people to have confidence.

“Confidence is what our country guarantees us today, when so much uncertainty surrounds us on the international scene,” he said. “Confidence in the future, because of what we are doing in the present.”

According to the PM, the solidarity with which the Portuguese have managed “together, and side-by-side, to face the challenges posed by demanding times” brings “confidence in the mobilisation of all around strategic challenges: reducing inequalities, responding to the climate emergency, ensuring the digital transition and ‘overcoming the demographic challenge’ (meaning trying to keep the population going in face of very low birthrates and a large number of elderly citizens).

“The sustained path of deficit and debt reduction places us in a shelter from turbulences of the past,” he went on. “The investment we have made in skills, science, innovation, and the energy and climate transition ensures that we are in the front platoon to meet future challenges.”

In this context, he addressed the younger generation, saying they can trust that in Portugal: “they will have the freedom to follow their dreams and the opportunities to build their futures”, he said.

In the initial part of his message, Costa referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Peace is what we all long for since the horror of war returned to Europe (…) We have accompanied the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people and we have fought side-by-side with Ukraine for peace and in defence of international law.”

He also expressed “a special word of affection for the Ukrainian community living in Portugal.

“To those who for several years have been making a dedicated contribution to our development and to those who have come in recent months in search of security (…) To all, I wish that in Portugal they find the greatest possible comfort in this moment of anguish and longing.”

Faced with the spectre war in Europe “solidarity is, more than ever” the force that should guide citizens.

“This year, inflation has reached levels that we have not experienced for three decades; interest rates have risen to values that the youngest (citizens) did not know (before); and the energy bill has grown, both for families and businesses (…) We have faced these difficulties together.”

At this point, Costa stressed that “families, companies, social sector institutions, municipalities and the state” are “fighting, side-by-side, not to leave anyone behind, to protect employment, to continue recovering from the wounds of the pandemic, in the economy, in learning, in health, both physical and mental.

“It is only with this sense of community, of sharing, of solidarity that we have been able to continue to catch up with the most developed economies in Europe, with business investment, exports and employment growing,” he said. “Peace, solidarity and trust are the three messages that I want to share this Christmas 2022 with all those who live and work in Portugal and with the Portuguese who follow us from every part of our diaspora.”

In his message, as he has done in previous years, the prime minister also sent “a word of sincere gratitude to the professionals, civilian and military, who, during this season, ensure the functioning of essential services.

“And a special word of affection and comfort to all those who, due to the vicissitudes of life, find themselves alone at this time of year,” he added.

 In a reaction to the prime minister’s Christmas message from the PS headquarters in Porto, the party’s deputy secretary-general, João Torres, said that Costa’s speech had “a deep sense of humanism, of social justice, but also of determination.”

But the Opposition wasn’t in quite such a charitable mood.

The main opposition party in parliament, centre-right PSD, accused the prime minister very quickly of “lacking a transformative political project”.

Hugo Soares, PSD secretary-general, said that “despite appearing to be a confident prime minister”, Mr Costa “does not represent a political project capable of transforming Portugal” as the country needs.

Then the other parties came chundering over the horizon, all basically saying the same thing: “it’s hard for Portuguese people to recognise the country this prime minister is describing”.

From PSD to PCP communists, there was no applause; not a millimetre given in terms of Christmas spirit.

Iniciativa Liberal denounced the whole discourse as a form of “self-praise” which it found particularly galling when the PM referred to ‘recovering the economy’.

The economy is not recovered, said IL leader João Cotrim de Figueiredo, it is “growing less than countries with which it can compare” and “being gradually overtaken” by other European countries.

There is no party representing foreigners in Portugal, but if there was it might have been more charitable, as this is a country to which hundreds of foreigners flock every month of every year. For all its failings, Portugal is still considered to be a very good country to live in.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com