Portugal’s leaders divided over Juncker’s criticisms of the troika

Hours after EC president Jean-Claude Juncker declared the troika had “sinned against the dignity of the people” of Portugal and other bailout countries, the country’s leaders have shown themselves to be starkly divided.

Maintaining the strict “good pupil of the troika” persona for which he has become noted, Portugal’s prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho denied that “dignity” had ever been an issue. The same day, coalition partner and deputy PM Paulo Portas affirmed that the troika had always been “a humiliation for the nation”.

Speaking to reporters after a joint-party conference on investment, Portas said: “You have heard me say that a coalition with a syndicate of creditors was a humiliation for a nation with nine centuries of history.”

He added that he had many times “criticised the hypocrisy of the IMF”.

“One of the most humiliating days of my life was the day Portugal requested a bailout in despair, with its hands open,” he added.

But Passos Coelho refused to be drawn into the drama. Speaking in parliament he said simply that the dignity of Portugal had never been at issue, nor had that of the Portuguese people.

He had “had the opportunity of saying this directly to the President of the European Commission”, he affirmed.

“We would never have allowed the dignity of the Portuguese people to have been compromised, and it was not compromised.”

Reactions to his words may well reverberate up and down the country over the next few days.

Socialist leader António Costa said he was shocked to realise Jean-Claude Juncker was far more in touch with the situation in Portugal than the country’s own prime minister.

He added that the “social drama that has resulted from the increase in poverty and unemployment” has prompted a return “to a cycle of emigration not experienced since the end of the dictatorship”.

“I think all of us are ashamed to be presented as a model of success of a policy the results of which have been poverty, stagnation, unemployment and the increase of debt,” he stressed.

Elsewhere, opinion polls on the PSD’s chances of re-election are showing signs of falling.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]