Despite the news that renegotiation of Portugal’s debt would be on the table at the Council of State called by President Cavaco Silva on Thursday, July 3, very little seems to have come out of the meeting other than a large group of extremely tired politicians.
The six-hour marathon pictured in Público with former presidential candidate Manuel Alegre yawning widely at the end of a long table of dour-faced policymakers was described by Left Bloc politician João Semedo as “another occasion where the President of the Republic oxygenates his government and blows air into the bankrupt policies that are condemning the country to failure”.
Semedo, however, was not sitting in on the meeting which resulted in a communiqué just after midnight.
As Público pointed out, the agenda was almost exactly the same as the Council of State called last year – and was basically “reduced to a four-point statement which ended in yet another appeal for understanding between the political forces”.
The absence of two “key figures” was announced at the beginning of the meeting: former Socialist president Mário Soares had gone to the Algarve for the sea air on the advice of his doctors, and Alberto João Jardim, the flamboyant PSD president of Madeira had decided to stay home because of the “chaos” of TAP flights in and out of the island.
As to the meeting’s main theme – discussion of structural funds – the statement out of Belém stressed the need for Portugal to have an active voice in the EU, and defended the “very careful application” of structural funds.
No reference was made to the matter Socialist leader António José Seguro had vowed he would be taking up: that of the renegotiation of Portugal’s debt (see other story on this page) – and indeed all the council members are reported to have left Belém “without making any kind of declaration”.
Council of State communiqué
In a short statement, council secretary Abílio Morgado revealed that the “Council of State analysed the current social, economic and political situation in Portugal faced with the results of the adjustment programme concluded on May 17”. It debated the conditions necessary for the country in this new phase of national life, which are as follows:
* to overcome the challenge of economic growth and sustainable employment
* to preserve cohesion and social justice
* to ensure the sustainability of the public treasury and the balance of external accounts
* to invert the current demographic tendency (in other words, try and encourage people to have babies as Portugal’s birthrate plummets).
“Faced with the seriousness of demands that the country faces, the Council of State calls on all the political and social forces … to preserve among themselves constructive points of dialogue and undertake their best efforts to obtain understanding as to national permanent objectives, a decisive factor in the hope and trust of the Portuguese people.”
Morgado concluded that it was “recognised by the councillors of state” that the challenges implied “an active voice of Portugal in the EU when it comes to growth, employment and cohesion” and “strictly criterious use” of structural funds being allocated for 2014-2020.
Council of State members
These are the President of Parliament (Assunção Esteves), the Prime Minister (Passos Coelho), the President of the Constitutional Court (Joaquim José Coelho de Sousa Ribeiro), the Ombudsman (José Francisco de Faria Costa) , the presidents of the regional governments (Alberto João Jardim, Vasco Ilídio Alves Cordeiro), former Presidents of the Republic (Ramalho Eanes, Mário Soares, Jorge Sampaio), five elected citizens: Socialist leader António José Seguro, Socialist writer and politician Manuel Alegre, former prime minister, journalist and head of SIC TV Francisco Pinto Balsemão, PSD politician and lawyer Luís Marques Mendes and PSD political figure Luís Filipe Menezes, and five people nominated by the President of the Republic: neurosurgeon João Lobo Antunes, TV commentator and former head of the PSD Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, former health minister Leonor Beleza, economist Vítor Bento and former CDS-PP finance minister António Bagão Félix.
Photo: Presidência da República Portuguesa