“Unforgettable”, “contradictory”, “tasty” and “tragic”: there goes 2017

With 2017 with one foot already out the door, the country’s movers and shakers have been summing up the last 12 months.

According to parliamentary leader Ferro Rodrigues it has been “unforgettable”, for both the good reasons and the bad.

“Contradictory” was President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s first description (proffered on Tuesday), quickly polished up for the annual meeting of the Council of Portuguese Diaspora in Cascais today where he described 2017 as “a year of success” – the point where Portugal had reinforced its position in the world though not without “certain fragilities coming to the fore” (ahem, namely civil protection and forestry planning).

Considering this was the year where over 110 people died in raging wildfires, prime minister Costa’s adjective “tasty” for the last 12 months was taken wholly out of context.

With the drums of social media whipping up a hoolie he hastened to say that he had been referring to Portugal’s economic advances, not its horrors.

Only outgoing PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho used the horrors for his farewell speech in which he said he could not remember a year as tragic as 2017.

“This is really a year where we cannot have good memories”, he told his parliamentary group’s Christmas get-together.

Worse, he suggested, is the form in which the government is still failing the people ‘left behind’.

And ‘therein lies the rub’: there are indeed many stormclouds ahead as Portugal gathers up its skirts for the holidays. For all the ‘good economic news’, the return to investment grade ratings, the glory of Eurogroup leadership, the fact that the country has repaid much of its crippling IMF debt, exploding tourist numbers and resounding Socialist council ‘gains’ in September’s municipal elections, Portugal remains a country divided.

Says Lusa, 2017 has seen more strikes than last year (there are just three going on this week), and conflict within the ‘geringonça’ (gizmo) government is bristling.

Sporting his new Eurogroup crown, finance minister Mário Centeno faces dealing with “the imminent deepening of European integration”, likely to involve “reform of the economic and monetary union, banking union, a European Monetary Fund and even common security and defence policies”.

These are all issues over which the government’s allies (especially Bloco de Esquerda, PCP communists and the Greens) disagree wholeheartedly, while the looming New Year promises to see grass roots movements representing wildfire victims baying for justice, the environmental lobby damned if it will countenance capitulation to oil companies, and unions of all persuasions determined to fight their own particular corners.

If 2017 was unforgettable, 2018 promises to be unrelenting – and, Lusa reminds us, 12 months from now a new round of legislative elections will be ‘just around the corner’ …

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Photo: Tiago Petinga/ Lusa