|General background: Following its heyday as
a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal
lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction
of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the
Napoleonic Wars, and the independence in 1822 of Brazil
as a colony. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy;
for most of the next six decades repressive governments
ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military coup
installed broad democratic reforms. The following year
Portugal granted independence to all of its African
colonies. Portugal entered the EC (now the EU) in 1985.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than
Climate: Maritime temperate;
cool and rainy in north, warmer and drier in south.
Terrain: Mountainous north of the Tagus
River, rolling plains in south.
Population: 10,084,245 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Homogeneous Mediterranean stock;
citizens of black African descent who immigrated to
mainland during decolonisation number less than 100,000;
since 1990 East Europeans have entered Portugal.
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, Protestant
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: Civil law system; the Constitutional
Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation;
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: Portugal has become a diversified
and increasingly service-based economy since joining
the European Community in 1986. Over the past decade,
successive governments have privatized many state-controlled
firms and liberalized key areas of the economy, including
the financial and telecommunications sectors. The
country qualified for the European Monetary Union
(EMU) in 1998 and began circulating its new currency,
the euro, on 1 January 2002 along with 11 other EU
member economies. Economic growth has been above the
EU average for much of the past decade, but GDP per
capita stands at just 75% of that of the leading EU
economies. The government has failed to reign in a
widening deficit and to advance structural reforms
needed to boost Portugal's economic competitiveness.
A poor educational system, in particular, has been
an obstacle to greater productivity and growth. Portugal
has been increasingly overshadowed by lower-cost producers
in Central Europe and Asia as a target for foreign
Communication/Telephone system: Undergoing
rapid development in recent years.
Places of interest: