(EuroNews) Portugal populist exception?

(EuroNews)

Portugal populist exception?

Portugal is often praised as the good pupil of the eurozone in contrast to Italy, which plans to up its spending, going against eurozone rules. Lisbon is going even further setting an ambitious target of a budget deficit of 0% of GDP by 2020.

So far Portuguese “immunity” to populism has been strong, compared to the trends in central and eastern European member states.

But mainstream political parties should be vigilant says João Tiago Gaspar, a political scientist, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos.

“There is no party represented in Parliament that has such a speech, but we are not exempt from this possibility, especially since we know that in Portugal people are very disconnected from politics. They support democracy as an ideal regime, but they do not rely on the parties or, necessarily, on the rulers.Those doses of mistrust may one day be channeled by someone who has sufficient media status to do so,” he notes.

While pursuing tight financial discipline, the center-left government has reversed many unpopular austerity measures implemented, in 2011-2014, by the EU troika, with the support from two far-left parties.

Besides the economic crisis, migration flows have been another main challenge for the EU project.

But Portugal holds the 6th position in terms of refugees hosted from the EU relocation program.

Some refugees also come on their own initiative, as the Palestinian Hindi Mesleh, that traded Brussels for Lisbon.

“I am really happy for staying here. Yes, salaries are not the same as in the rest of Europe, you need to give up on something to get something else. I mean, it’s safe, the weather is great, people are so welcoming,” Mesleh expains.

The fact that 2.3 million Portuguese are themselves migrants and that it has a very negative demographic trend may help explain Portugal’s openness.

The Portuguese government defends European solidarity on welcoming refugees.

“I am confident that we will be able to reverse these more xenophobic tendencies,” says Rosa Monteiro, secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality. “If, on the one hand, we are witnessing the emergence of a certain wave of resistance, of not recognizing the basic values and human rights, the elements that underpin the European construction; the European project, on the other Portugal is not one of these countries”

The biggest political test for the EU project and values will come next year, when voters head to the polls in the European parliament elections.