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EU rotating presidency: Portugal - the past, present, and the relationship with Hungary

In the first six months of 2021, Portugal holds the EU’s rotating presidency.  There are different views on what we can expect, especially in terms of the issues most relevant for Hungary, such as migration and EU economic policies. Thus, it is worth taking a closer look at Portugal’s economic, social and political landscapes, and how they relate to the same landscapes in Hungary.

General introduction - Portugal and Hungary compared

By doing so, we discover quite a few similarities with Hungary, not only in terms of the Iberian country’s history, but also with regard to geographical and social development. 

Territory and population size are quite obviously comparable.  Portugal covers an area of ​​92,000 square kilometers, including the Azores and Madeira, and its estimated population in 2021 is 10,179,000 people – very similar figures to those of Hungary.

Portugal, similarly is now a rather small EU country with a vulnerable economy. Both are lacking the power and weight of the central founding members such as Germany or France.

Another similarity between the two countries is a relatively short period of full-blown democratic rule.  As Portugal was under dictatorial rule from 1933 to 1974, overthrown by a bloodless left-wing military coup, its democratic traditions in the classical liberal sense do not go back a long way. The first free elections were only held in 1976.

By contrast, Portugal is a founding member of NATO, and it joined the European Economic Community, the precursor of the EU in 1986, while Hungary was still under the rule of communism at the time, therefore its accession could happen only in 2004.

Speaking of the differences between the political and social landscapes of the two countries, Hungary has no colonizing history, while Portugal used to be a powerful maritime monarchy and a colonizing nation, as well as the chief participant of the Atlantic slave trade. These characteristics greatly determine the country’s current realities.


Population and society

Although  a Catholic country, with 81% of the Portuguese identifying as Catholic in the most recent census, in last year’s referendum, the majority voted in favour of euthanasia.  Also, since 2007, abortion has also been legal. Thus we can hardly say that Portuguese society is a conservative one. Since 2010, same-sex marriage is constitutionally recognized, making Portugal the eighth country in the world to recognize gay marriage.  

Hungary, on the other hand, has fewer people officially identifying as Christian? Religious, and yet, on the whole, is a more conservative country. 

As decades of research have shown, the majority of young people in Hungary have always planned to have a family, with many expressing the wish to have three children, but because of the lack of government and social support in the past, in most cases only the first or the second desired child was born. The response of the Fidesz government’s consistently conservative family-friendly and pro-life policies has been undeniably positive.   

Hungarian pro-family policies such as the subsidized loans for purchasing a first home and substantial tax cuts for families with children have in fact contributed to an unprecedented growth in the number of marriages in 2019, surpassing the 2018 figures by 28%, and reaching a peak since 1991.

In terms of the ethnic composition of its populace, Portugal, is predominantly white, with a Black African population immigrated from the colonies only tallying to one hundred thousand.

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