A Free Market and Stable Economy
Portugal was admitted to the European Economic Community (now European
Union) on Jan. 1, 1986, and on Feb. 16, Mario Soares became the country's
first civilian president in 60 years. Aníbal Cavaço Silva,
an advocate of free-market economics and the Social Democratic candidate,
had been elected as prime minister in 1985, signaling a more politically
stable era. General elections in Oct. 1995 went to the Socialist Party,
which fell just short of an absolute majority in the assembly. Lisbon
mayor Jorge Sampaio, a Socialist, won the race for president in Jan. 1996.
Portugal's Socialist government continued to take advantage of rosy
economic conditions in 1997, and in 1999, Portugal became a founding
member of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Portugal gave up its last colony,
, on Dec. 20, 1999,
turning the small Asian seaport over to China.
In 2002, center-right Social Democrat leader José Manuel
Durão Barroso became prime minister. In the summer of 2003,
more than a thousand people died during an unprecedented heat wave that caused fires to ravage Portugal's
forests. Prime Minister Barroso resigned in July 2004 to become president
of the European Commission. Pedro Santana Lopes, the new leader of the
Social Democrats, succeeded him as prime minister. In Feb. 2005 elections,
the Socialist Party won 45% of the vote, and José Sócrates
became prime minister.