Portugal: EU commissioner sees ‘stronger’ progress in latest GDP figures

Page created: Thursday, 17 November 2016 8:49 GMT

Economic Growth  Q3 2016

Brussels, Nov. 16 (Lusa) – The European Union’s commissioner for economic affairs, Pierre Moscovici, declined on Wednesday to comment on public criticism of Portugal by Germany’s finance minister, noting that political factors may have been involved, but said that, based on the hard economic data available, the country is now making “stronger” progress.


In an interview with several correspondents in Brussels shortly after presenting the European Commission’s opinion on euro-zone members’ budget plans, Moscovici was asked by Lusa about the case of Portugal and recent comments by Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble that “Portugal was on the right road until the new government came in” – a reference to the minority Socialist government that took office in November, after October’s general election saw the right-of-centre governing coalition lose its majority in parliament.


Moscovici said that he did not want to enter into political debates, but said that “the Portuguese economy is on the right road … it is resilient and making progress”. He noted that Schäuble is a conservative and that Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, is a Socialist.


“I myself am a Social Democrat, but I am not here as a politician, but as a commissioner,” Moscovici said. “By that I mean that there is also some politics in [people’s] minds [but] not in mine.


“And what I can say is that the results today show that, independent of the government that is in office, the results are good, and probably better today than yesterday,” he said. “Certainly what’s being done today isn’t damaging Portuguese growth.”


Official national figures released on Tuesday showed Portugal’s economy expanding 0.8% in the third quarter, for year-on-year growth of 1.6%.


During a conference in Bucharest in late October, Schäuble said that Portugal was doing “very successfully until the new government” led by Costa took office. The comments prompted Portugal’s parliament on 3 November to approve resolutions repudiating them that were tabled by all parties represented in parliament except one – including the two that formed part of the governing coalition until October.


Moscovici stressed that the commission was “positively surprised” by Tuesday’s growth figures. Commissioners do, he added, have a notion of “how tough” the crisis the country suffered in recent years, and which prompted hundreds of thousands of predominately younger citizens to emigrate in search of work.


The commission on Wednesday approved the government’s draft state budget for 2017, despite identifying risks that it might not meet its deficit targets. It decided not propose that any EU funds to Portugal be suspended, having concluded that the “effective action” taken by the Portuguese authorities meant excess deficit proceedings should be suspended.