Last updated in December 2015
Political relations between Germany and Portugal are trustful and characterised by frequent mutual visits and broad agreement on issues relating to foreign and security policy. Germany was instrumental in helping build democratic structures in Portugal after the 1974 Carnation Revolution (overthrow of the Salazar regime) and supported Portugal’s 1986 accession to the European Community, now the European Union (EU).
Close policy coordination between the two countries prior to and during their successive EU presidencies in 2007 has further cemented political relations. The Treaty of Lisbon Amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community and was signed in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 under the Portuguese Presidency, after being prepared under Germany’s Presidency among others.
Even on difficult issues like resolving the crisis in the Eurozone – Germany and Portugal were among the founding members of the Eurozone in 1999/2000 (Euro-11) – cooperation between the two countries’ governments is close and trustful. A German-Portuguese Forum, which has met annually since 2013 alternately in Berlin and Lisbon, brings together high-level representatives of the two countries’ political sectors, business and scientific communities and civil society and is making a valuable contribution to mutual understanding. The third German-Portuguese Forum was held in Lisbon in May 2015 and was opened by the two countries’ foreign ministers. The fourth German-Portuguese Forum is to be held in Germany in 2016.
Federal President Joachim Gauck paid an official visit to Portugal from 23 to 25 June 2014. Talks focused on the issues of vocational training and economic exchange, as reflected by the speech Gauck gave on 24 June 2014 at the gala celebration organised by the German-Portuguese Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Lisbon to mark its 60th anniversary. Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva paid an official visit to Berlin in March 2009. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Portugal most recently in November 2012 and Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa traveled to Berlin in February 2016.
Germany is Portugal’s second most important trading partner, after Spain, accounting for approximately 13 per cent of both Portuguese exports and imports. The balance of trade surplus Germany recorded in the past has declined significantly owing to a strong uptrend in Portugal’s exports.
German companies have had their own production facilities in Portugal for over a century and continue to rank first among investors in the country’s industrial sector where the number of highly skilled jobs being created is particularly high. Since many German companies are active in the export sector, they have been less hard hit by the economic crisis. Most of them have been able to maintain – or even increase – the number of their workers. German companies have been instrumental in bringing about Portugal’s recent export boom and balance of trade surplus. Portugal’s top ten exporters include three German firms. Germany still has a significant presence in the country, particularly in the automotive manufacturing sector. New areas of cooperation include medical technology, information technology and renewable energy.
Portugal is a popular tourist destination for Germans. The number of visitors from Germany grew by 10 per cent in 2012 and around 8 per cent growth in 2013.
There has traditionally been a lively cultural exchange between Portugal and Germany. This is evidenced by the two prestigious binational German Schools in Lisbon and Porto, which are attended by a total of approximately 1,700 mainly Portuguese students; the two Goethe Institute branches offering programmes tailored to the needs of young people in Portugal; and a host of university partnerships.
Growing German interest in Portugal as a place for doing research is reflected in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s establishment in 2009 of a subsidiary in Porto conducting research in key technologies.
A remaining challenge is increasing the relatively small number of students learning German at Portugal’s schools. By contrast, there is evidence of a marked increase in the demand for German instruction at Portuguese universities and the Goethe Institute, one factor here being the growing interest in working in Germany in the wake of the economic crisis in Portugal.
Classical and contemporary German music is held in high regard in Portugal. There is also a keen interest in contemporary German literature and philosophy, art, design, theatre, dance and cinema. Conversely, there is a market in Germany for contemporary Portuguese literature and interest in Portuguese productions (including films).