Last updated in November 2014
Political relations between Germany and Portugal are sound and broadly based. Germany was instrumental in helping build democratic structures in Portugal after the 1974 Carnation Revolution and supported Portugal’s 1986 accession to the European Community, now the European Union.
Thanks to close coordination prior to and during the two countries’ successive EU presidencies in 2007, political relations between Germany and Portugal have gained in intensity. The Treaty of Lisbon, prepared under the German Presidency, was signed under the Portuguese Presidency.
There is broad consensus between the two countries on questions of European and international policy. Even on difficult issues like resolving the crisis in the Eurozone, cooperation between the two governments is close and trustful.
In November 2012, Federal Chancellor Merkel attended a bilateral economic conference in Lisbon along with her Portuguese counterpart Passos Coelho and also met with him and the Portuguese President for separate talks. On 24 January 2013, Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and his then Portuguese opposite number Portas jointly opened the first meeting of the German-Portuguese Forum in Lisbon. Portuguese Prime Minister Passos Coelho most recently visited Berlin on 3 July 2013 to attend the European summit on youth unemployment. From 16 to 19 September 2012, the German Bundestag’s Budget Committee visited Portugal, and from 20 to 23 October 2014 the Bundestag’s Committee on Labour and Social Affairs was also there. Federal President Gauck paid an official visit to Portugal from 23 to 25 June 2014, his talks there focusing on vocational training and economic exchange. He also attended an economic conference to mark the 60th anniversary of the German-Portuguese Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
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).