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Close ties in tough timesPortuguese diplomat pushes business, tourism with Slovakia
26 Aug 2013 Beata Balogová Foreigners in Slovakia
STUDENT exchanges through the EU-sponsored Erasmus programme are putting Slovakia on the map of young Portuguese, says Ana Maria Coelho Ribeiro da Silva, the head of the diplomatic mission of Portugal to Slovakia. Scores of young Portuguese professionals have moved to Slovakia since the beginning of the year and stronger business ties may aid in Europe’s economic recovery. Speaking in an interview with The Slovak Spectator, the Portuguese diplomat noted that, among other things, natives of her country have always sought to look for new horizons.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Portugal generated more than 70 percent of its electricity consumption in the first quarter of this year from renewable energy. How has your country achieved such a high share?
The present Portuguese feed-in law also describes a procedure that aims at minimising local opposition to new wind projects. Under this procedure, municipalities in which a wind farm is located will automatically benefit from the remuneration the operator of the wind project receives. Altogether, the municipality receives a share of 2.5 percent of the monthly remuneration paid to the wind project operator.
Nevertheless, and according to recent data, Portugal added only, from January to April, 1.1 MW of solar PV in the first four months of 2013. We are still on track for EU renewables targets, but mainly thanks to wind and hydro. The record presence, at 70 percent, of renewable energies in Portugal’s energy mix was primarily due to good weather conditions in the first quarter of 2013. Hydroelectric generation between January and March increased 312 percent compared to last year, supplying 37 percent of consumption, while wind energy generation increased 60 percent in the same period and supplied 27 percent of consumption.
TSS: Portugal received a €78 billion bailout on the condition that it brings its deficit closer to the EU target of 3 percent of GDP through budget cuts. What is the current state of adopting these measures and how has society responded to them?
Although the implementation of the government plan, with all the measures imposed by Brussels and the IMF, has a very tough impact on the Portuguese people – with frozen or lower salaries, lower pensions, higher retirement age, more working hours, layoffs, higher taxes – the population understands these measures are needed. There was a natural fall in domestic consumption, with people buying almost nothing but essentials. Now we see, although yet modest, signs of recovery in employment. For the full recovery we still need to see a boost in internal demand, with investment from businesses and family consumption.
TSS: Many European countries struggle with high unemployment rates among young people. According to the Financial Times, an increasing number of young educated university graduates with language skills are leaving Portugal. What are Portugal’s options to address the lack of jobs for the young?
Unfortunately the latest data also showed that in the first six months of the year the Portuguese labour market lost 61,600 young educated university graduates. Although there are not official numbers about the qualifications of those who leave the country, we know that an important part of this number is composed by young educated university graduates. For instance, I can tell you that since January this year 23 new Portuguese arrived to Slovakia to work. Most of them, aged in their twenties, arrive here already with a work contract from multinational enterprises and tend to see their contracts renewed, being promoted inside the enterprises.
Some of them, when arriving, say that they intend to go back to Portugal when the contract expires or if the economic situation of the country improves, but many, once in an international career, actually never go back. Of course this phenomenon worries my government as it tries to engage the business sector in order to prevent brain drain, but the labour market still cannot absorb so many university graduates. Last, but not least, Portuguese like to look for new horizons and going abroad has always been one of the characteristics of our people, something that we inherited for sure from the vision of our Infante Henry, known as the Navigator.
TSS: Has the investment potential between Slovakia and Portugal been fully explored? What are areas you see potential for cooperation between Slovakia and Portugal?
TSS: How do you assess the tourism potential between the two countries?
TSS: Do Slovaks and Portuguese know enough about each other?
TSS: How do you assess the interest of Slovaks in Portugal, as well as Portuguese language and culture?
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