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130 | 2018
Portugal, a country in transformation

Portugal, um país em transformação
Portugal, un pays en transformation
Edited by Luciano Lourenço, António Bento-Gonçalves, João Luís J. Fernandes and Rui Gama

This edition of Méditerranée dedicated to Portugal, reflects some of the main changes observed over the last fifty years in this southern European country, initially coinciding with the end of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy, then with its EU membership. The later half of the last century was marked by profound changes in Portuguese society, both in economic and political areas, the pace of these changes becoming quicker in the last quarter of the 20th century, with the end of the political regime in force until the revolution of 25 April 1974, when Portugal turned towards democracy, in line with the prevailing political orientation in Western Europe.

After 1974, the Portuguese economy was very unstable, and very externally dependent, especially on its former colonies, which had meanwhile become independent. With the return of the Portuguese who had been living in these colonies, there was a rise in unemployment and various social problems emerged. On the other hand, with the loss of the colonial market, the country collapsed, giving rise to high inflation and leading to the devaluation of the Escudo, which obliged Portugal to turn towards the European market.

Portugal’s bid to join the EEC was formalised in 1977, but was only officially accepted in 1986, after a transition period had begun, in which Portugal adapted to European directives. However, only later, in 2002, with the adoption of the Euro as a currency to replace the Escudo, did economic growth resume. However, this was short-lived due to the world crisis that started in the United States, in 2008, and which hit Portugal very badly, requiring quite some years for the country to free itself from the stagnation it had fallen into.

In this context, the Portuguese geographic space underwent profound transformations in the last half century, particularly in terms of land usage, the growth of cities, depopulation of rural areas, education, health and other problems that created diverse socioeconomic dynamics. This issue aims to raise awareness of some of these problems that confronted Portuguese society and how it resolved them. In a first editorial draught, many more topics were considered than those presented here. This reduction managed to retain a degree of coherence between the number of articles and the number of pages allowed in each Méditerranée volume. For this reason we ended up by eliminating some aspects and grouping the others around three main themes, corresponding to other contemporary topics, each with four articles.

The first section refers to some recent changes, undertaken from the desirable perspective of a sustainable environment, namely those related to changes in the use of forest areas and their consequences in terms of forest fires, and also those related to water and energy policies. The second group concerns the topic of development, both from a sociocultural and economic perspective, and received contributions on four different aspects: evolution of socioeconomic dynamics and sectors of activity, education and development, health, and tourism. The third section relates to territorial dynamics and deals with four more aspects, this time connected to low density territories, growth of cities and urbanization, alterations in mobility and human migration, and relations with Portuguese-speaking countries.

As it was clearly not possible to condense all the geographic topics of interest that could be addressed in just one issue, we invited a number of specialists in the respective areas and who have in common the unusual characteristic of being members of CEGOT–Centre of Studies on Geography and Spatial Planning–, which brings together three Universities from the Centre and North of the country, more precisely Coimbra, Oporto and Minho.

This issue will certainly not explore all the transformations that Portugal has gone through in this last half century, but we are in no doubt that this volume will make an effective contribution to the geographic study of many problems that Portuguese-speaking society has faced and how it has decided to resolve them. 

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