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Golden Visas, a new airport and high-speed trains: Here’s everything Portugal’s new government is planning

Portugal has had a new government for the last couple months and the new prime minister has already given some insight into his plan for topics that are fundamental for the Portuguese economy, and that will definitely affect locals, foreigners living in the country and even tourists. 

I guess we could say that Portugal is a relatively calm country when it comes to politics. Current President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo Sousa is often seen shopping in supermarkets and taking selfies with teenagers at the book fair, and I can’t imagine many presidents in the world being able to do such things.

However, during the last trimester of last year there was some turbulence. 

Luís Montenegro

The former head of government, Prime Minister António Costa from the Socialist party, was accused of corruption, with an investigation set in place. Costa felt his type of investigation was incompatible with holding such an important position in Portuguese politics and decided to resign. Although Costa was found not guilty earlier this year,  we had already been called to early elections in March 2024 and the Social Democratic party had won, naming Luís Montenegro as the new prime minister. 

Since the PSD is a center-right party, liberalizing the Portuguese economy is one of Montenegro’s main goals.

His government program relies on attracting foreign investment and foreign scientific knowledge as well as increasing the revenue of foreign companies that are already settled in Portugal.

During these three months he has been making some pretty big decisions and here are some of them: 

Golden Visas 

In 2022 the previous government decided to stop Golden Visas after 10 years of seeing their not-so-positive effects on the country when it comes to real estate. During his campaign, the new prime minister brought up the topic of Golden Visas and how important he thinks foreign investment is for the Portuguese economy. Although Luís Montenegro has openly criticized the measure taken by the previous government, he hasn’t talked openly about his plans for the Golden Visas now that he actually is the prime minister. 

The truth is that the decision from the former government didn’t come out of the blue. Many European countries are facing a housing crisis and Portugal is no exception. Living in cities such as Lisbon or Porto has become extremely expensive for locals living on local salaries in the last five years. Furthermore, the European Commission has expressed its unease with the Golden Visas programme since 2018 and more and more countries are either modifying or eliminating altogether this type of residence permit.

In the next months, Montenegro will have to either undo what the former government did or create a less polarizing system to motivate foreign investment. 

New airport

Another topic why the previous government was heavily criticized was its indecisiveness regarding the project of the new airport. Portugal is full of natural beauty and a lot of research was done in order to minimize harm the natural habitat of animals and plants. The new government announced last week the creation of the new airport Luís de Camões in Alcochete, all the way across the river from Lisbon. The project should be finalized by 2034 and it will replace the current airport which has proven to be insufficient for the current number of departures and arrivals that Lisbon receives. 

If you have recently visited Portugal during high season and used Lisbon Airport, you’ll know what I’m talking about: it’s terribly crowded, the security check lines take hours and quite often there are delays. The reason for this is simple, the current airport was planned to receive around 22 million passengers per year and in 2023 it handled 22 million passengers.

So, this is great news for Lisbon inhabitants who currently live under the flight corridor and who are disturbed every day by the noise of airplanes, but also for tourists who will hopefully be able to have a more peaceful experience at the airport. 

Madrid-to-Lisbon high-speed rail line

If you wanted to go from Lisbon to Madrid (625 kilometers) or vice versa by train tomorrow, the total travel time would take you from 10 to 12 hours and it would include multiple means of transport such as buses and trains. The reason for this is that there isn’t a direct high-speed rail link, which considering that these are two super-important European capitals that are a 45-minute flight away from each other, is hard to believe.

For decades, this has been a long-discussed project, and although both countries recognize the importance of this rail line and its potential benefits, there have been some budgetary constraints. The estimated cost will be more than 1.6 billion euros.

Spain has made significant progress on its side of the project, with several high-speed rail lines (300 kilometers per hour) already operational. The Madrid-to-Extremadura section, which is part of the route to Lisbon, is expected to be completed soon. However, throughout the years, Portugal has faced more challenges but recent commitments have been made to push the project forward, with construction plans being laid out for the Évora-to-Elvas section, which will connect to the Spanish network.

Finalizing this project is part of the government program and was announced last week together with the airport project. Both projects are expected to be ready and functional from 2034 on. Having this high-speed rail line would alleviate some of the pressure from the airport as well as contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Plus, everyone would benefit from being able to be in Lisbon or Madrid after taking a short trip of 3 hours instead of one of 10 or 12 hours. 


Read more about Portugal here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Mónica here.

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Mónica da Silva is half-Venezuelan, half Portuguese and has lived in Venezuela, Portugal, Spain and Germany. She has studies linguistics and has a Bachelor’s Degree in European Studies. Besides contributing to Dispatches, she works remotely as an English teacher, which allows her to be on the move as often as she wants. 

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