Politics & The World

by João Albuquerque

In a period of great economic depression the Portuguese people were called upon to cast their vote on what was expected to be another bi-polarized race between the Socialist Party (PS) and the right wing coalition that led the government over the last four years. The result, however, came as a surprise to almost everyone and has set the country on a still unclear path about what to do next.

After four years of harsh economic and social restrictions imposed upon the Portuguese people by the most liberal government of its history, the two ruling parties, running together in a coalition called “Portugal Ahead” (Portugal à Frente – PaF) have yet again been the single most voted force, gaining more seats in the Parliament than any other party alone.

However, compared to the previous parliamentary framework, they lost the overall majority held until last Sunday, losing 25 MPs, a direct consequence of having lost 14% of the votes from 2011 to today. The very important nuance, this time, is that all in all the left in the parliament has more votes and more seats combined than the right wing coalition.

Has the youth given up?

In the aftermath of these elections, several results stroke as surprising. The main was the extremely high abstention rate, especially among the young people. Several reasons have contributed to this: a) the real rate of youth unemployment is estimated to be over 30%, with many long-term unemployed people; b) tremendous emigration rates, with numbers set on over 300.000 people leaving the country (110.000/year in two consecutive years set the record in Portuguese history, beating even the darkest years of the Colonial War in the 1960’s), most of these being young people; c) from a sociological point of view, the emigration is currently very different from that  of the 1960’s, consisting more of a brain drain than a less qualified one, mostly composed of educated young people (researchers, doctors and nurses are among those who have left the country in the recent years).

Huge cuts on the health system, on education and research, especially in reducing grants and scholarships, led to this big flee of the country. Official numbers estimate that for two consecutive years, 110k people per year left the country, allowing to point at an estimate of around 400k people leaving the country over the last 4 years. This translates into a higher abstention rate among the young people and a higher disappointment with politics and government than 4 years ago.

Which government now?

In his first statement after the elections, the PR has appealed for an agreement between the right and PS, something that has been declined by the Socialists. In the meantime, António Costa, PS Secretary-general, has started conversations with left wing parties. As talks are still going this can become a turning point in the Portuguese political framework, for success in setting up a left coalition would be an historic event, never before made possible at this level. So, what would this mean for Portugal and what kind of legitimacy would there be in a post-electoral left coalition?

The most western country in Europe has been one of the most harshly affected countries by the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. After calling for international financial assistance from the Troika – IMF, ECB and the European Commission –, which eventually led the right wing coalition to power, austerity measures were rigorously and vehemently implemented. The PM vigorously stated that his government was willing to go even further on imposing austerity in order to put Portugal’s fragile economy back on track.

A high increase on income and consumption taxes, reducing on wages and cutting on pensions, cuts on social welfare, such as unemployment benefit or the social supplement for the elderly, budget cuts on the healthcare system and public schools have set the agenda for what resulted in a clear loss of purchase power, a decrease of quality in medical assistance and education, public and foreign debt have both sky rocketed, over 200k jobs were lost and deficit remains the same as it was in 2011. On the event of these elections, the right ran again on the same premise: continue the austerity path, this time without the presence of the troika.

On the other hand, and despite the differences between the left wing parties, the main message was very clear: no more austerity, light or heavy, imposed slowly or fast. Interesting as it is, the Portuguese people clearly expressed an intention of change and voted largely for parties that rejected austerity; by giving them a clear majority in Parliament voters have put a tremendous pressure on the left parties to find a stable government solution.

An unclear future

At the time of writing, there is still no clear indication whether this possibility will become a reality, with conversations still going on. Nonetheless, the situation as it is, configures a golden opportunity to establish a broad base alliance to set a government on the basis of a policy change towards building a fairer society. Naturally, negotiations will bring out several differences among the parties; but the compromise to defend welfare, equality and social justice would need to prevail in the compromise solution eventually found. A strong, rational and balanced agreement between the three left parties, based on settling for a greater good and finding the common points, is essential to guarantee a stable government, assuring that the majority of voters’ aspirations are met.

The decisions that may emerge on the next few days will be determinant to understand what kind of society will be built in Portugal over the next few years. The success of inaction can result in the come back of the right wing coalition, giving way to more austerity measures and social impoverishment; the triumph of a left wing coalition can, on the other hand, contribute to a change of course in social and economical policies not only in Portugal but also in Europe. Let us not be in doubt: it is the model of state that was at stake in the elections of 4 October, and the Portuguese people were clear on their choice. Will there be a real correspondence to these aspirations?


Image by Carsten ten Brink, taken from Flickr.

Politics & The World

by Christoph Heuermann

Traveling through a wonderful country with equally bad reputation animates to write about its cause. I am in Mexico – a country where 100.000 people died in the last 8 years over something you might have already smoked or sniffed. Drugs – accompanying humans since the stone age – are currently prohibited in most parts of the world. Where drug gangs are not killing each other over lucrative trading routes, governments do the job, incarcerating thousands or just killing them over some outmoded laws.

While this might soon end, it has taken innumerable human lives until now. Indeed, the War on Drugs has failed. It still fails. Yet, there is hope. The movement grows. Most European states, with Netherlands as their forerunner, have always had a rather lenient attitude towards soft drugs, although many still hold them illegal. With the Czech Republic and Portugal effectively decriminalising drugs, especially Portugal with great success, there is need for other European countries to follow suit. Just recently, leading German economists demanded the full legality of soft drugs like weed.

Yet there is no need to be an economist to see the disaster of drug prohibition. An estimated market of 500 billion $ creates enough incentive to sell drugs, even if it is illegal. History has always proved this. Just let us jump back a hundred years to the United States of America, currently on the forefront of drug liberalisation with some of their states. A hundred years ago however, not only drugs like weed, cocaine and LSD were prohibited.

When speaking of drugs, especially people in favour of prohibition like to forget that they consume them every other day. Beer boozing bureaucrats probably implement the drug war under drug consumption. It’s just not called drug, but alcohol.

This thing called alcohol was effectively banned through most of the United States in the early 20th century. By 1900, half of the States were dry, prohibiting any sale of liquor. Yet as everyone knows, there is always a way around prohibitions. Like their modern day counterparts are ordering their drugs through dark web marketplaces like the infamous, now closed-down, Silk Road, Americans just ordered alcohol over the postal service from states allowing consumption.

Yet, naturally, peaceful trade like this could not be tolerated. The Interstate Liquor Act of 1913 closed the loophole. Instead of peaceful trade, violence grew as no more legal ways to obtain alcohol remained open. By 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was proposed, though only ratified 2 years later and set to effect in 1920. It banned all hard liquor with more than 40 percent alcohol content, which was shortly after reduced to 0.5 percent by the Volstead Act.

Thus, alcohol remained fully prohibited in the United States from 1920 to 1933. With it, violence grew at shocking rates, with notorious gangsters like Al Capone exploiting the black market. Homicides during this periods increased by 78 percent, reaching its height at the end of prohibition in 1933 and rapidly falling afterwards. Criminalising the common man makes crime become common as well – an issue which is applicable as well to services like gambling or prostitution.

Although criminalizing it, the Prohibition was far from reducing alcohol consumption. It rather grew – as the statistic of an increase of 81 percent drunk drivers arrested during prohibition years shows clearly. Likewise, government corrupted and spend millions on law enforcement, cracking down regularly a few establishments, but never stopping the black market.

Meanwhile, death by alcohol consumption quadrupled due to increased alcohol content in black market booze. Short of alcohol, many people also turned to consumption of easier available drugs like opium with more severe consequences. All in all, the “Noble Experiment” as it was commonly called failed bitterly. In December 1933, the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the prohibition, causing president Roosevelts famous quip: “I think this would be a good time for a beer”.

“I think this would be a good time for some weed” is a phrase yet missing in parliaments all over the world. However, after having taken a heavy toll, many people slowly begin to finally wake up. In the case of current drug prohibition, one just needs to remember the experiment of American alcohol prohibition, because it sounds so familiar.

Drug violence shadows over all the Americas, while taking illegal drugs is far from uncommon in these countries. Bad quality drugs still kill a lot of people as do new artificially created drug products. Dangerous products, which normal people would never be exposed to if they had alternatives in natural drugs.

Still, hope rises when watching the success of Marijuana legalisation in Colorado and other American states. Crime decreases, innocent youth is released from prisons, and a now legal market heavily supports local economies. The consumption rate, however, increased only slightly. After all, what is not prohibited, loses value in the eyes of many.

Admittedly, to a full legalisation or at least decriminalisation in Europe there still is a long way. Self-interest and the fear to make themselves superfluous, drives international drug enforcement agencies and politicians to oppose drugs although actually knowing better. While bureaucrats booze beers, there will still be some more unnecessary deaths of innocent people. Like the European Union cannot prevent African refugees to enter its territory, it cannot prevent drugs to be consumed by responsible citizens. Like the former eventually drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the prohibition of drugs is a tragedy on an enormous scale costing innumerable lives. Sadly, history is the best teacher with the worst disciples.


Christoph Heuermann, *1990, is the author of several articles about Europe, innovation, decentralisation and freedom. If he is not travelling the world, he studies political and administrative science in Konstanz, Germany. Having lived in Vienna, Berlin, Brussels and Madrid for long time, he is a strong advocate for a free and cosmopolitan Europe without borders. He currently works on his latest project, www.staatenlos.ch.



Each year, hundreds of thousands of European students migrate, looking for a better future and stable jobs.


Some flee the economic misery at home, others search for new experiences. Some will come back, others won’t.

Student migration has become reality for Europe. But how will it shape the future of our continent? How can we channel its effects? And what role are the European institutions playing in all of this?

What our latest episode on how students are Fleeing the Crisis.


Two out of three Europeans do not trust the EU. In some countries, it is even 80%.

But why is this? And what does it mean for us young Europeans? To find out the answers to these questions, tune in to our latest episode of Campus Europe.

During our first episode we visit the European Commission, and talk to Mr Soufflot de Magny who shows us how trust in the EU is measured, and what the role of the EU public opinion analysis is. Afterwards, we will jump to our corresponding Student TVs TVAAC from Coimbra in Portugal and Tudeng TV from Tallinn in Estonia, who give us insights into the situation in their respective countries. They have made it their task to see what students think about the EU, and where they see potential problems.

Finally, we go all the way to Maastricht in the Netherlands where the local student TV BreakingMaas held a very insightful interview with Prof. Shackleton, who explains what has affected the European Trust and what the EU has to do before people lose their faith in it completely.