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The Republic of Portugal is located on the Southwestern end of Europe on the Iberian peninsula, sharing a land border with Spain. Besides mainland Portugal, Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean also belong to the national territory. Including the islands, the country has a total area of 92,080 square kilometers.
Portugal is bound by the Atlantic ocean in the West and South and the total coastline is 837km long. The Tagus river divides the country into Northern and Southern Portugal. While Northern Portugal is a mountainous, rainy region, characterized by rocky hillsides and many small farms and vineyards, the very Southern region of the Algarve has a warm and dry Mediterrean climate and shows the strongest Moorish influences in Portugal. Gentle rolling hills and plains dominated by extensive estates with large scale agriculture are characteristic for the Alentejo region South of the Tagus river. Central Portugal between the Douro and Tagus river consists of dunes and pine forests and historic towns and villages on the coast while the Eastern central region is dominated by mountain ranges and small and medium sized farms. Most of the countries commerce and industry can be found in the greater Lisbon area.
Portugal is a democratic Republic established after the Carnation Revolution 1974, which ended the 40 year long dictatorship Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The country was a founding member of NATO in 1949 and joined the EU in 1986. The president is elected every five years and appoints the council of ministers and prime minister, who leads the government. Portugal is divided into five main regions on the mainland and two autonomous regions, the Azores and Madeira. While the system is highly centralized, mainland Portugal is further divided into 18 districts
Since joining the European Union in 1986, the economy has become more diversified and increasingly service-based. After years of privatization and liberalization of key areas of the economy and rapid growth in the 90s, the economy fell back in the early 2000s and was hit hard by the recession after 2009. Portugal had to be bailed out by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and subsequent austerity measures lead to a rise in unemployment and private poverty. The economy has slowly been recovering since exiting the bailout in May 2014.
The agricultural sector has been constantly declining over the past 30 years and now accounts for only around 10% of the labor force and 3% of the output. Around one third of Portugal’s land area is used for agriculture and the country produces a large variety of crops and livestock products.Grain, olives, potatoes, citrus, tomatoes, dairy products, beef, sheep, goat and poultry are among the important agricultural products. Small and medium-sized farms still dominate the agricultural landscape today. Further, Portugal is one of the leading producers of wine with more than 50 demarcated wine regions and world known produce like port or muscatel.
About one fifth of Portugal is wooded and the majority of forests are privately owned. Portugal is the world’s leading producer of cork and the pulp and paper industry contributes significantly to the economy.
Over 70 varieties of fish can be found in the waters along Portugal’s extensive coastline and have favored the development of a fishing industry. Products include sardines, cod, tuna, hake and mackerel and are exported all over the world. However, the fishing industry struggles to meet domestic demands and a quarter of the fish and seafood consumed in Portugal is imported.
Porto and Lisbon are the main industrial centers in Portugal and the majority of businesses and financial institutions are located in those areas. Oil refining, chemical industry automobile and electronic manufacturing are centered around Lisbon while light industry like textile, wine or furniture prevails in the North.
The banking and insurance sector profited from the consolidation of the sector during the 90s and the liberalization of the financial markets in the early 20th century, but the system was badly affected during the euro crisis and banks were forced to accept bailouts from the IMF.
Three fifths of Portugal’s economy is made of the service sector with tourism being by far the largest service industry. There are tourist hot spots all over Portugal, but Lisbon, the Algarve and Northern Portugal account for more than three quarters of international visitors to mainland Portugal.