It’s been an exciting year for Portugal, having outshone its European neighbours and defeated Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest, and securing a surprising win in the UEFA EURO 2016 final. Politically, the country watched with pride as their ex-Prime Minister António Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General, a prestigious position he will hold for the next four years. And domestically, Prime Minister António Costa has overseen a return to robust economic growth after a decade of recession and stagnation. The budget deficit is the lowest since democracy was restored in 1974 and tourism and exports are booming. But despite these soft power gains, Portugal saw its share of setbacks in 2016, including its worst ever forest fires that killed dozens and injured hundreds more. Although having slipped slightly in this year’s index, all indications point to Portugal’s soft power standing rebounding in the near future.
Surveys have in the past shown the Portuguese rivalling Greeks and Bulgarians for the title of Europe’s gloomiest people. But this perception isn’t reflected in our international polling data, where Portugal secures its highest ranking. This is no doubt a testament to the unrivalled beauty and easy lifestyle of Lisbon, Porto, and beyond.
Narrowly avoiding the bottom of the Digital sub-index, the Portuguese government should be investing more in connectivity and technology, so as to avoid being left in a technological wasteland. A greater approach to promoting Portuguese culture and values online could bring the country into the 21st Century.
Portugal has the assets and potential to climb in The Soft Power 30 index. Increased investment in its higher education institutions, as well as a greater emphasis on digital infrastructure and engagement, could propel Portugal back into the top-20.