Portugal’s far-right seduces youth, 50 years on from dictatorship

Portugal’s far-right Chega party made historic gains in the country’s national elections held in early March. Taking 18% of the vote, the party sought to seduce Portugal’s youth, in a year which marks 50 years since Portugal overthrew its dictatorship.

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André Ventura, the leader of Portugal’s far-right party is popping red balloons with darts, under a sign which reads “Socialism explodes in Portugal”. He is celebrating the gains made by his political party “Chega” (“enough” in Portuguese), at Futurallia, Portugal’s biggest student fair.  

Chega came third in the snap elections held in early March, surging from 12 to 50 seats. The rise of the far-right comes as the country marks fifty years since the right-wing military dictatorship led by Antonio Salazar was overthrown. 

A crowd of young people aged between 15 and 18 years old are cheering André Ventura on. This moment is being recorded and will later be shared on the party’s social media accounts – namely TikTok – where the party and its politicians have amassed a large following. Ventura boasts over 280,000 followers on TikTok, while the Conservative Prime Minister Luis Montenegro doesn’t have an account*.

18-year old Tiago watches on, his face hidden behind a mask of André Ventura, “it’s funny that they even thought of handing out masks. I know Ventura isn’t the perfect candidate, but he’s trying to change things, and that’s why I voted for him.” 

Besides him, 19-year old Joaqim who voted for the centre-right Democatic Alliance party which won March’s elections. He may not be a Chega supporter, but he still wanted to catch a glimpse of the action, “I am originally from the Cape Verde, I think that André Ventura focuses too much on immigration but I think he wants to make changes for the youth.”

Young people in Portugal face two major problems, according to political scientist António Costa Pinto, “they are dealing with a very low average wage and an economy that cannot absorb educated young people. Emigration is in many cases the only alternative for this skilled labor.” Young men “aged between 18-34 years old with lower levels of education voted for Chega in the highest numbers”, adds Costa Pinto. 

Banking on “negative perceptions of immigration”

Once his show of darts is over, André Ventura heads for the exit of the student fair. His every move is calculated as he stops to take selfies with fans. But there’s one thing that he can’t control: his opponents.

“You are fascists”, shout a group of young people at the edge of the crowd. “Chega, Chega, Chega”, reply his supporters. 

16-year old Inez watches on, “I would never vote for him. Portugal had a dictatorship under Salazar, so it’s frightening to see this today. I don’t feel safe around these people.” Her friend Raquel, worries about her future, “I see a lot of teenagers in this crowd, but one day they’ll be able to vote.”

A hate group according to NGOs

According to anti-discrimination organisations, Chega represents a threat to minorities, with the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism labelling the party a hate group

“Chega is a form of propaganda because they wash away the racist ideas. People usually say they are voting against the system because they are tired of politicians. But it’s a vote in support of racism and discrimination, which stands against minorities”, 20-year old Lou, an activist for the NGO SOS Racismo tells Euronews.

In 2020, André Ventura told a politician to “go back to her country”. He was targeting Joacine Katar Moreira, who is originally from Portuguese Guinea and had proposed a law for the restitution of art work to former colonies. Ventura has targeted the Portuguese Roma community, claiming its members are “addicted” to welfare. During the COVID-19 pandemic he also called for a separate isolation policy for the community.

Young Chega activists

25-year old Ricardo Reis waits outside the Chega party’s headquarters, located a few hundred metres away from the Portuguese Parliament. Wearing a sleek suit, Reis may work in the tech industry, but he spends his spare time campaigning for the party’s youth wing.

The young activist does not mince his words, using the term “parasite” to refer to immigrants who receive benefits from the Portuguese state, “we are experiencing a new wave of immigration, where you don’t see families coming for a better life or trying to integrate themselves.” Reis insists that the party is “not racist”, all members are welcome but “what matters is that the person works and contributes to society.”

This rhetoric mimics the words and slogans used by many far-right parties across Europe. In Portugal’s case, a new wave of immigration has become the movement’s focus, while others would say its scapegoat. 

“In the last five years Portugal has experienced a new wave of immigration from South Asia, which marks a change from the historic immigration from former Portuguese colonies like Mozambique and Angola. This immigration may be essential to the economy, but a negative perception of immigration related to insecurity has allowed Chega to make gains”, explains Professor Costa Pinto. The southern Portuguese region of the Algarve which has a tourism-based economy and “relies on a migrant workforce”, voted for Chega in the highest numbers. 

“Young people join us in secret”

25-year old Rita Maria Matias who defines herself as an ‘anti-feminist’ and stands against abortion was reelected to the Portuguese Parliament last month. Hailing from a political family, her father Manuel Matias, was the leader of Portugal’s defunct anti-abortion party Pro Vida. 

“We have lots of young people coming to us in secret, some have created tensions in their families in order to join the party. There are a lot of scars in Portugal but I’m not responsible for an authoritarian period during which I wasn’t living,” Matias tells Euronews. In 2021, the party adopted the slogan “God, country, family and work”, strikingly similar to Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar’s “God, country, family” motto.

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Matias worked as a campaigner in the party’s youth wing and managed André Ventura’s Tiktok account. “We have a formal communications team which manages Mr. Ventura’s content but then we all are responsible for our own personal accounts, where we try and be as natural as possible”, says Matias.

In 2022, she became the party’s first female politician and its youngest – until 20-year old Madalena Cordeiro overtook was elected last month. 

“We are tired of feeling that in France, in England, in Switzerland, young people have more opportunities than in Portugal”, says the young politician who blames this situation on immigrants “we are being replaced and nobody cares”. 

For Matias, making ties with the rest of Europe’s far-right remains a priority ahead of June’s European elections. Jordan Bardella, head of France’s far-right Rassemblement National for the upcoming European elections “is a friend”, she says with a smile.

As for Chega’s stance on Europe, the party remains cautious, “they do not play Eurosceptic card too much because they know that the European Union is quite popular in Portugal, due to its association with economic development,” says Professor Costa Pinto.

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Portugal: 50 years after the revolution, are the carnations wilting?

25 April, 2024, marks the 50th anniversary of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. It ended about 41 years of dictatorship and began an era of democracy. The milestone is celebrated as the political landscape shifts, with the centre-right winning recent elections and the far-right gaining ground.

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“In 1974, I was 18 and beginning my university studies in Lisbon. However, on 25 April, I found myself in Porto, seeking the tranquility of family to study. We sensed that something significant was happening, and my mother advised me to stay indoors.” Now 68, Maria Gorete shares her stories with Euronews. We met her on the morning of 22 March in one of the municipal galleries of the Portuguese capital. Her eyes sparkle with a special gleam as she recalls the days of chaos and ecstasy that Portugal experienced during the Carnation Revolution.

When asked about her plans for its 50th anniversary, Maria gets excited: “It’s going to be a memorable day! We have plans to meet 30 former university classmates to celebrate.” “As for me, I’ve kept a bottle of port from 1974. I can’t wait to open it this 25 April,” shares Adozinda, a friend of Maria’s. At the time, she was 15 and living in Angola, a former overseas province of Portugal.

The two women admire the exhibition by photographer Eduardo Gageiro. Among them, a military parade, a Portuguese soldier removing a portrait of the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar from the headquarters of the PIDE (secret police), and young people looking jubilant around a tank. In the vast, silent gallery of the Cordoaria Nacional, an old ropeworks on the banks of the Tagus, we are plunged back into the past, while outside, Lisbon basks in the light and warmth of a spring day.

We are just over a month from the 50th anniversary of the revolution that ended the Salazar dictatorship. António de Oliveira Salazar became Prime Minister of Portugal in 1932. He established a dictatorship by limiting civil liberties, imposing strict censorship, and repressing all political opposition.

Salazar was replaced by Marcelo Caetano in 1968. Caetano attempted to modernise the regime while maintaining its authoritarian structure and continuing the colonial wars in Africa, which led to a coup and the end of the dictatorship in 1974.

By 25 April, 1974, the Portuguese Army, backed by civilians, had grown tired of and outraged by the horrors of the colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. They decided to change course. “We didn’t yet understand what was happening; we only knew that soldiers were being killed, and we were afraid,” explains Maria Gorete. “It wasn’t until 1 May that we finally understood: we were free! What euphoria! Everyone took to the streets to celebrate,” she adds.

The adoption of the Constitution in 1976 laid the foundations for a pluralistic democracy. Since then, the Portuguese political landscape has alternated between governments of the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) and the centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD).

On 10 March, 2024, the Portuguese people turned another significant page in their history. After eight years of socialist government, the legislative elections saw the centre-right opposition emerge victorious, and the far-right Chega party gain 18% of the vote, up from 7.2% in the previous legislative elections of January, 2022. The party headed by André Ventura has a manifesto based on transphobic and xenophobic stances, among others, with an especially strong opposition to immigration. “We fought this fight so that our children and grandchildren could be free. And now, my grandson, armed with this freedom, chooses to use it to vote for the right. I plan to take him to see this exhibition, to remind him that if he can freely express his choice today, it’s thanks to our struggle,” explains Maria Gorete.

A shift to the right

Vasco Lourenço, now in his 80s, was just 31 in 1974. As a captain in the Portuguese army, he orchestrated the first clandestine meeting aimed at overthrowing the regime. This gathering in Alcáçovas, southern Portugal, took place on 9 September, 1973. It brought together 95 captains, 39 lieutenants, and two officers, marking the first step toward the coup and the revolution. “The values that pushed us, so to speak, and motivated us to revolt on 25 April, 1974, I think those values have remained in Portuguese society, which has allowed us to have 50 years of democracy. But there are no perfect democracies,” he tells me. “I think it’s clear that a party like this [Chega] is not democratic at all. It’s using democratic rules to come to power, but history tells us that if they come to power, they will try to end democracy. And therefore we have to fight them, fight them within democratic rules,” he adds with conviction.

Lourenço proudly hosts us at the April 25 Association, which he presides over. He’s surrounded by hundreds of veterans’ medals. His involvement in the war in Guinea-Bissau in 1969 and the loss of a comrade have made a profound mark on him. “Upon my return, I resolved never to take up arms again. I would have deserted if necessary,” he explains. “But I also felt anger at myself. I realised what I hadn’t understood before leaving: I was the instrument of an illegitimate power in Portugal, a regime of dictatorship, repression. I then decided to use my military status to overthrow this regime.”

While the army was organising to overthrow the dictatorship, less visible figures were spreading anti-regime propaganda among the Portuguese diaspora from abroad. Among them, Arnaldo Silva.

“My rebellion started when I was just 12 or 13 years old. By 1969, I was involved in political struggle against the regime.” His activism led to his arrest on 2 December, 1971. He was 18. “That morning, as I was preparing to go to work, two agents burst in and arrested me,” he recalls. Imprisoned in Caxias, west of Lisbon, he says he was immediately subjected to violence. “The torture endured, the forced sleepless nights, the administered sedatives…” Silva pauses, overwhelmed by emotion, covering his eyes and trying to hold back tears as he describes his detention in a tiny square cell shared with four inmates.

Banned from all political activity in Portugal after his detention, Arnaldo Silva went into exile in France.

In a dimly lit room of the Aljube Museum, a former prison in Lisbon, Arnaldo is joined by José Martins, also a former political prisoner who lived in exile in France. “I think the rise of the far right in Portugal is mainly due to some failures of left-wing governments, which failed to address the concerns of the people,” he estimates. “Those who vote right are often those who were once left and switched sides because the left failed to solve social problems.”

Those social issues were among the priorities of Amnesty International in Portugal during the 2024 electoral campaign. Aware of the significant human rights advancements post-revolution and concerned about their future, the NGO issued a set of recommendations to all political parties. The organisation’s concerns included education, the state of the Portuguese health system, and access to housing.

“The topics that really concern us: the use of migrants and refugees as scapegoats to scare the population and win votes,” specifies Pedro A. Neto, Amnesty International, Portugal’s Executive Director.

Neto notes: “Racism exists. Often, it manifests in very informal ways, in coffee shop discussions or on social media, where people speak ill just for the sake of it. The difference with Chega is that it capitalised on this racism to make it official discourse. It has normalised this kind of discourse, which is completely disrespectful”.

Facing the rise of the far right, historian and professor Ricardo Noronha at the Nova University of Lisbon provides further perspective: “It seems to me that the broad notion of democracy, as a set of individual and collective rights, is not threatened by the fact that the far right secured 18% of the vote in the last elections.”

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The Revolution’s echo among the younger generation

In the lead-up to the anniversary of this historic revolution, the April 25th Governmental Commission is making significant efforts to engage all age groups in this act of remembrance, especially the youth. This challenge is considerable, given that, according to initial polls, 41% of young, less educated men voted for Chega. “We’ve launched campaigns on social media, which are highly followed by young people, such as the one titled #YouCouldNot, listing 13 prohibitions and restrictions before the revolution, like the inability to vote freely or to organise politically,” explains Maria Inácia Rezola, executive commissioner and history professor. These initiatives aim to raise awareness about the freedoms now taken for granted, which were once unattainable.

“Freedom is like health: its importance is only realised when we start to lose it,” remarks Vasco Lourenço. “It’s natural for those born into freedom not to question their state. I often ask if they would accept living without freedom, and the response is unanimously negative. Yet, it’s crucial to remain vigilant since human history is cyclical, and we must not allow freedom to be threatened again. We must learn from history to prevent the youth from being alienated once more,” he asserts.

According to Arnaldo Silva, “the Portuguese youth remains alert and will refuse to let political, economic, or military ambitions override their freedoms and ideals.”

Professor Ricardo Noronha confirms the young generation’s evident interest in this historical period. “When we visit high schools or elementary schools, the students’ enthusiasm is palpable. Contrary to expectations, they remain attentive, ask questions, and share their thoughts, sometimes influenced by familial narratives of the era. This curiosity signifies a healthy engagement,” he observes.

On 25 April, Portuguese unions and protest movements traditionally march to make their voices heard. This year, the momentum began well in advance, driven by the Portuguese youth. In the alleys of Lisbon, during a protest against financial instability, they chant “25 de abril sempre, fascismo nunca mais!” (25 April forever, fascism never again!). With fists raised they hold the symbolic red carnation, the flower placed in gun barrels in 1974 as a symbol of peace. For these young people, the spirit of the revolution seems to still be very much alive.

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The Hindu Morning Digest, March 11, 2024

State Bank of India (SBI) has moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension of time till June 30 to submit details of Electoral Bonds to the Election Commission of India. File.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Government likely to appoint new Election Commissioners by March 15

The two vacancies in the Election Commission (EC), created by the surprise resignation of Arun Goel and the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey, are likely to be filled by March 15, sources indicated. A high-level selection committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising a Union Minister and Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, is likely to meet on March 14. Keen to fill up the vacancies at the earliest, sources told The Hindu that the Opposition leader has been sounded out about a change of date to advance the meeting date by a day or two.

Electoral bonds: SC to hear SBI’s plea seeking extension to disclose details on March 11

The Supreme Court will on March 11 hear the application filed by the State Bank of India (SBI) seeking extension till June 30 to disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties before the scheme was scrapped last month. In a landmark verdict delivered on February 15, a five-judge constitution Bench scrapped the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it “unconstitutional” and ordered disclosure by the Election Commission of the donors, the amount donated by them, and the recipients by March 13.

In re-constituted National Commission for Scheduled Castes, govt. ensures a place for Madiga member

With the Lok Sabha election around the corner, the Union government has chosen to constitute the most-recent National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) by ensuring the presence of at least one member from the Madiga community, one of the most populous Scheduled Caste communities in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The Madiga community has argued that despite being among the most populous of the SCs, they are routinely crowded out of benefits and reservation by the relatively dominant Mala community. 

Uttar Pradesh Congress passes resolution for candidature from Gandhi family

The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress unanimously passed a resolution for the candidature from the Gandhi family in Amethi and Raebareli seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) refrained from officially naming the candidates from the family but sources confirmed the push is for Rahul Gandhi to contest from Amethi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra from Raebareli.

Cheetah Gamini gives birth to five cubs at MP’s Kuno National Park; big cat count rises to 26

Cheetah ‘Gamini’ on Sunday gave birth to five cubs in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district, taking the total number of the big cats in the country to 26, Union Minister Bhupender Yadav said. This is the fourth cheetah litter on Indian soil and the first litter of cheetahs brought from South Africa, Mr. Yadav informed. In March last year, cheetah Jwala (Namibian name Siyaya) had given birth to four cubs but only one managed to survive. Jwala gave birth to her second litter of four cubs in January this year., which was followed by cheetah Aasha delivering three cubs.

Haryana BJP MP Brijendra Singh resigns from party, joins Congress

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Hisar Lok Sabha member Brijendra Singh quit the party due to “compelling political reasons” and joined the Congress within a few hours. He later also resigned as the Lok Sabha member. Formally joining the Congress in the presence of party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge, Mr. Singh said that he took the decision to quit the BJP as he was “uncomfortable” and “not in agreement” over a few issues, including the farmers movement, the Agniveer scheme and the wrestlers protest.

Worst fears about presence of drugs in Tamil Nadu confirmed, says Governor R.N. Ravi

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi, said the recent interdictions of sizeable quantities of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and apprehension of members of international drug cartels in Tamil Nadu and other places by the central agencies had “confirmed the worst fears about prevalence of drugs in the State.

Congress president Kharge says alliance with Trinamool can happen anytime before withdrawal of nominations

Hours after the Trinamool Congress announced its candidates for all the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, the Congress said an alliance with Trinamool is possible until withdrawal of nominations. The party also asserted that any agreement has to be finalised through negotiations and not unilateral announcements. “Our doors are always open and an alliance can happen anytime before withdrawal,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said.

Muslims spot Ramadan crescent moon in Saudi Arabia, month of fasting starts Monday for many

Officials saw the crescent moon on Sunday night in Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, marking the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan for many of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. Saudi state television reported authorities there saw the crescent moon. However, there are some Asian countries, like Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, that will begin Ramadan on Tuesday after failing to see the crescent moon.

Nepal PM ‘Prachanda’ to seek third vote of confidence by March 13: report

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is seeking to hold his third vote of confidence in Parliament by March 13, days after he forged a new alliance with the CPN-UML, a media report said. The third round of vote of confidence comes after Mr. Prachanda, a former guerilla leader, dumped the Nepali Congress and forged a new alliance with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) – the second-biggest party – led by former premier K.P. Sharma Oli on Monday.

Portugal votes with centre-right poised to oust Socialists

Voters in Portugal go to the polls on March 10 in an early election that could see the country join a shift to the right seen across Europe after eight years of Socialist rule. Final opinion polls published on March 8 show the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) narrowly ahead of the Socialist Party (PS) but short of an outright majority in parliament, which could make the far-right party Chega a kingmaker for forming a governing coalition.

Satwik-Chirag win French Open doubles title

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty continued their love affair with Paris, lifting the French Open badminton crown for the second time with a dominating straight game win over Chinese Taipei’s Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan in the men’s doubles final.The world No. 1 Indian pair had finished runners-up in the French Open in 2019 before winning the title in 2022.

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The far-right surges but it’s too close to call Portugal’s election

With almost all the votes counted, the centre-right DA party and centre-left SP party are almost equal whilst the far-right Chega party gain third place.

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Results so far at 2333 CET:

With 97% of the votes counted the results are:

The centre-right Democratic Alliance, a grouping led by the Social Democratic Party, has 29.19%.

The centre-left Socialist Party is running second with 28.6%.

Populist party Chega (Enough) is third with 18.33%.

You can follow the results from the Interior Ministry live here:

https://www.legislativas2024.mai.gov.pt/resultados/globais

The candidates react:

“Chega could reach more than 20 percent of the votes tonight. It’s an absolutely historic result”, André Ventura, the leader of the far-right party said. “The Portuguese clearly said they want a two-party government: Chega and the Democratic Alliance,” he added.

First exit poll at 2110 CET:

Earlier in the evening a widely regarded exit poll by the Catholic University/ RTP had put the centre-right ahead, and the far-right Chega party at 14%-17% of the vote.

The poll predicted 29-33% of the vote for the centre-right Democratic Alliance, a grouping led by the Social Democratic Party. The centre-left Socialist Party gathered 25-29%, the poll indicated.

Populist party Chega (Enough) may have got 14-17% in third place, it suggested, up from 7% at the last election in 2022, in a drift to the political right witnessed elsewhere in the European Union.

The poll by Portugal’s Catholic University was published by public broadcaster RTP and in previous elections has proved largely accurate.

The Centre for Studies and Opinion Polls (Cesop) at the university earlier estimated turnout at between 62 and 68 percent. In comparison, in the 2022 general election, it was 51.46 percent.

A US based analyst suggested that this could help the far-right Chega party.

The election at a glance

A slew of recent corruption scandals has tarnished the two parties that have alternated in power for decades — the centre-left Socialist Party and the centre-right Social Democratic Party, which is running with two small allies in a coalition it calls Democratic Alliance. Those traditional parties are still expected to collect most of the votes.

Public frustration with politics-as-usual had already been percolating before the outcries over graft. Low wages and a high cost of living — worsened last year by surges in inflation and interest rates — coupled with a housing crisis and failings in public health care contributed to the disgruntlement.

The election is taking place because Socialist leader António Costa resigned in November after eight years as prime minister amid a corruption investigation involving his chief of staff. Costa hasn’t been accused of any crime.

The Social Democrats, too, were embarrassed just before the campaign by a graft scandal that brought the resignation of two prominent party officials.

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Voting began at 8 a.m. (0800 GMT) and most ballot results were expected within hours of polling stations closing at 8 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The far-right factor

If the first exit poll is accurate, it means the Populist party Chega (Enough) has gained around seven percent more of the vote in this election – seemingly a bigger gain than any other party.

That suggests it will be the third most-voted party in a political shift to the right that has already been seen elsewhere in Europe. Spain and France have witnessed similar trends in recent years.

Chega could even end up in the role of kingmaker if a bigger party needs the support of smaller rivals to form a government.

Chega party leader Andre Ventura has cannily plugged into the dissatisfaction and has built a following among young people on social media. Just five years old, Chega collected its first seat in Portugal’s 230-seat Parliament in 2019. That jumped to 12 seats in 2022, and polls suggest it could more than double that number this time.

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Ventura says he is prepared to drop some of his party’s most controversial proposals — such as chemical castration for some sex offenders and the introduction of life prison sentences — if that opens the door to his inclusion in a possible governing alliance with other right-of-centre parties.

His insistence on national sovereignty instead of closer European Union integration and his plan to grant police the right to strike are other issues that could thwart his ambitions to enter a government coalition.

Ventura has had a colourful career. He has gone from a practicing lawyer and university professor specialising in tax law to a boisterous TV soccer pundit, an author of low-brow books and a bombastic orator on the campaign trail.

The president urges people to vote

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, largely a figurehead but whose formal consent is needed for a party to take power, urged people to vote because uncertain times in world affairs threatened the country’s wellbeing.

In a televised address to the nation on Saturday night, Rebelo de Sousa said the unpredictable outcome of elections later this year for the European Parliament and in the United States, as well as the war in Ukraine and conflicts in the Middle East, could bring more economic difficulties.

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He said that “it is at grievous times like this that voting becomes more important.”

Will the low standard of  living be the decide factor?

Meanwhile, voters have expressed alarm at Portugal’s living standards as financial pressures mount.

An influx of foreign real estate investors and tourists seeking short-term rentals brought a spike in house prices, especially in big cities such as the capital Lisbon where many locals are being priced out of the market.

The economy feels stuck in a low gear. The Portuguese, who have long been among Western Europe’s lowest earners, received an average monthly wage before tax last year of around 1,500 euros — barely enough to rent a one-bedroom flat in Lisbon. Close to 3 million Portuguese workers earn less than 1,000 euros a month.

The number of people without an assigned family doctor, meantime, rose to 1.7 million last year, the highest number ever and up from 1.4 million in 2022.

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Ditch the city for these under-the-radar villages in Europe

16 of UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages for 2023 are in Europe.

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From Venice to Athens, Europe’s most popular destinations are buckling under the weight of unsustainable tourist numbers.

Visitors are met with crowds, queues and crumbling infrastructure. While locals face strained resources that foster a growing discontent with tourists.

So how can you make sure you’re part of the solution, rather than the problem?

It’s time to explore off the beatentrack. To help you in your search for undiscovered destinations, the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has announced the Best Tourism Villages for 2023.

These are places where tourism preserves cultures and traditions, celebrates diversity, provides opportunities and protects biodiversity.

In short, rural places where tourism is beneficial for locals and visitors alike.

Globally, 53 villages – 16 of them in Europe – received the award this year with the winners announced in October at UNWTO’s General Assembly in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Here are all of the award-winning villages in Europe.

Ordino, Andorra: For traditional stone houses and high-mountain lakes

With a population of less than 80,000, Andorra is one of the smallest states in Europe.

Sandwiched between France and Spain, high in the Pyrenees mountains, the tiny country is popular for skiing and duty-free shopping – but it has a whole lot more to offer.

Ordino is a medieval town lined with picturesque stone houses – one of which you can peek inside at the Casa Areny Museum.

Once you’ve explored the town itself, the local parish is packed with outdoor adventures.

From the high-mountain Tristaina Lakes and Sorteny National Park – the country’s largest nature area – to Casamanya mountain and Ordino Arcalís ski resort, there’s no shortage of panoramic hiking trails and powdery slopes to conquer.

Ordino can be reached on a day trip from Barcelona, Girona or Toulouse, each around a three-hour drive away.

St Anton am Arlberg, Austria: For adrenaline-filled skiing and sensory hiking

High in the Tyrolean Alps, St Anton am Arlberg is the gateway to the Arlberg ski region.

And there’s no better place to take to the slopes as this area is known as the ‘cradle of alpine skiing’ for its pioneering role in inventing the sport. Learn all about it at Museum St Anton am Arlberg, which can be found in a wooden ski cabin.

When you’re tired of snowsports, let your senses embrace the WunderWanderWeg – Wonderful Hiking Trail – which consists of a barefoot walking path, an alpine herb path and an alpine flower trail.

Schladming in central Austria also received a UNWTO award. The former mining town is now known for its world-class skiing, beautiful biking and hiking trails, and refreshing lakes.

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Slunj, Croatia: For cascading waterfalls and traditional mills

Most tourists make a beeline for Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, but head to the country’s mountainous interior and you’ll be rewarded with cascading waterfalls and riverside beaches.

The town of Slunj is just a short drive from the famous Plitvice Lakes but offers its own watery spectacle. In Rastoke, 23 waterfalls rush into the Korana River, which is lined with traditional mills.

During summer, take a refreshing dip in the water before cycling through the peaceful Jelvik forest along the river’s edge.

Tokaj, Hungary: To sample sweet ‘noble rot’ wine

Wine lovers shouldn’t miss the historic Hungarian town of Tokaj. It is the centre of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine district – home to Tokaji, the original ‘noble rot’ wine.

This sweet, complex tipple relies on botrytis, a special type of fungus that attacks overripe grapes and turns them into shrivelled, sugary berries. This process requires weather conditions unique to the region and the grapes are harvested by hand.

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Needless to say, no visit is complete without a wine tasting session and a trip to Tokaj’s World Heritage Wine Museum.

Lerici, Italy: To experience the Italian Riviera sustainably

Lerici, on Italy’s northwest coast, is dotted with the kind of iconic colourful buildings that Cinque Terre is known for.

But it’s the town’s commitment to the blue economy that has earned it recognition from UNWTO.

It is home to the Santa Teresa Smart Bay – Italy’s first underwater ‘living’ laboratory. Here, scientists monitor for destructive ocean acidification by observing the growth rate of bryozoans – aquatic invertebrate animals.

This research will help in their mission to protect the bay’s delicate ecosystem and encourage sustainable tourism in the area.

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Sortelha, Portugal: To step back in time

From Lisbon to Porto, Portugal has soared in popularity as a tourist destination in recent years. But the country still has plenty of hidden gems to discover.

Among them is Sortelha, an ancient, walled town that has maintained its medieval and Renaissance architecture.

Overlooked by an imposing 13th-century castle, its rural granite houses paint a scene from days gone by while its wind turbines paint a vision of a sustainable future.

Portugal earned no shortage of accolades at UNWTO’s Best Tourism Village Awards.

Also awarded were the surfing paradise of Ericeira, the green mountain village of Manteigas, and Vila da Madalena on the island of Pico in the Azores.

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Valeni, Moldova: For pelican watching on Lake Belleau

Dive into Moldova’s beautiful natural wonders in Valeni, a village in the country’s southwest.

This destination has been improving its tourism credentials since 2014 when Eco Village Văleni was established as a base for visitors to explore the area.

Witness flocks of pelicans on their way to the Danube Delta at Lake Belleau and explore the Lower Prut Natural Reservation, registered in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Siguenza, Spain: For a medieval train journey

Sigüenza in central Spain is known for its fortress-like castle and Museo Diocesano, home to famous religious artworks.

But in recent years this living museum of a city has become stagnant due to depopulation.

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It is now on a mission to change that by becoming a hub of rural development – and tourism is a key piece of the puzzle.

The city is encouraging weekday travel on its Medieval Train, which runs from Madrid and takes one hour and 20 minutes. Troubadours and knights accompany you on your journey, using music and theatre to tell the story of the villages and towns you pass through along the way.

Oñati – a Basque town embracing smart tourism – and the historic municipality of Cantavieja also received UNWTO Best Tourism Villages awards.

Morcote, Switzerland: For lakeside lounging

With its postcard-pretty looks, Morcote on Lake Lugano is an irresistible travel destination.

Backed by greenery, arcades of old patrician houses line the water’s edge, welcoming the ferry from Lugnano to this protected Swiss village.

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The Swiss town of Saint-Ursanne, with its Romanesque abbey church and medieval houses, also received a Best Tourism Villages award.

Şirince, Türkiye: For a peaceful escape

With a history stretching back to the Hellenistic period, Şirince in Türkiye strives to preserve its old-time atmosphere.

Cars are banned in the town’s narrow streets, leaving locals to get around by foot or horse. 

The hilltop town was a Greek village before the Greco-Turkish War. It is 12 km from the ancient city of Ephesus and is surrounded by vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees.

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What went wrong with the investigation that toppled Portugal’s PM?

‘Operation Influencer’ brought down a sitting prime minister for the first time in Portugal’s history. As prosecutors admit mistakes, many are asking: Was the downfall of Portugal’s PM necessary?

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The Portuguese political tsunami began a week ago, when two people close to the now ex-Prime Minister António Costa were arrested.

They were accused of irregularities in the concession of lithium deposits and green hydrogen projects.

Hours later, Costa himself hastily announced his resignation, triggering an early election – the second in two years.

“I leave office with a clear conscience,” the prime minister told the press, as Portuguese society looked on baffled, while European socialists mourned the loss of a politician tipped for higher EU office. 

This was just the beginning of ‘Operation Influencer’, an investigation that for the first time in Portugal’s history brought down a sitting prime minister.

Within days, however, the threads of the investigation began to unravel, after Portuguese prosecutors admitted they had confused the name of Prime Minister António Costa, with that of Economy Minister António Costa Silva, in the transcript of wiretaps.

But what other mistakes were made in the operation, which ended with the fall of the PM?

What is happening in Portugal?

The solid parliamentary majority enjoyed by António Costa’s Socialists was not enough to keep the government afloat.

Last Tuesday morning, a political shockwave shook the southern European country.

Prosecutors ordered the arrest of two members of Prime Minister António Costa’s inner circle, his chief of staff Vítor Escária and businessman Diogo Lacerda Machado.

Lacerda and Costa have been good friends since they studied law together in Lisbon. When Costa became prime minister in 2015, Lacerda Machado was able to stay by his friend’s side.

According to Portuguese media, investors were in the habit of hiring Lacerda Machado’s lawyer to learn more about the government’s inner machinations. 

Costa is under investigation for influence peddling, embezzlement and fraud. According to his own chief of staff, he is said to have unblocked concession files for mining operations.

In an institutional speech last weekend, the former prime minister explained that ‘whatever Lacerda Machado has done, he has never done it with my authorisation, a prime minister has no friends’.

“Throughout his administration, Costa stuck to the principle of not resigning when it came to members of his government,” says Paula Espírito Santo, Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lisbon. 

“He kept them until the last minute, until the pressure was too high. But when it came to himself, he resigned immediately, he didn’t follow this principle,” she told Euronews. 

In total, police carried out more than 42 searches, including Costa’s office in Sao Bento Palace and the ministries of infrastructure and the environment.

During the searches, envelopes containing more than € 75,000 in cash were found in the office of António Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, in the prime minister’s official residence.

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The other three people arrested in the case are the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, and two administrators of the company Start Campus, whose project to produce green hydrogen and build a data centre in Sines is under investigation.

Portugal’s infrastructure minister, Joao Galamba, also resigned on Monday.

Why has the prosecution been deflated?

During the first days of the investigation, the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office made a mistake that has since dogged their case.

They admitted that they had confused the Minister of Economy, António Costa Silva, with the country’s Prime Minister, António Costa, in a transcript of wiretaps in the corruption case.

“It was (Diogo) Lacerda Machado who informed the Public Prosecutor’s Office that there had indeed been a mistake, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office had to accept it,” Lacerda Machado’s lawyer told the press.

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“Of course, these errors are not serious if they are unintentional. Whether it was intentional or not, I can’t slander the Public Prosecutor’s Office,” the lawyer added.

According to Professor Espírito Santo,  in the eyes of the public, these mistakes undermine the investigation, but at the end of the day it is the process itself that is important. 

“Nevertheless, it’s certainly not good for the image of the Portuguese public prosecutor’s office, which should be more careful in a case of this importance,” she adds.

Not only have the defendants contradicted the prosecution, but so has the judge in charge of the case.

Judge Nuno Dias Costa has released the five detainees, saying he does not believe they should be investigated for corruption or prevarication, as he only sees signs of influence peddling.

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However, he ordered them to stay in the country and hand over their passports. Lacerda Machado must also pay a bail of € 150,000 within 15 days.

Dias Costa thus rejected the prosecution’s request to remand in custody the two main players in the case: the former chief of staff of the prime minister and Lacerda Machado.

The decision, which adds to the mistakes made by the public authorities, has provoked criticism from a part of society that wonders whether this political turmoil was necessary.

“The President of the Parliament also stressed that they should clarify what’s going on, because there’s a lot of talk that they’re tarnishing the public image of justice,” says the political scientist.

“There has been much criticism of the process, especially from the Socialist Party. The other parties are quieter because they now have a chance in the next elections,” she adds.

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The end of Costa’s European dream?

Until this month’s scandal, Prime Minister Costa had been tipped for a senior leadership position with the EU in Brussels. 

Europe’s socialists, who have been losing strength on the old continent after each election, had applauded the parliamentary majority Costa had won in Portugal.

So they wanted the former prime minister to get a powerful EU job, where he could keep company with Josep Borrel, another socialist and head of European diplomacy.

“It’s not easy to know what will happen to Costa. Until this moment we thought he had lost all his expectations, but the more we know about the investigation, the more some people regret what has happened,” says Professor Espírito Santo.

“There are more and more voices saying that if there wasn’t enough evidence he shouldn’t have resigned. So they’re blaming him and asking why he rushed into this decision”.

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From Argentina to Zambia, the A-Z of how fans are celebrating the Women’s World Cup

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It runs in my blood. That’s the common catchcry from fans all around Australia, who reflect on what it means to them to see their country perform at a FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Chicken, beer, and South Korean football

Employees at the Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney are excited to support the women’s team.()

A roar emerges from inside a replica of a traditional Korean hanok, or house. 

Employees from the Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney give a taste of the noise they’ll be generating during the Women’s World Cup as they support their country. 

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Jenny Chung was born in South Korea, but grew up in Australia, and looks after events and concerts at the centre. 

“Even though I’ve lived in Australia for most of my life, I would call Korea my home,” she says. 

Jenny Chung, Jihee Kim, and Joanne Tae will be attending some of South Korea’s matches. ()

“I think a lot of people feel the same way that have been living in Australia for a long time. They feel like Korea is closer to them.

“So every time we have a match like this, we go to a pub and we have chicken and beer, and we watch the tournaments together.”

The Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney runs K-Pop dance classes.()
Joanne Tae is proud to support her team.()
Kate Minji Jung is the manager of education and literature at the Korean Cultural Centre, Sydney.()

Joanne Tae is the Korean language program manager. 

“Hopefully they’ll get to the finals and win the Women’s World Cup,” she says.

“But even if they don’t, we’ll be definitely proud of our players.” 

General Manager of the Korean Cultural Centre, Inji Jung, in a traditional Korean hanok. ()

J-League star gets behind Japan’s women

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As a former J-League star, Kentaroh Ohi knows how much football means to the Japanese public.

A junior national representative, Ohi went on to make 483 appearances with three different clubs between 2003-2022, before crossing to Australia in 2023 to represent the Eastern Lions in Victoria. 

During a World Cup, Ohi says, it is common for families to “wake up at all hours”, glued to the TV as they cheer on the Japanese national team. 

Former J-League player Kentaro Ohi is excited to follow the Japanese women’s team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.()

“It’s an amazing atmosphere,” he says.

“Everyone’s up and about.” 

After the Japanese women’s team won the World Cup as underdogs in 2011, the country “went crazy”, he says.

“As soon as they won, the popularity [of women’s football] just skyrocketed in Japan,” Ohi says.

Some of those players also went on to become television celebrities.

Kentaroh Ohi played over 400 J-League games in Japan.()
Knick knacks inside Paprica Japanese restaurant in Melbourne.()
Paprica is run by Japanese football fans.()

Watching women’s sport grow in Aotearoa New Zealand 

Kiana Takairangi and Harata Butler hope the Women’s World Cup can elevate all women’s sport in Aotearoa New Zealand.()

Kiana Takairangi and Harata Butler play in the NRLW for the Cronulla Sharks, but when it comes to the World Cup, they’re ditching the code wars, to support their fellow female athletes.

“I’m a big fan of it myself, the more exposure, the more recognition that we get as female athletes, it’s really great for women’s sport in general,” Takairangi says.

“I feel like I’m in a privileged position to witness women’s sports, women athletes being recognised on an international stage,” Butler adds.

“Being hosted in our little part of the world for our girls to see women striving and achieving and reaching the goals and their dreams to be an athlete. It’s really massive.”

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Harata Butler’s Tā moko represents her family’s ancestry.()

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Takairangi was born in Australia, and has Cook Islands and Māori heritage, while Butler is from the North Island in Aotearoa. 

“To me, being Māori is my identity,” Butler says.

“It runs in my blood, it holds me grounded, wherever I go in the world, whether that is at home, on home soil, or afar, like here in Australia, it keeps me in tact with my spirituality, my beliefs and my cultural practices.”

Harata Butler plays for the Cronulla Sharks NRLW team. ()

Small, but loud and rowdy Panamanians 

The Altamiranda family are proud of their Panamanian heritage.()

There are only 300 people born in Panama who live in Australia, including the Altamiranda family. 

Andrewfer Altamiranda is the youngest of three boys — the only one of his siblings born in Australia — but his love for Panama, and especially football, runs deep.

“[My family has] been embedding the culture and the customs of the country in me since birth,” he says.

“And that’s how I’m close to Panama, and I’m passionate about my country’s heritage.

“[Panamanians are] very loud and rowdy. We’re very passionate about the culture, the music, the food.

“And once we find someone from Panama as well it’s an instant connection, like a brotherhood or sisterhood.”

Andrewfer Altamiranda plays a Panamanian drum.()

Andrewfer’s mother, Sofia, her husband and two oldest children came to Australia to escape the dictatorship of Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno. 

“We came to this wonderful and beautiful country to make them happy, better life for all of us,” she says.

“We still have [Panama] in our blood. The first time Panama [plays] in this event, it’s wonderful for us to give a lot of support to them.”

The Altamiranda family prepare dinner, while sharing their thoughts about the Women’s World Cup.()
Dayal Ortiz is excited to see Panama’s women on the world stage.()
The Panama women’s team have proven themselves equal to the men by making it to the big stage.()

Andrewfer’s wife, Dayal Ortiz, has only been living in Australia for a few years, and seeing Panama’s women here means a lot.

“We’re going to support [them] because they have done a magnificent job.

“They need to have fun, enjoy. I hope after this they receive all the support for the government that they need to.”

Andrewfer Altamiranda was born in Australia but is passionate about supporting Panama.()

Jamaica punches above its weight

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Ranked 43rd in the world, Jamaica punches well above the weight of its just 2.8 million population, qualifying for the two most recent tournaments.

Roderick Grant, a former professional player who now runs a Jamaican food truck business, moved to Australia when he was 15.

He sees the tournament as a new opportunity to inspire young girls to take up the sport.

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“It’s going to be excellent because Jamaica is so isolated as a small island,” he says.

“It’ll be a great motivator for the young girls to focus in on something and show that it can be achieved. It’s just hard work and dedication.”

Roderick knows first-hand how ingrained football is in Jamaican life, having gone on to represent his family worldwide.

Ranked 43rd in the world, Jamaica will be hoping to advance past the group stage for the first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.()

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Roderick Grant knows first-hand how ingrained football is in Jamaican life.()
Roderick Grant found a balance between playing football and bringing Jamaican cuisine to Australian.()

“Football, man, it’s one of those things growing up in Jamaica, you finish school, go home and get changed, straight to the football field in the evening,” he says.

“It’s not even to play as a club, it’s just to play with your friends, your mates, and everyone just pulls teams together. It’s a big part of what we do in Jamaica.”

Football part of Norwegian identity

Sebastian Grøgaard (centre) says football is a central part of Norwegian life. ()

At a celebration for Norway’s ‘Constitution Day’, Norwegian ex-pats get together to celebrate. 

“It was the day that the constitution was signed back in 1814, and it’s also known as the Children’s Day,” says one of the attendees, Bente Ryan.

Norwegian Constitution Day is also known as Children’s Day.()
There are many proud Norwegians in Australia.()
Traditional Norwegian food.()
Norwegian Constitution Day is a time for socialising.()

“So in Norway people will gather in towns and have parades, national costumes, flags, brass bands, lots of ice cream, lots of hotdogs. And it’s a whole lot of fun.”

Amongst the group is Håvard T. Osland, the Norwegian Chaplain to Australia and New Zealand, mainly working as a university chaplain for Norwegian international students. 

“It’s always exciting when your national team is doing really well, and football definitely is a big sport in Scandinavia,” he says. 

“So it really is one of the things that connects us, and is part of our DNA and our identity.”

Chocolate cake brings a smile at the Norwegian Constitution Day.()
Traditional Norwegian outfits.()
The Norwegian colours.()
Traditions are celebrated by Norwegians.()

Generations of Italians share joy together

The Raspoli and Pafralis family say football runs in the blood, with everyone playing locally or watching the national team.()

For generations, family has meant everything to Carmela Rispoli, who moved to Australia in the 1960s and raised four children.

As Italian-Australians, her daughter Philomena Pafralis and granddaughter Natalie Pafralis know when they come together and watch or play, it’s always special.

Italian-Australian mother and daughter, Philomena Pafralis (left) and Natalie Pafralis (right) love to watch Italy play.()

“It’s just beautiful to get together with the family,” Philomena says.

She was born in Italy and moved to Australia at just one year of age.

Italian nonna Carmela Rispoli (centre) moved to Australia in the 1960s, raising four children including Philomena Pafralis (left), and third-generation Natalie Pafralis (right).()

As for Natalie, there was really no other option, being born into an Italian family and raised in Australia.

“If I didn’t want to do it I didn’t have a choice. I was playing all my life, all my childhood,” she says.

And after all – “Italy has to win because they’re the best in the world,” Carmela cries in Italian.

Portuguese community linked by football

As soon as you walk into the grounds of Fraser Park FC in Sydney’s inner-west, the melodic sounds of an accordion ring throughout the area.

Members of Sydney’s Portugal Community Club are enjoying a meal and listening to the traditional music, while on the football field next door, the senior men’s team is preparing to play.

A man plays an accordion at Sydney’s Portugal Community Club.()
Fraser Park FC in Sydney’s inner-west is connected to the Sydney Portugal Community Club.()
David Palma used to play for Fraser Park FC, and is now a supporter.()

Football and community are inseparable here. 

Andrew Alves was born in Australia, after his parents migrated from Portugal. He used to play for Fraser Park, but now supports the team from the sidelines.

“It’s always been a massive part, the Portuguese community here, and has been for many years,” he says.

His niece, 13-year-old Annabella Vasconcelos, plays football, and is amongst the generation of players watching the tournament and being inspired.

“[I’m] more excited than to have the men’s World Cup here,” she says.

The glue that binds Argentines in Australia

Argentines in Australia are still on a high after the men’s team won last year’s World Cup in Qatar.()

“The women’s World Cup means a lot to Argentinians,” says Alfredo Couceiro of Melbourne City Football Club, based in South Kingsville, Victoria.

This is especially the case, he adds, for those like him who have relocated to Australia. 

“Even if you migrate to another country, your heart is beating for Argentina,” adds fellow Argentinian Melissa Gugliara. 

“Football is born into you [as an Argentinian]. 

“It’s in your veins, it’s in your blood.

“You love it, you become passionate.”

Argentina fans at a fan day in Melbourne.()

Cristian Emanuel Mansilla adds that football is the glue that binds Argentinian migrants.

“We are always trying to connect with other Argentinian people within our community,” he says.

“[With football], we are together the whole time. It’s why we love it; hugging, supporting, singing together.”

Even pets are roped in to support the team.()

Brazilian football ‘like a religion’

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No one does football like Brazil, with some of the most passionate supporters and best players in the world.

When Adilson Andrade de Melo Júnior moved to Australia, he knew there was a spread of sports compared to back home in Brazil.

“It’s hard to explain … in Brazil when you talk about football, soccer, it’s part of the culture. It’s a religion in a way,” he says.

Brazilian supporter Adilson Andrade de Melo Júnior performs on drums and other instruments at any match he can attend when they’re playing in Australia.()
Brazilian supporter Adilson Andrade de Melo Júnior performs on drums and other instruments at any match he can attend when they’re playing in Australia.()

“Everyone follows, every four years we stop for this magnificent event.

“Whenever Brazil comes here, myself and a couple of other friends, we get together trying to organise tickets for everyone and being close to each other.

“Last game that Brazil had here we probably had over 300 people sitting together cheering, which was an amazing atmosphere.”

Zambia’s Copper Queens inspiring a nation

Dr Elias Munshya is Zambia’s High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.()

Zambia is one of eight countries making its tournament debut, and no one is more excited to sing their praises than the country’s High Commissioner for Australia and New Zealand, Dr Elias Munshya.

“It’s a huge, huge time for us,” he says.

“It’s amazing just to see the impact that this qualification of Zambia National Women’s [team] has had on young girls in Zambia.

“These players have inspired a whole generation of young girls that believe in themselves, that they believe they can achieve, that are fighting for equality, that are fighting for equity.”

Nigerians use sport as a form of survival

As Africa’s top-ranked nation, Nigeria’s women’s national team has plenty of support, including from Toyin Abbas.

“From day one, we embedded with soccer because we were colonised by Britain,” he says.

“It’s one of the reasons people play sports in Africa.”

As he knows well as a former professional player, Toyin played football, just as the Super Falcons players do so across the globe.

“People started to see soccer as a form of survival. Like you want to earn a living and it’s tough for some families, it’s very tough for some individuals.

There’s plenty of support from Melbourne’s Nigerian community with sport being a way to make a living for some players.()

“It unifies relations, the people, it binds people together.”

Nigerian supporter, Toyin Abbas says the Super Falcons can win it all at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.()
The Super Falcons are 11-time champions at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, but have never made it past the quarter-finals at a World Cup in nine attempts.()

As Toyin says, the Super Falcons players will have success if they stay tactically disciplined together.

“We’re going to win the trophy, I will tell you,” he says.

“The Nigerian team, we have what it takes, we can be world beaters.”

Canada to ‘knock people’s socks off’

Stacey, Dylan, and their boys come from Edmonton, Canada.()

Stacey, Dylan and their three boys hail from Edmonton, Alberta.

They’re a long way from home but their Canadian national pride is never far away.

“We’re really, really proud. I think they have a really good chance of winning, [we’re] really hopeful, we will be cheering them on,” Stacey says

Rod Johns is the president of the Canada Club in Melbourne.()

Equally ecstatic is Rod Johns, president of the Canada Club in Melbourne.  

“I think it’s great that they’re coming because the girls don’t get enough exposure, it’s good for soccer in Australia, and it’s good for women’s sports in general, Mr Johns said. 

“Based on their pre-performance I think they’ll knock some people’s socks off, they should do very well.” 

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Climate fuelled fires are forcing people to migrate in Portugal

Six years ago, a new kind of fire hit Portugal. It killed 66 people. For those lucky enough to survive, the experience still haunts them.

“A huge fireball came flying down the hill onto the house,” said British expat Julie Jennings, recalling the horror of a wildfire turning their Portuguese village into an inferno. “It was terrible, I’ll never forget that sound.”

The 62-year-old grabbed her donkey and fled. Her partner Chris Nilton followed closely behind with their two dogs, abandoning their dream home in Mosteiro, Pedrógão Grande, which had only been finished 18 months earlier.

“I had about 19 olive trees in the front garden and they were all alight like Roman candles bursting 20 foot in the air,” recalled Chris, 72.

“All the embers were hitting me and the dog. I was only in shorts, bare chest and flip flops. I could feel all these sticking bits of burning wood hitting on me.”

Losing each other within seconds in the thick smoke and howling winds, Chris made for a river, tapping out fires on his head and that of his dog as he went.

“I jumped into the river, went underneath because my head was on fire,” said Chris “I was there probably five minutes and I thought I [have] got to get back up to the hill to the house and see where the hell she is.”

Chris and Julie survived the fires in Pedrógão Grande on 17 June 2017. Haunted by the experience, they have migrated to cooler climes on Portugal’s coast.

The blazes that day killed 66 people, 30 of them in their cars as they were fleeing on the national road 236-1. Another 17 died nearby trying to escape from the cars on foot.

“We have friends in Nodeirinho, we know that a lot of people were killed there,” said Julie. “And our neighbour, Carlos’ wife lost her sister, her niece and her great-niece and nephew-in-law who tried to get away from the fire in a car and they all perished.”

A new kind of ‘mega-fire’

Portugal is a country used to forest fires.

But the one that hit Pedrógão Grande six years ago was the first of its kind in Europe, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Spain.

“In June 2017, for the first time in our latitudes, Portugal suffered a new type of fire, unknown to this date by the scientific community: a sixth-generation mega-fire clearly linked to global change,” WWF Spain wrote in a report.

“Extreme, uncontrollable and lethal. A type of fire that was repeated again that same year in Portugal and Spain, and a year later in Greece.

“Climate change is accelerating and intensifying the occurrence of large fires at a quicker step than originally expected: we have moved from not having this type of fires to having the three largest fires in Europe in merely two years, and in the same region.”

Portugal’s typical wildfire season traditionally runs from June to September.

But in 2017, high temperatures throughout the year and low rainfall in the previous spring and winter meant there were around 2,500 fires recorded in April and 3,000 in October, an indicator of how climate change is extending the fire period.

By June a heatwave and a dried-out forest helped the fire create its own micro-climate. Strong and unpredictable winds fanned the flames.

Julie said they had been advised to spray the roof and vegetation around the property’s perimeter with water, normally an effective strategy at stopping the fire’s spread.

But this blaze was different.

“Nothing could have stopped that,” she told Euronews. “It was in the village and from here to Nodeirinho (5km to the west) in probably seven or eight minutes. That’s how fast and hot it was travelling.

“It was terrifying and I’ll never forget the noise. For me, the noise was the worst thing closely followed by the heat.”

By 9pm, a couple of hours after Chris and Julie had fled their home, the fire hit its peak, moving at 5.3 km/h.

“That made it a completely uncontrolled fire, almost impossible to control at times, becoming a catastrophe and not just a big wildfire as we were used to,” said Rui Barreira, a forest, food and wildlife technician at Portugal Nature Association (ANP).

“These fires were characterised by the high speed of propagation. This can only be related to climate change.”

It took a week to put the fires out. By then they had burned through almost 500 square kilometres of land – an area roughly the size of Andorra.

Then, four months later, in October, tragedy struck again.

A late, out-of-season heatwave intensified the drought and combined with winds from Hurricane Ophelia. It saw another “mega-fire” hit central Portugal, this time about 50 kilometres north of Pedrógão Grande. It killed 51 people.

While 2017 was exceptional, Portugal has been the Mediterranean country hardest hit by forest fires over the last three decades, according to WWF.

“Portugal is one of the countries most affected by climate change,” said EU chief Ursula von der Leyen in December 2019. “Loss of coasts, hurricanes, floods and horrible forest fires have already taken a very high toll.”

‘We are moving because of climate change’

Despite the fire ruining their dream home, Chris and Julie had initially decided to stay in the region.

But constant anxiety and fears of another fire changed their minds.

“When I light a fire I smell the smoke and it brings it all back to me,” said Chris.

“It’s something you never forget, the smell of smoke terrifies us,” added Julie. “We decided to move out to central Portugal near the coast where the temperature will be lower and more consistent. We are moving because of climate change.”

Chris and Julie are not alone. Barreira said in the aftermath of the fires, former residents of the area – many of them younger and living in the cities – came back to Pedrógão Grande to take their parents away, saying the region was no longer safe.

But it’s difficult to get a firm idea on how many left permanently as a result of the fires three years ago, at the time of writing.

Dina Duarte, president of the Pedrógão Grande’s Victims Association (AVIPG), estimates it’s no more than a few dozen, mainly foreigners.

Some have decided to stay. Dutch couple Peter and Marion de Ruite, who live in Salaborda Velha two kilometres away from Mosteiro, had their three-bedroom house destroyed in the fire. They spent a year living in a caravan next to the burned-out shell of their former home.

“The tragedy is more about the people that died than a house destroyed,” said Peter, who arrived in Portugal 15 years ago.

The heat and the dryness of the last few years had pushed the couple to consider moving but they decided to stay.

“If I leave, I leave this region behind which could be very beautiful if we work on it together,” Peter told Euronews. “I shouldn’t just abandon it. I think we should try to make this a better place.”

Nevertheless, people have been leaving the region and well before 2017. Young people especially have departed in search of work in Portugal’s cities. In Pedrógão Grande the population reduced by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2016 and for every 100 young people there are 284 elderly.

“The strong depopulation and ageing of the population, especially of the rural areas in the interior and mountains, have forced the abandonment of all traditional agricultural activities,” said WWF.

“Thus natural vegetation, shrubland, young pioneer forest stand but also monocultural plantation (eucalyptus and pine species) colonised the landscape. They are increasing landscape combustibility and flammability.”

What else caused Portugal’s deadly fires?

One of the key problems for many in Portugal is the lack of forest management, which has allowed the propagation of flammable species like pine and eucalyptus.

In 2009, two researchers, Mark Beighley and Albert C. Hyde, raised the issue in a report on Portugal’s forest fire defence strategy.

They predicted that within the next decade that wildfires would burn an area of 500,000 hectares. It happened in 2017.

Writing again in 2018, Beighley and Hyde said the problems they identified 10 years before were still a problem: the high percentage of unmanaged forest lands; the increase in flammable material; the high number of unwanted fire ignitions; and climate change.

“What remains to be seen following Portugal’s catastrophic 2017 fire year is whether there is now consensus on seeing the fire problem as a real national priority,” their report reads.

Julie, for one, has her doubts and thinks the government hasn’t done enough to tackle some of the problems.

“I do know that since the fires people have sold sways of land that have now been planted with eucalyptus again.

“And although I realise that this is a cash crop for people and they need to make a living it needs to be managed properly.

“If it isn’t this will continue to happen. To reforest here with more eucalyptus? I don’t understand.”

Back in Mosteiro, Chris and Julie reflect on the reality that they are victims of global warming: they have become climate migrants.

“We chose this place because it reminded us of the Lake District: it was green and there were trees and shade. It was just beautiful. But look at it now… it’s desolate and we are moving because of climate change. Because that is what is causing the fires to be as they are.

“For Portugal, the eucalyptus can reach so far down that’s why the water table is going down. And last summer with record temperatures our little river dried up. That tells you a lot I think about climate change. And it’s sad. It makes me very sad.”

This article was part of a series originally published in 2020.

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The EU greenwashed fossil gas. Today, we are suing.

Last July, EU policymakers decided to greenwash fossil gas. Today, the WWF European Policy Office, Client Earth, BUND and Transport & Environment are taking them to the European Court of Justice.

We are doing it to reassert a basic truth: all fossil fuels are dangerous for the planet. Only last summer, European cities baked under fierce heatwaves, rivers across our continent ran dry, and whole swathes of France, Spain, and Portugal were burned by unprecedented wildfires. In the midst of this devastation, the EU approved a new chapter of its supposed green investment guidebook — the EU Taxonomy — which stated that fossil gas-fired electricity is ‘green’. In fact, fossil gas is a fossil fuel that can cause plumes of methane that harm the climate just as badly as coal.

However, under the guise of climate action, the gas Taxonomy could divert tens of billions of euros from green projects into the very fossil fuels which are causing those heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires. This is while scientific experts at the International Energy Agency and the United Nations continue to stress that we must halt any expansion of fossil fuels and invest exclusively in developing clean energy sources. Even the EU’s own experts have said we must use much less gas by 2030. The gas Taxonomy is not just at odds with the science: it also flies in the face of market dynamics. Renewable investments across the world reached $500 billion last year, which shows that there is already a massive, readily available alternative to gas-fired power.

For all these reasons, having previously filed a request for the Commission to review the gas Taxonomy, we are filing a case at the CJEU today. We will argue that the gas Taxonomy, and the Commission’s refusal to review it, clash with the European Climate Law, the precautionary principle, and the Taxonomy Regulation — the law on which the Taxonomy is built. It also undermines the EU’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. We expect a judgment within the next two years.

Fossil gas at the heart of two European crises

Europe faces two interlocking crises: an inflation crisis and a climate crisis. Fossil gas is at the heart of both. Had we decided to invest with more determination in renewables and energy efficiency even just 10 years ago, our continent would not have been so dependent on energy imports. We would not have faced such great spikes in energy and food prices, which disproportionately hurt our poorest citizens. We would be closer to meeting our Paris Agreement goals.

Instead,  largely due to decades of industry pressure — the gas lobby spends up to €78 million a year in Brussels alone — our continent has remained extremely dependent on destructive fossil fuels. That dependency must end. It is high time to direct billions of euros into installing more renewables more quickly, with a focus on secure, cheap wind and solar power. It is time to expand the technologies to back them up, such as building insulation, energy storage, and strong grids. And above all, it is time to stop the lie that putting money into any fossil fuel will help the green transition. That is the purpose of our legal case.

Policymakers and financial institutions beware

EU policymakers are increasingly inserting references to the EU Taxonomy into other policies. If our case is successful, and the Taxonomy’s gas criteria are overturned, any legislation tying gas financing to the Taxonomy would become inapplicable.

Policymakers beware: the Taxonomy is on shaky ground, and you should not use it to justify new gas investments. Fossil fuel companies that get hooked on green funding will face a rude awakening if our legal case cuts that support off. They may even incur steep losses if they have made investments based on EU policies only to find that gas has been struck out of them.

Fossil fuel companies that get hooked on green funding will face a rude awakening if our legal case cuts that support off.

Financial institutions also face real reputational, financial and legal risks from the gas Taxonomy. Fossil gas is excluded from the global green bond market. Leading institutions such as the European Investment Bank or the Dutch pension federation have openly criticized the Taxonomy’s greenwashing. What is more, taxonomies in several other countries exclude fossil gas-fired power, so the European one lags behind. Any financial institution that uses the EU Taxonomy to justify investing in fossil gas assets therefore risks direct, robust and repeated attacks on its reputation.

The inexorable public policy shift towards energy efficiency and renewables, and the plummeting price of wind and solar power, have made fossil gas-fired power uncompetitive. Investments in more fossil gas, even if encouraged by the EU Taxonomy, would quickly result in stranded assets and could even cause billion-euro losses. Financial institutions must guard against these risks by stopping their support for gas expansion now.

Finally, if our case is successful, financial institutions could find they have purchased or sold products mislabeled as ‘green’. They must be careful to verify the legal consequences of such an event, particularly for its impact on any climate claims they have made.

Our message to the EU

Policymakers and financial institutions should note that the Taxonomy faces four further court cases: one from the governments of Austria and Luxembourg, one from Greenpeace, one from the Trinational Association for Nuclear Protection (ATPN) and another from MEP René Repasi. The EU’s greenwashing is now being discredited from all sides – amongst scientists, in financial markets, and soon, we expect, by the judiciary.

Our message to the EU is simple: do not help fossil lobbyists to block our continent’s move to clean, cheap and secure energy. If you do, we will meet you head-on.

Victor Hugo once said that nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. Today, despite much fossil fuel lobbying, denial and delay, it is the turn of the green transition. Our message to the EU is simple: do not help fossil lobbyists to block our continent’s move to clean, cheap and secure energy. If you do, we will meet you head-on.

See you in court.



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Being a digital nomad isn’t just for singles. Here’s how families make it work

To many, the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” is an aspirational one — you can live anywhere in the world, visa permitting, with your laptop as your office.

Forget the daily grind of the rush hour commute. As long as there’s decent Wi-Fi, simply pick a coffee shop, park or pool and get to work.

The lifestyle has become more popular in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which accelerated the trend of remote working. The number of American digital nomads increased 9% in just 12 months from 2021 to 2022, to a total of almost 17 million, according to the jobs platform MBO Partners.

But one factor deters many from the lifestyle: kids.

Whether it’s schooling, health and safety concerns, or the question of a child’s ability to develop lasting friendships, parents face multiple barriers.

But some have taken the plunge anyway. Two families tell CNBC Travel how they’ve made it work.

Keller family: French Polynesia

Sam Keller is the founder and CEO of Working Without Borders, which calls itself “the world’s first company providing coworking retreats for families with culturally immersive programming for kids and teens.” 

He’s also a dad of two kids under the age of 12.

Sam Keller, founder of Working Without Borders, which organizes coworking retreats for families.

Working Without Borders

“My wife and I each had living abroad experiences, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it happen” again, he said. “Then we had kids.”

The couple scoped out a school while on vacation in French Polynesia, thinking it could be “the place where we can go live,” he said.

Another factor worked in their favor: Keller’s wife Pascaline Cure works for Airbnb, which allows her to work anywhere she wants.

So together they made a big move from California to French Polynesia. And not just at any time — they moved during the pandemic.

“The stars aligned, we made it onto the plane and decided we’re going to make lemonade out of lemons of this pandemic.”

Sam Keller with his family in Bora Bora.

Working Without Borders

Education is regularly cited as the biggest challenge for digital nomads with children. Navigating an unfamiliar school system, often in an entirely new language, can be a struggle.

“We found that [in French Polynesia] there are a fair number of private schools that will accept kids for as short a time as a couple of weeks or a month. Then there are plenty of schools set up to provide online support, or online-only schools with really good teaching and instruction and curricula,” Keller said.

Homeschooling is another option for some, but Keller prefers to call it “world schooling,” which he says “embraces this notion of viewing the world as your classroom.”

“From the playground you could see stingrays swimming by,” he said. “Kids are out as part of the curriculum, so we’re paddling outrigger canoes in the lagoon, seeing sea turtles and dolphins. It was just magical in so many respects.”

He added that now more resources exist to help people learn about the digital nomad lifestyle, thanks to its growing popularity. Companies, like this own, let families “dip their toes in the water,” and some Facebook groups for world schooling have more than 50,000 members — so there’s always someone to answer a question, he said.

Elledge-Penner family: 20 countries

The beautiful Indonesian island of Bali, famed for its laidback lifestyle, is a popular destination for digital nomads.

Martin Penner and Taryn Elledge-Penner from the boutique travel agency Quartier Collective call it home, along with their three children, aged between seven and 12.

Since leaving Seattle in 2018, the family has visited nearly 20 different countries, including Japan, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Sometimes they stay a few weeks, but typically they’re in one place for one to three months.

Taryn Elledge-Penner and her son Viggo in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Quartier Collective

Penner said his children were part of the reason they decided to leave the United States.

“We traveled a lot as individuals and just felt that the world was this big, wild place — and that our world in Seattle had shrunk in a way,” he said. “We had to show them the world and didn’t want to miss this connection to something bigger.”

Elledge-Penner said they wanted more time with their kids, to make their journey sustainable and, critically, to connect with other families.

“When we left it was lonely for families like ours on the road,” she said. “Now that has really changed and a lot of families have realized this is an option, going longer and deeper.”

The family of five have enjoyed a range of experiences: living on a farm in Japan where they slurped soba noodles from a 30-foot hollowed-out bamboo pole; making pottery in Mexico; and taking in a shadow puppet show in the Cyclades in Greece — though they didn’t understand a word.

Penner said the key to making the lifestyle work for them is “connecting with people” and not approaching places “as a travel highlight hit list.”

Martin Penner walking with two of his children in Japan.

Quartier Collective

But it’s not all fun and games. There are also practicalities to be reckoned with, Elledge-Penner said.

“One of the challenges has been finding a balance with time and space on our own — and away from each other and the kids,” she said. “We’ve gone such long periods being together, every waking moment of a day.”

“We all need a break and space, normally by going to work or school. Even though this is what we’re choosing, it still requires some balance and that can be difficult to find and that can lead to tension.”

The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount.

She also touches on what she calls “decision fatigue.”

“The time to plan out the logistics, getting from A to B, where to stay, it can literally be a full-time job and really exhausting,” she said.

Once again, education is one of the biggest questions for global nomads with kids, but — like Keller — Elledge-Penner said there are plenty of options.

“Things have changed a lot from when we first set out. It’s tenfold the number of options you can find and plug into as a world schooling family,” she said.

“We’ve dropped into schools in different countries around the world. There are accredited distance learning programs too and home-schooling pods. For literally anybody who wants to untether from their current school system, it’s totally possible to find whatever you’re looking for.”

The couple noted that the family dynamic has changed since they started traveling in 2018. Their daughter, for example, now wants more long-lasting friendships, while the idea of having a dog — and a bedroom she doesn’t have to share with her brothers — is a big draw.

“The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount. Lots of families we see stop traveling when [kids] are that age. Now they want to spend more time around friends [which is] a big shift from when we started out.”

 



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