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?


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.”


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


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


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.


“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.()


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’


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.

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.

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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