As for Ireland, EU Commissioners warn Portugal that democracy must wait

[Robert van Dijk, EU News Contributor]

EUOBSERVER: The European Commission says that Portugal‘s caretaker government is able to bind the country in its negotiation of a bail-out package and the resulting impositions of stark austerity and economic reshaping programs.

However, the caretaker government is disputing this as its spokesman, Pedro Silva Pereira, announced that it would not be commiting the country to any long-term goals.  But, EU Economy spokesperson, Amadeu Altafaj, is reported to have insisted: Democratic legitimacy? It’s not necessary. Apparently they had some mandate when they made the request last night. So if they were empowered last night to make the request, they are empowered to progress with negotiations…..they simply cannot wait”.

Analysts are saying that following the Portuguese government‘s resignation on 23 March, a temporary caretaker administration does not really have the legitimacy to negotiate and agree such wide-ranging changes to the economy of the country. In addition,  bearing in mind the experience of Greece and Ireland, the Portuguese are frightened of what the future will hold for them if they accept the pressured bailout measures which could amount to an injection of over EUR 90 billion into the economy.

The EU Commissioners have said that the new government that will be in place after the June elections will not be able to change any aspects of the bailout plan, nor can a temporary bailout be agreed pending validation by the new government.  According to EU Observer, Mr Altafaj said:

“It’s not their programme any more. It’s ours …’s being negotiated with the EU. Now we’re negotiating it together. It’s our programme as well. It’s not the same as Socrates’ programme of a few weeks ago”.

However, EU Observer reports that according to Andre Freire, a political scientist from Lisbon University Institute, the caretaker government can only sign a temporary agreement under emergency powers, but cannot bind the country to it long term:  “The problem the caretaker government has is not a constitutional one. It’s a transitory government and they have transitory powers … is an extreme situation because of the downgrades and so on, so they certainly have the power to take action in this emergency…the problem is that they have no political support to sign an agreement for more than one month or three months or something like that…any long-term agreement should be left open for the incoming government to change”.

Interesting times are ahead, it seems, for Portugal and the Commissioners.

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