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FOCUS - Numero speciale 26/2016

 Liberalisation and Centralisation: the Economic Crisis and Portuguese Institutional Administrative Law

The pervasive economic and financial crisis that has hit the world over the past years has caused a sovereign debt crisis in several EU member states. In order to overcome the threat of contagion from the sovereign debt crisis and the adverse conditions faced by its national banking sector, Portugal requested financial assistance from the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bailout was granted under the condition that a series of public sector reforms was put into practice. To start with, several public companies have been or are in the process of being privatised, at the same time that the ‘golden shares’ held hitherto by the Portuguese state have seen its end. The legal frameworks of professional associations and of the regulatory bodies were substantially modified towards further liberalisation. Many public institutions and/or services were extinguished or merged. And the legal regime applicable to public servants made a steep turn, getting closer to that of private sector workers. On the other hand, there has been a (constitutionally very dubious) reduction of the autonomy of the autonomous regions, of the local authorities, and of public universities, as well as of that of the few public companies that remain, in favour of more centralised (in the State) procedures. The implementation of the mentioned programme embodies the most relevant legal consequence of the economic crisis in Portugal in what Institutional Administrative Law is concerned. This paper analyses those reforms and argues that two different and simultaneous paths, which combination is counterintuitive, were followed: those of liberalisation and of centralisation. In the end, however, they have led to a zero-sum game... (segue)


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