France and Portugal

Political relations

Our bilateral relations with Portugal are excellent in every area. Few countries are as culturally close as France and Portugal, a country that often supports our diplomatic initiatives. Our dialogue has increased in recent months with the signature of new agreements concerning taxation, language and education.


Our bilateral dialogue with Portugal has stepped up considerably since 2016. Our two Prime Ministers met in Paris on 18 April, the President of the French Republic met with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, accompanied by António Costa, in Paris on 10 June on the National Day of Portugal [This visit was a first: No Portuguese President had ever before celebrated National Day outside of Portugal]. On 19 July, the President went to Lisbon for a bilateral visit. On 25 July, Ms Vallaud-Belkacem signed, with her Portuguese counterpart, a declaration of intent marking a new stage in the promotion of the other partner’s language in our respective education systems. The Minister of State responsible for the Budget visited Lisbon on 25 August to sign an addendum to the French-Portuguese taxation agreement. At the funeral of former President Soares on 10 January 2017, France was the only Member State besides Spain to be represented at a high level by Lionel Jospin, Harlem Désir and Christine Pires-Beaune, President of the France-Portugal Group of Friends at the General Assembly. Lastly on 28 March, the Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research signed an education and language cooperation agreement with her counterpart.

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Economic relations

Economic relations between France and Portugal reflect and maintain our excellent bilateral relationship: As one of Portugal’s special trade partners, France is the third-largest supplier and second-largest customer. Our trade totals around €10 billion: France usually enjoys a surplus, but has posted a deficit for the past several years (€1 billion in 2014 and €1.2 billion in 2015).

On Tuesday, 7 March 2017 the 5th French-Portuguese Economic Conference was held and the French Minister of the Economy and Finance and the Portuguese Economy Minister participated along with the Portuguese Prime Minister. This Conference under the theme “Portugal, the brand” highlighted the interconnection and the importance of bilateral exchanges between France and Portugal. French companies in Portugal are ranked second behind Spain in terms of the number of companies working there (582), employees (61,598) and turnover (€14.274 billion); 12% of foreign companies in Portugal are French. The Portuguese Minister of the Economy spoke about French performance in the sectors of business, transport and storage as well as information and communication. Despite recent difficult economic times in Portugal, France’s presence in Portugal is growing with some 700 companies with a turnover of €9.5 billion and employing nearly 60,000 Portuguese people, the second-leading foreign employer behind Spain. France is therefore the number one foreign country generating added value in Portugal.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

After being dominant for a long time, our cultural and educational influence is now being challenged by the pervasive Anglo-Saxon model. Moreover, the financial adjustment plan implemented in Portugal is having a major impact on the cultural and artistic sector. For example, some cultural agencies have merged or been eliminated, supervisory authorities are being streamlined and subsidies to cultural foundations have been reduced. However the fact that many Portuguese elites are Francophiles and speak French is an asset.

Our action relies on a network made up of the Institut Français du Portugal and 12 Alliances Françaises, the Lycée Français Charles Lepierre of Lisbon, a prestigious secondary school in Portugal, and the Collège Marius Latour de Porto.

Our work focuses on four main areas:

Scientific and research cooperation

Our French cooperation mainly targets life and health sciences; nanoscience and nanotechnology; and oceanography and ocean sciences. It is mostly structured around the Hubert Curien Partnership “Pessoa” created in 1991, which implements high-quality scientific partnerships enabling international researcher mobility.

Education and language cooperation

French is not taught in many primary schools because of the growing popularity of English and is chosen as a second foreign language by 80% of students (220,000). However this figure has dropped to 12,000 students in secondary schools because learning a second foreign language is not compulsory at this level. Four priority areas have been chosen for our education and language cooperation: teacher training, the development of European sections focused on French, the use of digital tools in class and French teaching in higher education, and the development in higher education of official French certifications such as DELF (French Language Studies Diploma) and DALF (Advanced French Language Diploma) in the network of Alliance Française branches and in schools.

Academic cooperation

Different exchange programmes are promoted through the network of French language assistants. Students are participating in exchange programmes but in much lower numbers: France has gone from the third to the sixth most popular destination for Portuguese students. However, when it comes to individuals, France is still the top destination with the number of Portuguese students remaining stable at 3,455.

Cultural and broadcasting cooperation

The Institut Francais du Portugal, created in 1937 and relocated to the Embassy premises in summer 2015, will focus its strategy on field actions based on partnerships with Portuguese institutions, especially co-productions. These actions will ensure a strong presence at major events and host institutions (Festival d’Almada, Festival Alkantara, Fondation Serralves, Théâtre São Luiz, etc.).

The Institut Français du Portugal co-organizes the Fête de la Francophonie and the Almada International Theatre Festival. The cultural promotion initiative with the greatest ripple effect is definitely the French film festival, Festa do Cinema Françês, during which some 30 French films are screened each autumn in around 20 Portuguese cities.

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Other cooperation

In the area of defence, relations are governed by a bilateral agreement signed on 30 July 1999. A defence staff meeting is held every 18 months. Our cooperation, based on regular politico-military discussions, contributes to maintaining a favourable climate for our defence interests (access to the vast air/sea area under Portuguese control, to taking account of our proposals, notably within the security and defence organizations and bodies to which we both belong (EU, NATO, 5+5 dialogue, etc.) and to Portugal support in African theatre of operations. It should be noted that both navies are cooperating in the area of maritime surveillance. Officer exchanges are also conducted in the three army corps (working towards a military Erasmus).

In the area of internal security, cooperation is extensive and is working to combat drug trafficking, organized crime, document fraud and illegal immigration. Multilateral cooperation in the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics in Lisbon is producing very encouraging results. A civil security agreement was signed in April 2015, a second one in the area of internal security is under discussion. The Central Office for Combating Computer Crime has begun training Portuguese law enforcement officers specialized in dealing with cybercrime.

Updated: 27.04.17