Following its heyday as a global maritime power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence of its wealthiest colony of Brazil in 1822. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy; for most of the next six decades, repressive governments ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military coup installed broad democratic reforms. The following year, Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. Portugal is a founding member of NATO and entered the EC (now the EU) in 1986.
Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community - the EU's predecessor - in 1986. Over the following two decades, successive governments privatized many state-controlled firms and liberalized key areas of the economy, including the financial and telecommunications sectors. The country qualified for the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1998 and began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002 along with 11 other EU members. The economy grew by more than the EU average for much of the 1990s, but the rate of growth slowed in 2001-08. The economy contracted 2.5% in 2009, before growing 1.4% in 2010, but GDP fell again in 2011 and 2012, as the government began implementing spending cuts and tax increases to comply with conditions of an EU-IMF financial rescue package, agreed to in May 2011. GDP per capita stands at roughly two-thirds of the EU-27 average. Portugal also has been increasingly overshadowed by lower-cost producers in Central Europe and Asia as a destination for foreign direct investment, in part because its rigid labor market hindered greater productivity and growth. However, the government of Pedro PASSOS COELHO has enacted several measures to introduce more flexibility into the labor market, and, this, along with steps to reduce high levels of public debt, could make Portugal more attractive to foreign investors. The government reduced the budget deficit from 10.1% of GDP in 2009 to 4.5% in 2011, an achievement made possible only by the extraordinary revenues obtained from the one-time transfer of bank pension funds to the social security system. The budget deficit worsened in 2012 as a sharp reduction in domestic consumption took a bigger bite out of value-added tax revenues while rising unemployment benefits increased expenditures more than anticipated. Poor growth prospects over the next year have reinforced investors' concerns about the government's ability to achieve its budget deficit targets and regain full access to bond market financing when the EU-IMF financing program expires in 2013.