Rule of Law in Portugal

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

yellow
Changes to the composition of the judicial High Councils are being discussed.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The electronic system of allocation of cases in courts is under scrutiny.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The perceived judicial independence among the general public has decreased.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The Statute of Public Prosecution and the Statute of Judicial Magistrates have been amended.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Quality

green
New reforms on the judicial map and on courts specialisation have been adopted.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Measures to improve the digitalisation of the justice system continue to be implemented.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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There are discussions on the resources for the justice system.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Several measures were taken to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the functioning of the justice system.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Efficiency

yellow
Despite improvements, the efficiency of the justice system continues to face challenges.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

yellow
In the latest Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, Portugal scored 62/100 and ranks 10th in the European Union and 30th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The criminal legal framework to fight corruption is broadly in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A National Anti-Corruption Strategy is in preparation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

green
New rules were introduced in 2019 with a view to increase transparency and integrity in public life.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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As part of the 2019 reforms, the Parliament also adopted a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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New rules have been introduced to strengthen the regime regulating ‘revolving doors’, but lobbying remains unregulated.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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As regards whistle-blower protection, general provisions for public officials are in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Repressive measures

green
Prosecution services are making efforts to improve their effectiveness, including as regards the treatment of high-level corruption cases.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Council for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) is the public authority responsible for developing national actions regarding the prevention of corruption and related offences.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
The Regulatory Authority for the Media is deemed independent and effective.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

green
Portugal has a thorough framework for ensuring transparency of media ownership.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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There are rules in place for regulating the transparency of state advertising.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Journalists' Protection

green
Safeguards are in place to guarantee media independence and to protect the exercise of journalistic profession from interference by state authorities.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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While basic protection standards for journalists are well established, defamation is punishable with imprisonment.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Access to information and documents held by public authorities is safeguarded through specific legislation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
The Constitutional system provides safeguards for the regime of checks and balances.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The legislative process foresees the involvement of stakeholders and there are safeguards for transparency.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Emergency powers were used in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

green
Portuguese laws protect civic participation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Independent Authorities

green
The Ombudsman holds important prerogatives to safeguard fundamental rights.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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