Administratively, '''Portugal+''' is a unitary and decentralized State. Nonetheless, operationally, it is highly centralized system with '''administrative divisions''' organized into three tiers.Carlos Nuno Silva (2002), p.5 The State is organized under the principles of subsidiarity, local government autonomy, and democratic decentralization of the public service. Although mainland Portugal has yet to implement a regional level tier, the autonomous regions of Madeira+ and the Azores+ have their own regional political and administrative statutes and self-governing institutions.
Until the end of the authoritarian regime (1926–1974), the administration of Portugal was highly centralized in the monarchy and, later, the republican governments. Administratively, Portugal was divided into district+s (), municipalities+ () and civil parishes (), with only the last two having some political autonomy.
The current government structure is based on the 1976 Constitution, adopted after the 1975 Carnation Revolution+. In addition to defining the autonomous status of the Azores and Madeira (Articles 225-234), the Constitution specifically identifies the three tiers of government (Article 235-262): civil parishes, municipalities and administrative regions (). In addition, Law No.11/2003 (13 May 2003) allows the municipalities to organize themselves into inter-municipal communities (), that can be of general or specific purposes; and metropolitan areas (), that can be of two types: great metropolitan areas () and urban communities (). The 1976 Constitution allows a high degree of freedom for the lower tier governments to decide their expenditures, but they are conditioned by state transferences to operate. A referendum+ was conducted in 1998 in order to implement statutory and political regions with some degree of autonomy, but was rejected. As a consequence of these constitutional revisions the ''"district"'' has been removed from the legal framework, but remains an important and relevant division for other entities. Similarly, it is still recognized by the general public. The 2011 bailout accord resulted in the proposed reduction of the number of municipal and parish local governments after July 2012, a condition of the $110 Billion accord.
In addition, the Portuguese territory was redefined during European integration, under a system of statistical regions and subregions known as Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics+. These NUTS definitions, used for collecting statistical information, follow many of the countries border definitions. Although utilized by the Portuguese government, they do not have a legal status in law.
Portugal has a complex administrative structure, a consequence of a millennium of various territorial divisions. Unlike other European countries like Spain or France, the Portuguese territory was settled early, and maintained with stability after the 13th century.
The first division of the Portuguese territory was based exclusively on the Roman Iberian provinces of Hispania Tarraconensis+, Lusitania+ and Hispania Baetica+, established by Emperor Augustus between 27-13 B.C. The actual territory of Portugal north of the Douro, the Province of Tarraconensis, occupied half of the peninsula, while the Province Lusitania, included the area south of the Douro. These Roman provinces were themselves subdivided into ''conventus iuridicus+'': ''Conventus Bracarum'', its seat in ''Bracara Augusta'' (today the city of Braga); ''Conventus Scallabitanus'', its seat in ''Scallabis'' (today the city of Santarém); and ''Conventus Pacensis'', its seat in ''Pax Julia'' (today Beja). By the end of the third century, Emperor Diocleatian administratively reordered Tarraconesis, dividing it into three separate territories (Tarraconensis, Carthaginensis and Callaecia), the latter comprising the northern Portugal, Galizia and Austurias. These divisions remained constant even after the Visigoths controlled the Iberian peninsula.
During the period of Al-Andalus+ and Muslim caliphates, the Iberian peninsula was divided administratively into provinces (''kuwar'') and municipalities (''kurar''), along the lines of the Roman-Visigothic delineations.José António Costa Ferreira (2005), p.23 Meanwhile, the ''taifa'' of Badajoz dominated the spaces of Beiras, Estremadura and a great part of the Alentejo.
With the expansion of the Portuguese national territory, following the conquest+ of new lands, the monarchy imposed a structure that permitted permanent dominion and organization of territorial space. There was also a tendency to demarcate lands associated with settlements or seigneurial properties; there was a constant history of foral+s (the royal charters) being allocated for unorganized territories, as a means to primarily establish fielty rights and encourage medieval settlement. Historically, the institution of the foral+ system was a way to divide the territory and to establish local administrative control (and not regional or hierarchical continuity).Nuno Valério (2001), p.27 Similarly the parish, instituted by the religious orders that dominated the country, controlled local ecclesiastical power at the local level.
During the reign of King Dinis (1279–1325), the monarch instituted a series of inquiries throughout the kingdom which resulted, a few years later, in the configuration of the territory into provinces and municipalities. This was the first official recognition of the diversity of the country, and in the King's ''Testamento do Reino de Portugal'' he recognized the five '''"regions"''' of the nation: ''Antre Douro e Minho''; ''Antre Douro e Mondego''; ''Beira'',''Estremadura'' and ''Antre Tejo e Odiana''.DGOTGU (2007), p.1
Dinis's successor, Afonso IV+ (1325–1357), instituted a system of six official comarcas+, that reflected a concrete definition of these regions: ''Antre Douro e Minho'', ''Antre Douro e Mondego'', ''Beira'',''Estremadura'', ''Antre Tejo e Odiana'' and ''Algarve''. Between the reign of Afonso IV and the 20th century there were numerous alterations to the limits of the nation, a consequence of development and population growth. Further modifications to the limits of these provinces occurred in the ''Plano de Ordenamento da Mata Nacional da Machada'' (1864), the first scientific delimiting of forest resources, and the ''Projecto Geral da Arborização dos Areais Móveis de Portugal'' (1897), which modified land usage along the coast.
But, until 1832, the provinces did not serve an administrative function, although they did mark the differences in habits, linguistic peculiarities and socio-cultural characteristics. The province remained a military designation, chiefed by the ''General das Armas'' (Military Governor), expressly forbidden from influencing municipal affairs. During the Liberal regime, some of the liberal politicians conceived an administrative system where provinces were the top level tier of government, maintaining their former names, but with different frontiers. The debate over the importance of provinces only arose from fears that there would be an excessive concentration of power in the hands of governmental officers (). The adoption of the 17 districts (1835) instead of eight provinces was an attempt to dissolve such power.
But, by 1976, the distinction was once again dropped, even as Portugal was divided into regions () or provinces (). There was a substantial difference between the European provinces and regions and the overseas colonies (the so-called ''overseas provinces''). The Provinces were inspired by the ''genetic''regions of Portugal and royal Comarcas, and used by the Estado Novo+ dictatorship to characterize traditional and rural Portugal in the first half of the 20th century. Yet, the Districts continued to define administrative and political control, much like the organization of public security for the State, limiting the powers of local government. This organizational structure for the territory resulted in a loss of the sense of regional identity, which was only kept alive by oral traditions, based on regional references of origin.
Following the Carnation Revolution+, the regions and provinces were abolished and the districts became the second level administrative regions.
The term ''overseas province'' started to be used to designate each of the Portuguese overseas territories, instead of the previous ''overseas dominion'', during the administrative reforms of the beginning of the 19th century, following the idea that these territories were as part of Portugal as the Portuguese European provinces. In the beginning of the 20th century, most of these territories started to be referred as ''colonies'', although the term ''overseas provinces'' continued also to be used. Only after 1951, the term ''colony'' was completely dropped and the term ''overseas province'' was exalted by the government of António de Oliveira Salazar+ to shift the attention of anti-colonial protests in the United Nations. But the history of extra-local territories (colonies or provinces) within Portuguese administration dates back to the first settlements along the African coast, South-east Asia and Brazil, and were instituted as part of the 1832 reforms. The initiatives envisioned a comprehensive series of provinces that would have included European Portugal, archipelagos and extra-local dependencies in Southeast Asia, Africa and India. These colonies included:
* Portuguese West Africa+ an overseas province between 1951 and 1975, when it became the independent nation of Angola+;
* Cape Verde+ – an overseas province between 1951 and 1974, autonomous republic+ between 1974 and 1975, when it became an independent nation;
* Portuguese Guinea+ an overseas province between 1951–1974, until unilaterally declaring independence as Guinea-Bissau+ in 1973 (later recognised by Portugal in 1974);
* Macau+ overseas province between 1844 and 1883; included many of the overseas provinces of South-east Asia with Portuguese Timor in the administration of Goa+, between 1883 and 1951); an overseas province between 1951 and 1975; special territory between 1975 and 1999, before being returned to China as a special administrative region+ in 1999;
* Portuguese East Africa+ overseas province between 1951 and 1974); local administration between 1974 and 1975, before it became the independent nation of Mozambique+;
* Portuguese India+ an overseas province between 1946 and 1962, it was annexed by India in 1962 (and later recognised by Portugal in 1974);
* São Tomé and Príncipe+ an overseas province between 1951 and 1971); local administration between 1971 and 1975, before it became an independent nation in 1975;
* Portuguese Timor+ an overseas territory between 1951 and 1961, until unilaterally declaring independence as East Timor+ in 1975, it was annexed by Indonesia+ in 1976, recognised by UN+ as non-self-governing-territory under Portuguese administration between 1961–1999. After 1999 it was a United Nations protectorate until formal independence in 2002.
Initially the population of these overseas territories were made to exploit resources (minerals, spices, wood or slaves), but later there was a sense of evangelisation or ''lusotropolicalism'', that facilitated the colonization of these lands. The first significant colony was Brazil+ whose history included a period as kingdom within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves+ (1815–1822), before a political schism would result in its independence in 1822.
The district system dates back to 25 April 1835, a creation of the Liberal government, and inspired by the French ''départements+'', with the objective to "facilitate the action of government ... and permit access to the authorities".
The district, although currently in a process of being phased out, is the most relevant and historically significant subdivision of the nation's territory; it serves as the basis for a series of administrative divisions, such as electoral constituencies or district football associations+, as well as being a socially recognizable territorial division of the country.
In 1976, Portugal was divided into 18 districts and two autonomous regions+ (the Azores+ and Madeira+), consisting of 308 municipalities (), which in turn were divided into 4257 local government authorities ().
Portugal is primarily a seafaring nation, and traditionally human settlement has congregated along the coastline, so much so that the coastal districts, while being relatively small, were disproportionately larger by population. The six largest districts (with the exception of Santarém) are the six districts with the smallest populations and common character: a frontier with Spain. Of these interior districts, which represent 63.8% of the nation and have a population that is less than two million residents, is only marginally less than the population of the district of Lisbon.
As part of the national government's attempt to control spending, in light of the sovereign debt crisis, in 2012 the government of Pedro Passos Coelho+ introduced a plan to reform the administrative divisions, in order to create efficiencies and save money. The ''Green Paper on Local Administration'' () envisioned the reform of the management, territorial geography and political form of how Portugal functioned at the local level, including specifically at the ''freguesia+'' and ''concelho+'' levels. In addition to the reduction of the number of representatives in the local boards, the plan also established criteria for the reduction, amalgamation or extinction of various civil parishes.
| Autonomous Regions
Grande Área Metropolitana
| Greater Metropolitan Areas
| Urban Communities
| Civil Parishes
It was in 1976 (with the establishment of the democratic constitution) that the fragmentation of Portugal into the system that exists today began. There have been various political attempts to reorganize the system to reflect a practical and logical rationale based on economic, cultural and demographic realities. The most recent attempt, a process of regionalization, proposed by Socialist+Prime Minister+António Guterres+ was defeated in a referendum on 8 November 1998.
The division of the Portuguese territory is established in title eight (Título VIII) of the Portuguese constitution: granting local authority to territorial collectivities with representative organs to affect the interests of the local populations.Portugal (2005) These collectivities are defined as '''regions''', '''municipalities''' and '''civil parishes''', but reserves the right of urban areas and islands to establish other forms of local authority. In defining the rights and privileges of these entities, the constitution also defines sources of income, that includes local heritage, budgets and equalization transfers from the State, in addition to defining the basic role of local government at each level.
In 2011, after more than two weeks of bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund+, the European Central Bank+ and the European Commission+, the Portuguese government was obliged to reduce the number of municipal and parish local governments after July 2012. It was determined that these changes would then be formalized before the 2013 local government elections, as part of a process to reduce expenditures, a condition of the $110 Billion accord.
Historically, by the end of the 18th century there were no regional forms of government, or regional identities; the concept of natural inner borders didn’t exist and the provinces did not have territorial unity.
In November 1998, eight regions were officially identified, by Decree-law+ 18/98, which resulted from an accord between the Socialist Party (PS)+ and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP)+ in July 1997. Trying to find an effective form of regional division, the compromise resulted in the PCP and The Greens (PEV)+ accepting the Entre Douro e Minho region, and the PS removing their demands for a division of the Alto and Baixo Alentejo region's definition.
Later, the new territorial map of eight regions would include minor revisions to the borders (the southern border of the Douro, Alto Ribatejo and Alta Extremadura), resulting in a consultation with respective municipal authorities. The new regional map was later referred jokingly as the ''TSF map'', because many of the political decision-makers made their decisions on the plan based on public comments at ''TSF radio+'' news transmissions. These transmissions showed that, although the idea of regions was acceptable to the public, there was less consensus on their limits, or even outright hostility. Party politics influenced municipal decisions to accept the proposal or assume positions that were not appreciated by the populations. The final map was neither an amalgamation of the districts or provinces, nor a dismemberment of the ''Áreas de Intervenção das Comissões de Coordenação Regional'' (Intervention Areas of the Regional Coordination Commissions), but there was confusion and disinformation, resulting in local unwillingness to accept regionalization in general.
Since 1978, Portugal conceded political autonomy to its North Atlantic archipelagos (Madeira+ and Azores+) due to their distance, isolation, geographical context and socio-economic circumstances. The regional autonomies have their own organic laws, regional governments and administration, overseen by a Regional Government (), constituted by a Regional Presidency () and Cabinet comprising several Regional Secretaries ().
The '''Azores+''' () is an archipelago of nine islands and several islets that were discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. The Azores lies a third of the distance between Europe and North America, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge+, and are volcanic in origin (there continue to be several active hydrothermal vents, hot springs, and several calderas that are dormant, in addition to active seismicity). Mount Pico+ (2,351 meters), on the island of Pico+ is considered the highest mountain in Portugal. The government and administration of the archipelago is distributed between the three capitals of the former districts of the Azores: the regional parliament is located in the city of Horta+ (on Faial Island+); Ponta Delgada+ (on São Miguel Island+) is the most populous city and home to the Regional Presidency and administration; while Angra do Heroísmo+ (on Terceira Island+), the historical and cultural capital, is also the home of the Azorean judiciary and seat of the Diocese of the Azores.
Apart from the national territory, that includes mainland Portugal and the two archipelagos, the municipalities have been the most constant territorial subdivision in the past 900 years.) appeared in the 13th century, to ''"express a community constituted in a territory of varying extensions, whose residents – the neighbours of the municipality – are granted major or minor administrative autonomy"'', the territorial division predates its use. Preceding the nation's independence, the oldest of the larger municipalities still in existence Coimbra+ and Santarém+ were founded in 1085 e 1095, respectively. São João da Pesqueira+ (in the district of Viseu+) is the oldest Portuguese municipality, founded in 1055.
Many of these municipalities have their origin in the foral+ charters that the Kings attributed to lands in order to facilitate growth or, to some, to validate settlement. A great number of these settlements permanence to today, subjects to those charters definitions and/or subjects to national laws established after the Liberal Constitution. The existence since the Middle Ages of a large number of small municipalities with no financial resources and without people qualified to take part in municipal councils caused the stagnation of their growth. The Liberal revolution of 1836, resulted in the suppression/annexation of many of these smaller municipalities, which allowed the infusion of new revenues and facilitated growth in population and size.
The distribution of municipalities within each district or autonomous region is relatively homogeneous (each having on average 15 municipalities within their territory). The district with the most municipalities is Viseu (with 24), followed by Santarém and Aveiro (21 and 19 respectively), while Viana do Castelo has the least number of municipalities (just ten).
There are 308 municipalities in Portugal, that are colloquially known by councils (). Like the districts, the municipalities are usually named for its biggest city, or at least, one of its historically most important city or town. However, the municipality is usually much larger than the city or town after which it is named.
The municipality has been the most stable subdivision of Portugal, seat of local administrative and executive power. Since the establishment of a democratic local administration in 1976 (following the 25 April 1974 Carnation Revolution+), the Portuguese municipalities have been ruled by a bicameral system. The municipal chamber+() is the executive body, and is composed of a ''president'' of the municipality and an even number of councillors whose number depends on the municipality's population, and which are elected proportionally to the votes received by the various parties or groups of citizens that take part in the municipal elections. The municipal assembly+ () is composed of the presidents of all the civil parishes plus a number of directly elected representatives that has to be at least equal to the number of civil parish presidents plus one, and which otherwise depends on the municipal population. These representatives are also elected proportionally to the votes obtained by the various political forces in dedicated elections.
The parish, in contrast with the municipalities, had their base in the ecclesiastical divisions that ''"had its origin in the fact that neighbours professed the same religion and professed their faith and divinity in the same temple"''. Freguesia+, the traditional Portuguese word for parish, had its beginning in the ''filius ecclesiae'' (child of the church) and ''filius gregis'' (child of the shepards's flock), the collectivity of the religious faithful, with similar aspirations and interests. Between 1216 and 1223, Afonso II of Portugal+ began a process of legitimizing the Portuguese territory by conferring charters to nobles, clergy and municipal chambers (which would not be completed until after 1249 (under Afonso III of Portugal+), making the parish the smallest division. But, the power of the clergy built theses areas, accumulating immense wealth and power. From his experiences in the Azores, Mouzinho da Silveira+ broke the power of the church and institutionalized the existent parishes into secular organs/divisions after 1835 (civil parishes). The ''freguesia'' began to refer to the civil/administrative entity, while the ''paroquia'' () became affiliated with the religious entity.
As of 2010, the 308 municipalities were subdivided into 4,261 civil parishes, each one governed by their civil parish boards () and headed by an executive that includes the president (), treasurer and secretary.
As part of the austerity (brought on by the sovereign debt crisis+) and administrative reforms of the local government, Paulo Júlio, Secretary of State for Local Administration (), admitted that until 2012, 1500 civil parishes would be extinguished throughout the country, in order to reduce costs and rationalize management.) suggesting most civil parishes did not meet minimum prerequisites associated with population densities, and that local elected officials would be able to better manage reconfigured parishes. The ''National Association of Civil Parishes'' (), more pessimisticly, indicated that new criteria, established by the national government would result in the elimination of 2504 parishes with the reforms, based on criteria that defined populations in terms of predominantly urban (), marginally urban () and predominantly rural (), suggesting that approximately 200 fell into a ''"grey zone"''.
The parish extinction law passed by the majority in the Legislative Assembly, the PSD and CDS-PP coalition, provides for the restructuring of local government; this involved the extinction/aggregation/fusion of more than a thousand parish councils. The opposition parties voted against this bill, but it is expected that the process of parish reduction of at least one thousand parishes will be completed by early December 2012.
Along the 20th century three processes have influenced the growth and asymmetries in the settlements within Portugal: litoralization, urbanization and bi-polarization. These processes concentrated activities in major agglomerations, resulting in the development of the main urban places and ancillary "bedroom communities", and inequality between regions. Rural depopulation after the 1960s, resulted in the growth of clandestine barrios within Lisbon, but the tragedy of the 1967 Lisbon floods, highlighted the chaotic nature of suburban planning. The need to manage urban entities in together to have economical benefits and to grant a more balanced distribution in the various zones. This is the fundamental reason to give to greater cities agglomerates an administrative feature different from the other cities.
The development of metropolitan areas and inter-municipal communities has as its base in the associative organization of the national territory based on the urban system, even as the 25th Constitution Government was unable to impose a regional-level tier. The Portuguese Constitution accepts (but does not impose) an autonomous administrative level with its own elected bodies that would include and substitute bigger urban agglomerations. But, while it acknowledges, ''"other forms of local authority/municipal territorial"'', it does not presuppose the creation of a ''"supra-municipal local autonomous authority (which would demand a direct election of their governing bodies by their own voters)"''. In fact, inter-municipal solutions go back as far as the Administrative Code of 1936 that foresaw the ''"federations of municipalities"''.
The 2 August 1991 legal framework (Law no. 44/91) for the creation of the Greater Metropolitan Area of Lisbon and the Greater Metropolitan Area of Porto did not have at its base in the Constitutionally mandated system of administrative regions, but was rather a ''"mandatory association of municipalities aggregating the two major cities"'' to only articulate municipal concerns.
Once the creation of the administrative region foreseen in the Constitution was immediately withdrawn after the failed referendum+, the option to enlarge the metropolitan areas and to promote the association of local authorities/municipalities was made. This included:
* the Greater Metropolitan Areas (GAM) – which included a minimum of nine municipalities and integrated, at least, 350,000 inhabitants; and
* the Urban Communities (ComUrb), that had to comprise a minimum of three municipalities and integrated, at least, 150,000 inhabitants
NUTS 2: Regions
| Regional Coordination Commissions, and Autonomous Regions
NUTS 3: Subregion
| Administrative and Autonomous Regions
| Civil Parishes
Developed by Eurostat+ and implemented in 1998, the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics+ (NUTS) regions, which comprises three levels of the Portuguese territory, are instrumental in European Union+'sStructural Fund+ delivery mechanisms. The standard was developed by the European Union+, and thus only covers the member states+, and extensively used by national governments, Eurostat and other EU bodies for statistical and policy matters. Until 4 November 2002, the ''Sistema Estatístico Nacional'' (SEN) used a NUTS codification system that was distinct from the Eurostat system. With the enactment of Decree Law 244/2002 (5 November 2002), published in the Diário da República, this system was abandoned in order to harmonize the national system with that of Eurostat.
The NUTS system subdivides the nation into three levels: NUTS I, NUTS II and NUTS III. In some European partners, as is the case with Portugal, a complimentary hierarchy, respectively LAU I and LAU II (posteriorly referred to as NUTS IV and NUTS V) is employed. The LAU, or ''Local Administrative Units'', in the Portuguese context pertains to the 308 municipalities (LAU I) and 4257 civil parishes (LAU II) respectively. In the broadest sense, the NUTS hierarchy, while they may follow some of the borders (municipal or parish) diverge in their delineation.
Although the districts are still the most relevant subdivision, the regions are growing in importance, and gaining some autonomy and power, even as the districts do not have standing in the Portuguese Constitution. Portugal is divided into five regions, administered by the Commissions for Coordination and Regional Development () in mainland Portugal+, plus the two autonomous regions that are their own NUTS II regions.
The two Autonomous Regions (), in the Atlantic Ocean, correspond to NUTS I, II and III.
Municipalities and civil parishes were at NUTS IV and V levels, but these nomenclature units have been abolished and substituted by LAU+s: the municipality is classified as LAU 1, while the civil parish is LAU level 2.
* document|first=José António Costa|last=Ferreira|year=2005|title=O Poder Local e Regional na Assembleia Constituinte de 1975/76: As Regiões Adminsitrativas|trans_title=Local and Regional Power in the Constituente Assembly of 1975-76: The Administrative Regions|publisher=Faculadade de Letreas, Universidade do Porto|location=Oporto, Portugal|language=Portuguese|postscript=* document|url=http://www.cityfutures2009.com/PDF/96_Oliveira_Fernanda_Paula.pdf|title=The Evolution and Regulation of the Metropolitan Areas in Portugal|first=Fernanda Paula|last=Oliveira|publisher=Law School of the University of Coimbra|location=Coimbra, Portugal|pages=1–15|postscript=* book|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=yU5h5d5wN78C&pg=PA115&dq=intermunicipal+communities+Portugal#v=onepage&q=intermunicipal%20communities%20Portugal&f=false|editor=OECD |title=OECD Territorial Report: Portugal|year=2008|publisher=Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development|location=Paris, France|isbn=9789264008953|postscript=* book|title=Estatísicas Históricas Portuguesas|trans_title=Portuguese Historical Statistics|editor-first=Nuno|editor-last=Valério|volume=1|publisher=Instituto Nacional de Estatística|location=Lisbon, Portugal|language=Portuguese|year=2001|postscript=* book|title=Documento Verde da Reforma da Administração Local: Uma Reforma de Gestão, uma Reforma de Território e uma Reforma Politica |editor=Gabinete do Ministro Adjunto e dos Assuntos Parlamentares |publisher=Governo da República |location=Lisbon, Portugal |language=Portuguese |year=2012 |accessdate=15 November 2012 |url=http://www.portugal.gov.pt/media/132774/doc_verde_ref_adm_local.pdf|postscript=
* from ''WorldStatesmen.org''
Articles on first-level administrative divisions of European countries:
Administrative divisions of Portugal+ Administratively, Portugal is a unitary and decentralized State. Nonetheless, operationally, it is highly centralized system with administrative divisions organized into three tiers.