António Guterres


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(b. Lisbon, 30 Apr. 1949)

Portuguese; Prime Minister 1995–2002 Born in Santos-o-Velho, Lisbon, Guterres studied electro-engineering at the Higher Technical Institute in Lisbon. His political career started as a Catholic activist and during the revolutionary period in 1974–5 he became a member of the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista—PS). As a leading Socialist MP he held office in several governments during the revolutionary period. After the revolution, he took part in the Committee on European Integration, which negotiated the accession of Portugal to the European Community.

On the international stage, Guterres was the president of the Parliamentary Committee on Demography, Migrations and Refugees of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1985. Nevertheless, after 1987 he was increasingly involved in the opposition strategy of the PS, and sought to moderate party policies, and suggest alternatives. In 1992 he was elected secretary-general of the party. In October 1995 the Socialist Party won the legislative elections and Guterres became Prime Minister. Regarded inside the party as a technocrat, his main policy aims were to give priority to education, social welfare, and administrative decentralization. He moved the PS towards the political central ground. He was re-elected in 1999, but his popularity waned as he tried to respond to an economic recession. He was considered to have spent too much time on international matters, particularly in involving the UN to resolve the crisis in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which finally gained independence from Indonesia in 2002. In 1999 Macau, the last Portuguese colony, was returned to China. The PS performed poorly in local elections in December 2001, after which he resigned as Prime Minister. His party subsequently lost to the Social Democratic Party of José Manuel Barroso. From 1999 to 2005 he was President of the Socialist International and then he was elected by the UN General Assembly to a five-year term as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, replacing Ruud Lubbers.

Subjects: Politics.

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