Europe’s challenges in the context of German-Portuguese economic relations

  • Thorsten Kötschau
  • 13 October 2022

Crises show which partners you can rely on. I am thus convinced that cooperation between Portugal and Germany will receive a further boost at all levels.  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rekindled the spectre of war in Europe, a reality that my generation and others knew only from history books or conversations with our grandparents. Right from the start, the consequences of the war were felt not only in terms of loss of human life and destruction but also on other levels, such as a shock wave felt far beyond the borders of Russia, Ukraine, and even Europe.

The reliance on Russian fossil fuels – especially by Central European countries -, the sanctions imposed on Russia, and the disruptions in international trade have laid bare the vulnerability of economies not only in Europe, which is closest to the conflict but throughout the entire world. Countries, their governments, and citizens had not yet recovered from the effects of the two-year-plus pandemic, and already they are facing a new stress test. In European countries, rampant inflation is eroding the spending power of citizens, and soaring energy costs as well as shortages of raw materials and components are affecting the functioning of the economy.

Yet crises, as bad as their effects may seem, are always drivers of innovation. This was and is the case with the Corona crisis, and it will similarly be the case with the energy crisis currently affecting European countries.

For the German-Portuguese Chamber, the energy sector – with an emphasis on renewable energies – has long been the focus of countless initiatives with a view to promoting German-Portuguese partnerships. More recently, green hydrogen has also gained growing importance as a “clean” energy source and as a commodity.

Against this backdrop, the HyPotência consortium was founded this year, an initiative of the German-Portuguese Chamber together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), which brings together the different technological dimensions in the areas of production, distribution, and storage of green hydrogen in an integrated way based on a concrete project for Portugal. The consortium consists of four German companies that have jointly developed a technologically integrated concept for the production, distribution, and storage of green hydrogen in Portugal.

Crises also show which partners you can rely on. I am thus convinced that cooperation between Portugal and Germany will receive a further boost at all levels.

The Portuguese government is also aware of the importance of green hydrogen on the international stage and the role Portugal can play in this field. At a meeting between Prime Minister António Costa and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the HANNOVER MESSE 2022, in which Portugal participated as a partner country, the production and supply of green hydrogen from the new industrial project being built in Sines was one of the major topics. Given the war scenario and the threat to regular supplies from Eastern Europe, Portugal has the opportunity to establish itself as a safe and reliable supplier.

However, it is not only in the energy sector that Portugal shows enormous potential as a vendor country for the German industry. Many German companies have already opted for Portuguese suppliers thanks to the quality of their products and the excellent relationships they have built up. First with the pandemic and now with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the topic of nearshoring has acquired a new dimension. Portugal boasts a modern and well-developed physical and digital infrastructure network, ports that facilitate access to European, African, and American markets, and is considered one of the safest countries in the world – an option that makes perfect sense both as a supplier country and as an investment location.

In this area, too, the German-Portuguese Chamber will continue to promote Portugal to German buyers and decision-makers by means of initiatives that bring the two economic communities even closer together.

Lastly, a reference to a topic dear to the heart of the German-Portuguese Chamber: dual vocational training. While a few years ago the lack of qualified human resources was a typical problem of Northern European economies, today this problem is also felt in Southern Europe, impacting its economic performance. For nearly 40 years, we have been promoting through our DUAL brand practical vocational training based on the successful model from Germany. Taking into account the huge challenges facing Europe, it is more than ever our aim to support Portuguese as well as German companies that have chosen Portugal as an investment location.

  • Thorsten Kötschau
  • Managing Director of the German-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce