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Portugal believes in the future again

On this sunny morning, it's hard to find your way through Rua da Prata, in the heart of Lisbon. A group of Japanese retirees huddle in front of the window of a traditional cannery, where revisited sardine recipes are sold at a premium.

Across the street, a souvenir vendor displays a collection of cork bracelets as an embracing couple looks on. "When we moved here seven years ago, the buildings were falling apart and I was afraid to walk the deserted streets alone, recalls Ana Santiago, one of the directors of the Startup Lisboa incubator..

European start-up founders fight for a place in the Startup Lisboa incubator

At the time, the Portuguese capital's coffers were empty. The country, in the midst of a recession, was under the grip of austerity policies. Ready to do anything to save the city, the mayor's office set up a business start-up center in the city's by-then dilapidated downtown area. It was a daring gamble, but it worked.

Today, European start-ups are fighting for a place in the incubator, which has spread to other districts. As for tourists, they flock to the historic streets, their noses raised at the renovated facades. "During the crisis, we lost everything, including our fear.says Ana. That's what gave us the strength to stand up again."

Something has changed in Portugal. And it's not just the boom in tourism in Lisbon. Nor is it due to the good figures for renewed growth. In 2017, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.7 %, its highest level for ten years. Unemployment fell back below 8 %, a far cry from the peak of 17 % reached in 2013.

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