Francisco Pinto Balsemão

Journalist. Chairman of the Board of Impresa SGPS. Professor. Text written by Henrique Monteiro

Graduated in Law from Lisbon University Law School. With several specializations in the press area.

Deputy of Assembleia Nacional (November 25th, 1969 – June 25th, 1973). Deputy of Assembleia Constituinte (June 3rd, 1975 – April 2nd, 1976). Vice-president of Assembleia Constituinte (June 5th 1975 – April 2nd, 1976). Deputy of Assembleia da República (December 2nd, 1979 – January 3rd, 1980). Deputy-minister (January 3rd, 1980 – January 8th, 1981). Member of the State Council (October 30th, 1982 – June 9th, 1983, by virtue of Prime-minister functions), and from April 29th, 2005 until today as elected representative in the Parliament.

Born in Santa Isabel, in Lisbon.

The son of Henrique Patrício Balsemão, businessman, and Maria Adelaide Van Zeller Castro Pereira Pinto de Balsemão.

Relevant relatives – Direct descendant of D. Pedro IV (D. Pedro I, emperor of Brazil, from his mother side, Dª. Maria Adelaide Castro Pereira).

His grandfather, Francisco António Patrício, was the mayor of the city of Guarda.

Married to Mercedes Presas Balsemão with whom he had two children – Joana Presas Pinto de Balsemão and Francisco Pedro Presas Pinto de Balsemão. He had three more children from previous relationships – Mónica Costa Lobo Pinto Balsemão and Henrique Costa Lobo Pinto de Balsemão, both children of Isabel Costa Lobo; and Francisco Maria Supico Pinto de Balsemão, son of Isabel Supico Pinto.

Awards: Grande Oficial da Ordem de Mérito (17th of October, 1973). Grã-Cruz da Ordem da Coroa, Bélgica (1981). Grã-Cruz da Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul, Brasil (1982). Grã-Cruz da Ordem do Mérito, Grécia (1982). Grã- Cruz da Ordem Bandeira, Hungria, (1982). Grã-Cruz da Ordem do Mérito, Itália (1982). Grã-Cruz da Ordem de Cristo (6th of August, 1983). Grã-Cruz da Ordem de Pianna, Vaticano (1983). Grã-Cruz da Ordem da Bandeira República Federal Jugoslava, (1983). Grã-Cruz da Ordem de Isabel a Católica, Espanha (1989). Grã-Cruz da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique (5th of January, 2006). Grã-Cruz da Ordem da Liberdade (25th of April, 2011).

Francisco José Pereira Pinto de Balsemão, commonly known as Pinto Balsemão, was one of the few Portuguese prime-ministers that didn’t seek a political career, having reached the Government’s leadership under a set of circumstances that spoke louder than his wishes and that forced him, due to his sense of responsibility and of State, to assume that role. In this sense speaks, for instance, his all-time friend, the Spanish journalist, founder (with Balsemão’s support) and for many years the director of El País– the neighbor country’s reference newspaper – Juan Luis Cebrian when he wrote:

“I mean to say is that, from our liberal conception of things and of life, he always seemed to me moderately more conservative than I, since I suffer from a weird admiration for the subversive, in an order. By saying this, maybe I am benefitting from the advantage of remaining far from power. He too was willing to stay away from it. A tragic accident and an undeniable sense of responsibility would’ve taken him to take charge of the ungrateful task of conducting the country, whereas the El País that I lead is quite small, concrete and easy to conduct.” (ALMEIDA; CEBRIAN, 1981: page 11).

In truth, Pinto Balsemão’s great passion, whom had been deputy of Assembleia Nacional, integrated in the Liberal Wing, during marcelismo and, after the Revolution of 25, deputy of Assembleia Constituinte, that had already been deputy-minister of Francisco Sá Carneiro and founder of PPD (now PSD, of which he is the militant number one), not being out of the politics sphere, centered in something that it is indispensable to him but that requires an independence that politics can’t, nor probably should concede: social communication. Maybe because of that, the newspaper he founded on January 6th of 1973, Expresso, have become known as one of the most ferocious critics of the government and of its former director and main shareholder.

Francisco Balsemão, born on the 1st of September 1st of 1937, in Casa Saúde das Amoreiras and registered as a “lisboeta” in Santa Isabel, comes from a family with possessions. On his father side, the family is original from Guarda. The grandfather, a self-made man, also Francisco Pinto de Balsemão, a republican and a benefactor in his parish, Alfaiates, and in his county, was an important wooden industrialist and curiously the introducer of electric light and the telephone in the community. His father, Henrique Patrício Pinto de Balsemão, completed the studies in London and would dedicate, later, not only to the family businesses, that later spread to social communication, but also to business administration, namely in Companhia Angolana de Agricultura, and also to the representation in Portugal of two airlines – the American PanAm and the Brazilian Panair.

On his mother’s side, Maria Adelaide Van Zeller de Castro Pereira, he is an illegitimate descendant of D. Pedro IV, through the connection of the liberal king to the Baroness of Sorocaba, Maria Benedita de Castro Canto e Melo.

An only son, only grandchild and an only nephew, on his father side, of his uncle also named Francisco Pinto de Balsemão, he was raised to be able to continue the work that the family had been erecting, namely after his uncle had entered in middle of the 40’s decade, as an administrator in Diário Popular, an evening newspaper in Lisbon with a circulation that would become enviable. Balsemão is a good student, during his seven high school years at Pedro Nunes high school, having after enrolled in Law School of Lisbon University. He would confess that, at the time, he didn’t feel a big juridical calling, but understood, especially before his family, that the Letters courses, to which he felt more inclined, didn’t had the same ratings.

In the 5th year of Law he fulfills military service (the colonial war hadn’t start yet) and, by mere chance, he is placed in the Air Force, where he becomes aide-de-camp of the then Secretary of State of Aeronautics, Kaúlza de Arriaga. Curiously, it is in the Air Force that he starts his journalistic career, by assuming the functions as editor-in-chief of the magazine Mais Alto.

It is in the 6th year of Law (named like this at the time, but in reality the Complementary Course of Political-Economic Sciences) that for the first time he shows his oppositionist tendencies. He chooses as a topic for the work developed in the class lectured by Pedro Soares Martinez the defense of the right to strike; argues in the class of professor Silva da Cunha, and by latter’s suggestion (that intended to see demonstrated as a piracy crime the assault to the Santa Maria packet-boat, in January of 1961) that the action led by Portuguese oppositionists couldn’t be fitted as such crime; it is too in this way that his opinions become known, inclusively by Marcello Caetano, who was equally his teacher in Law School. At 24 years-old, Balsemão showed that much separated him from the time’s political orthodoxy.

His first job is ephemeral: as a secretary of the Health and Assistance Minister, his Law teacher Soares Martinez. The passage is fugacious. In that office he had by his side his all-time friend, whose family was, equally, connected to social communication: António Pedro Ruella Ramos (1939-2009), who would come to be the director of Diário de Lisboa, an evening newspaper with an oppositionist character and also one of the elements of the founders’ group of Expresso, in 1973.

But it is the job in Diário Popular that appears immediately after (and that grants him the journalist professional card no. 52) that would mark him for the rest of his life. As it was already mentioned, the majority of the newspaper’s capital is controlled by his uncle Francisco and by his father, Henrique. Balsemão enters as an editorial secretary, a position with great responsibilities in the organization of work flows and in the newspaper’s organization e right away he marks the distance regarding what could have been considered his privileged position as the bosses’ son and nephew. He asks only one day off per week – and not on Sundays.

 His action in Popular was recognizably innovative. Newsroom comrades that worked with him, despite being of diverse political orientations (from Urbano Carrasco to Baptista-Bastos or Adelino Cardoso), always highlighted that availability of his to support the capture of news, bold stories and, especially, the clear organization of the newspaper’s pages. He introduces well defined sections (including the socialite column, by Vera Lagoa), resorts to a new technology at the time (telex and, later, the photocomposing) and is able to take the newspaper to a sales average that surpasses the 125 thousand copies, and threatens the reach of Diário de Notícias, well-established in the regime.

After his father’s death, on August 16th of 1964, Francisco Balsemão succeeds him as the newspaper’s administrator, but continues to have a big freedom to innovate, which both the administration and the newspaper’s director, Martinho Nobre de Melo, grant him and recognise.

His action in Diário Popular takes the young Balsemão to have another notion of the reality that was lived in the country: the censorship’s. At the time with four daily editions, the newspaper was systematically delayed by «the blue pencil coronels», as the censors in duty were commonly known. Later, he has to reduce the editions to two, since the services that watched for the news’ «purity» weren’t able to deal with such frenzy and threatened to suspend the newspaper.

But the need felt to improve what was the Portuguese journalism doesn’t cease to be almost an obsession for Pinto Balsemão. He not only organizes journalism courses in Diário Popular itself, as calls to collaborate in the newspaper highlighted names of arts and Portuguese culture, such as Agustina Bessa-Luís, Urbano Tavares Rodrigues, Fernando Namora, José Cardoso Pires, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, among many others.

In September of 1968, Balsemão aged 31, Marcello Caetano, whom he had considered the best teacher he had in Law School, is nominated by the regime as Council President, replacing Salazar who had an accident that disabled him.

The relations between the two are cordial and result not only from the encounter in the University but also from the friendship that Balsemão had with some of Marcello’s children. He gets convinced that the new Council President sincerely intends to make the regime evolve into a European democracy. It is based on this conviction that he accepts the invitation to integrate, as an independent, the lists of Acção Nacional Popular (ANP), as Marcello renamed União Nacional, in the elections of 1969.

A candidate for Guarda, his family’s homeland, he makes a campaign different from what it had been seen until then. Door-to-door, rallies, debates, walks in villages where he advocates the liberalization of the economy and of the political action, as well as the end of censorship and of police repression for political motives besides a political (not military) solution for the overseas. He equally fights the corporative regime, giving, for the first time, the motto of what would come to be one of his biggest battles as a prime-minister, twelve years later: the liberation of civil society.

Elected, as were all ANP’s deputies, weight the opposition claims, then agglutinated in Comissão Democrática Eleitoral (CDE), which integrates communists, and in Comissão Eleitoral de Unidade Democrática (CEUD), led by Mário Soares and integrating republicans and socialists, Francisco Balsemão enters Assembleia Nacional where, due to the alphabetical order, he sits next to a homonymous – Francisco Sá Carneiro. The latter, elected by Oporto, had already made, along with other candidates, a manifest where he placed the conditions to support Marcello. Those conditions coincided, in practically everything, with Balsemão’s positions.

At Assembleia, the two Franciscos join other deputies with the same orientation, among them Miller Guerra, José Pedro Pinto Leite, Mota Amaral, Magalhães Mota, Tomás Oliveira Dias, Correia da Cunha, Joaquim Macedo and Joaquim Pinto Machado. The group becomes known as Ala Liberal [Liberal Wing].

They achieve nothing, facing the regime’s immobility, that the President of the Republic Américo Tomás defended, and the successive hesitations of Marcello Caetano. Despite that, Balsemão presents, in co-authorship with Sá Carneiro, a draft press law that is refused. The same happens, actually, to all his general initiatives – from religious freedom to the support to Sá Carneiro in the exposure of the regime regarding to what political prisoners were subject to.

But the rupture between the Liberal Wing and the regime happens, mainly, in the most fracturing theme of the time: the colonial war. A trip to Angola that Balsemão and Sá Carneiro take together (after another one to the Federal Republic of Germany, which is very useful to them for the definition of both of them as social-democrats) makes them understand that the colonial solution has to be accelerated and that can’t be militarily solved. This topic, that grouped the regime’s supporters around Tomás, against any whims of granting independence, or even autonomy, to the so called overseas provinces (even though the generality of Europe had already decolonized all territories in Africa) would struggle around a constitutional revision project presented in 1972 by the liberals at the assembly. Naturally – and without surprises – it was failed. The division was consummated and Balsemão understands that it wouldn’t be in the in the existent framework that would be done the transition to democracy in which he believed.

It is fairly in 1921 that he writes his most important book about social communication: Informar ou Depender. The essay has a remarkable success in the journalistic areas and in the then new information sciences. But the year of 1971 would also be decisive in his life for another reason: his uncle Francisco decides to sell Diário Popular. The proposal they make him is tempting and comes from a group connected to the regime: the Borges group, then led by Miguel Quina. His uncle, the main shareholder, tired of all the pressures and censorships that the newspaper suffers and before a proposal that was economically advantageous, decides to sell. The nephew, who was the owner of 16.6% of the newspaper, inherited from his father, doesn’t want to be a minority partner with the news administration and also sells. It is with that money and with the participation of some friends carefully chosen by the know-how that they could give that he fulfills the informative project he had dreamed of: Expresso.

He commits in such a way that the first drawing and line-up sketches, the title, the newsroom organization, the choice of the distributor and of the printing company are made and decided solely by him.

The necessary learning for the launch of the weekly of the English Sunday type was reinforced by the internships of some journalists in London, at the Sunday Times and at The Observer. The newspaper comes to light on January 6th of 1973 – from that day, almost all launches of Balsemão’s initiatives, including of Sociedade Independente de Comunicação (SIC), are made on the 6th days,  which becomes a sort of fetish.

The newspaper is different from what had been seen in Portugal. Of the founding core, besides Balsemão, that holds the majority, are part friends like Luís Vasconcellos, who would later come to be the group’s number 2, António Pedro Ruella Ramos, the Sociedade Nacional de Sabões, Manoel Boullosa, Francisco Costa Reis, Ruben A. Leitão, António Patrício Gouveia and two young promising young men at the time: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and António Guterres. The director is Francisco Balsemão himself and has as editor-in-chief the experient Augusto Carvalho.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is admitted as administrator, but becomes a journalist. In the newspaper collaborate again big names of the country’s letters and arts and, now, of politics.

Francisco Sá Carneiro has a weekly column (“Visto”) that is almost always censured; Mota Amaral becomes, under pseudonym, correspondent in Azores; Mário Soares himself writes articles that are, too, laboriously cut by censorship, that was meanwhile transformed in “exame prévio”.

Expresso commemorates its first six months, since the ones responsible for it feared it wouldn’t last much longer. Sá Carneiro’s prognosis was that. However, it survived until the 25th of April and, since then, from when it was the only big newspaper not controlled by PCP, until today.

Right after the revolution, on April 25th, 1974, Balsemão is called by the then Movimento Coordenador das Forças Armadas to, along with Raul Rego – director of República, an evening oppositionist newspaper linked to PS – help the militaries in matters related to the press. It is also him, along with several personalities of all political spectrums and under Sousa Franco’s presidency, one of the authors of the Law of the Press, currently still in force. Simultaneously, and in coordination with Sá Carneiro, unquestioned leader, and Magalhães Mota, he is in the launch, on May 6th of 1974, of PPD, Partido Popular Democrático, that later becomes Partido Social Democrata, PSD, which official abbreviation still is PPD/PSD. Being a part of its National Political Commission he is, through life’s destiny, the first speaker of the party’s first convention, in Benavente.

He would never leave, however, his place in Expresso, that remains as an independent project, to which are added, later, journalists of all political tendencies, from extreme-left to right. At the same time, the party becomes responsible for international relations, contacting several leaders of social-democracy, from Willy Brandt (Federal Republic of Germany) to Olof Palme (Sweden), in a time when Sá Carneiro and Balsemão considered adhering to the Socialist Internationale, something that Mário Soares vetoed in absolute, through the contacts he also maintained. Balsemão himself didn’t hide it, when he stated: «Actually, if, in 1976, the Socialist Party had wanted to colligate with the Social-Democrat Party – the proposal was done in October of 1975 – we would’ve saved four years of political “experimentation” and contributed decisively for the progress of Portugal».

Always developing several positions in the party, from 1983, Balsemão dedicates mostly to IPSD (Instituto Progresso Social e Democracia, a name altered to Institute Francisco Sá Carneiro on March 3rd, 1998) where he assumes several leadership positions.

The jobs developed in the party have to be listed, such is his constancy trough this more than 40 years:

- Vogal da Comissão Política Nacional, I Congress, 23rd and 24th of November, 1974;
- Vogal da Comissão Política Nacional, III Congress, 30th and 31st of October, 1976 (congress that changes the name to PSD) and also IV Congress, the same day and place;
- Vogal do Conselho Nacional, V Congress, 28th e 29th of January, 1978;
- Vogal do Conselho Nacional, VI Congress, 1st and 2nd of July, 1978;
- Vogal da Comissão Política Nacional, VII Congress, 16th and 17th of June, 1979;
- Presidente da Comissão Política Nacional (presidente of the party), VIII Congress, 20th to the 22nd of February, 1981;
- Reelected president of the party, IX Congress, 5th and 6th of December, 1981;
- Presidente da Mesa do Congresso, XII Congress, 17th to 19th of May 1985 (only body not linked to Cavaco Silva which wins the list of the then consecrated leader)
- Presidente do IPSD de 1983 a 1987
- Presidente da Mesa of Conselho Geral do IPSD from 1987 to1989
- Presidente da Mesa of Conselho Geral do IPSD since1998 until the current day

However, and going back, his political life takes a turn when the colligation between PSD, CDS and PPM, called Aliança Democrática [Democratic Alliance], wins with absolute majority the 1979 elections, electing 128 of the 250 deputies (counting with the parliamentarians coming from the Autonomous Regions where the AD parties didn’t run together). Francisco Sá Carneiro, leader of the colligation, is named prime-minister by the president of the Republic Ramalho Eanes (the first Preisdent elected by direct, secret and universal vote with the support of PS, PSD and CDS, in 1979).

Balsemão already had divergences with Sá Carneiro, namely when during a troubled period of the party life he’d signed the document «Opções Inadiáveis», in 1978, where were directed some criticisms about the leader’s strategic options. The documents counts, in fact, with 42 signatures of the 73 PPD/PSD deputies. Some of them never returned to PSD, like Magalhães Mota, one of the founders, or António Sousa Franco and Guilherme de Oliveira Martins. Others, like Rui Machete, Costa Andrade or Marques Mendes (father) return later. Balsemão, who doesn’t want to be mistaken with those that, in his opinion intended to personalize a political divergence, attacking the character of his friend Sá Carneiro, breaks with the critical group and remains in PSD.

Thus, it is his friend, now the prime-minister, who invites him to be deputy-minister, making him one of his main collaborators throughout the VI Constitutional Government, that doesn’t last a year. Under his responsibility are the relations with Assembleia da República, the planning of the government’s political action, the cooperative sector and the feminine condition. The publication of the Cooperative Code, regulating this sector of economic activity would be his main legacy in this year of 1979. Also Douro’s navigability, another projected wanted for very long in that region, is scheduled and starts right in the following year.

On December 4th, 1980, the fall in Camarate of the airplane where they travelled to Oporto, with the goal of being present in a rally of the presidential candidate of AD, General Soares Carneiro, dictates the death of the prime-minister and of a fundamental figure of the CDS government, Adelino Amaro da Costa. More than that, the VII Government, recently inducted, following the elections of October 5th of 1980, becomes leaderless.

It is opened a deaf war for succession, namely having Freitas do Amaral, the then leader of CDS, as protagonist. Being vice-prime-minister, due to the PSD/CDS colligation, he intends to replace Sá Carneiro. But the PSD majority doesn’t agree and defends that it should be one of its militants, reflecting the Parliament’s composition, to lead the government. Balsemão, who’d already agreed with Sá Carneiro to leave the government soon, sees himself involved in this controversy, being the main candidate of the party, having only as a rival the then minister of Finance, Cavaco Silva, who Eurico de Melo was proposing. Still in December of 1980, Balsemão is appointed as prime-minister and on the 9th of January, 1981, after a period when Freitas do Amaral provisionally assumes the government’s leadership, he takes office as prime-minister of the VII Constitutional Government.

Juan Luis Cebrian’s sentence we’ve quoted seems to be justified with this succession of events. That proof is that, as soon as he leaves the government, he returns to social communication. No the direction of Expresso, that meanwhile remained under Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s responsibility and, after, when the latter enters the VIII Government, under Augusto de Carvalho’s (as interim director). Balsemão sees, and well, that despite some appeals to return to his own newsroom, that whom was in political office shouldn’t go back to lead a newspaper (even though he has done it under invitation by the direction in the week it was celebrated the weekly’s 35th anniversary, in 2008).

Balsemão dedicates his attention to, besides the several positions to which he is invited for, namely as member of the Committee of Bilderberg Meetings, creating a media group, starting by buying the titles Autosportand Blitz from what was left of the CEIG group, linked to PS, and then allying with the Brazilian media group Abril in order to form Abril/Controljornal, that starts to publish several magazines, with highlight to Caras and Exame.

The Swedish group Edipress joins, later, the two groups, bringing the magazines Visão, Jornal de Letras and TV Mais. International agreements also allow to launch prestigious publications such as Courrier Internacional. But the most arduous of works is the construction of the first private television channel in the country, in a time when there was only public television, RTP. To do so, Balsemão contacts several economical partners and some from the media sector, namely the group of O Jornal, the weekly that was Expresso’s main competitor, that is in the origin of Visão Magazine, building Sociedade Independente de Comunicação (SIC). After difficult debates and battles, the channel airs on October 6th of 1992 (always on the day 6). Gradually, in a movement that aims to buy from his partners the shares they had in his companies, Francisco Balsemão and the small group of founders of Expresso end up on being the only owners of SIC and basically of all publications, gathered in a group that meanwhile was baptized as Impresa (resulting from the fusion of the words imprensa [press] and empresa [company]). After years as the leader of the group, he understood that, in 2012, it was time to give his place. Balsemão announced it in a board meeting and, with the calm that characterizes his decision-taking, he becomes one yearlater the President of the entire group’s holding, Impresa SGPS, and nominates Pedro Norton, until then administrator of the Press are, but who had already been administrator in SIC, as the group’s chief executive officer.

The activities to which he is called, whether under his knowledges and experience in social communication, whether as a successful businessman, are too many for us to focus in each one of them. The most relevant are here referred:

- President of Associação de Imprensa Não Diária (1972/79).
‑ Member of Conselho de Imprensa (1975/80) and its Vice‑Pre­sident in 1975/78.
‑ President of the "European Institute for the Media", with headquarters in Dusseldorf, from 1990 a 1999, having been Vice-President between 1985/99. From 1999 until 2006 he was President of Forum Europeu para a Televisão e Cinema, annualy organized by this institute.
‑ Member of the "Board of Patrons" of the magazine "European Affairs".
‑ Member of the Advisory Committee of the "European Journal of International Affairs".
- Member of the Administration Council of Fundação Journalistes en Europe (Paris) since 1986, having been vice-president in March 1995 until February 2003.

- President of the jury of Prémio Pessoa since 1987, starting date of the distinction instituted by Expresso.

- Associate teacher in Faculdade de Ciências Sociais da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (1987/2002).
‑ President of the Advisory Council of Fundação Oriente (1988/2000).

- Member of the Portuguese Delegation of the Trilateral Commission since 1989.

- Non-executive Member of the board of CELBI (March 1989 to 2006).

- Member of the General Council of Fundação Mário Soares, since 1991.

- Member of the Advisory Board of Centro de Estudos de Integração Europeia (1993).

- President of the General Council of Grupo Hospitalar Capuchos/Desterro (1993/2000).

- President of the board of SEIA - Sociedade de Engenharia e Inovação Ambiental (June of 1994 to 1998).
- Member of the Curators’ Council of Fundação Luso-Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento do Mundo da Língua Portuguesa, since 1994.
- Member of the General Council of Forum de Administradores de Empresas, since 1994.
- Member of the Honor Commission of National Homage to Salgueiro Maia, in 1994.

- Member of Users Advisory Council (under the European Commission’s framework of information and communication – 1994).

- Member of the board of the Media Business School (1994/2003).

- Member of the Advisory Council of Universidade Aberta (1995).

- (non-executive) president of the Administration Council of NEC (Portugal), since 1995.

- (non-executive) president of the Administration Council of Allianz Portugal (1996/2007).

- Participant in the working group “1996 Strategic Audit of Advanced Communications Developments in Europe”, coordinated by the DG-XII of the European Commission (March of 1996).

- Member of the jury Prémio Principe de Asturias de Cooperação Internacional, since 1996.

- Member of the “High Level Group on Future European Audiovisual Policy”, presided by the Commissary Marcelino Oreja (1997).

- Member of Centro de Investigação Media e Jornalismo (1998).

- Member of the Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (1999/ 2003).
- President of the European Publishers Council  (1999-2014).
- Member of “Consejo de Protectores” da “Fundación Carolina”, since 2001.
- (Non-Executive) member of the board of the Daily Mail and General Trust plc, since November 2002.

 - Member of the general council of COTEC – Associação Empresarial para a Inovação, since April, 2003.
- Member of the International Advisory Board of Banco Santander (2004-2014).

- Member of the State Council, since July of 2005.

- Member of the jury of Prémio Cotec Produto Inovação, since 2008.

- Member of the Advisory Council of Lisbon University (January 2007 to May 2009).

- Council president of Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas from Nova University of Lisbon, since May, 2009.

- Member of the Advisory Board of the magazine “Quadens del Cac”, edited by Catalunya’s Audiovisual Council, since August of 2009.

Also noteworthy are the awards granted to him in Portugal and in foreign countries, as well as innumerous prestigious distinctions and awards he has received. Here are the most relevant:

- Prémio Personalidade do Ano 1992, given by Associação de Imprensa Estrangeira.
- Prémio Nacional Manuel Pinto de Azevedo, Jr., given by the newspaper Primeiro de Janeiro, in the year of the newspaper’s 130th anniversary commemorations, in 2000.

- “Empresário do Ano 2001/2002” award, given by the Lisbon Rotary Club.
- VII Prémio de Periodismo Rafael Calvo Serer, awarded by Fundación Diário Madrid, 2001
- “Prémio Empresário do Ano 2011”, given by the Lisbon Rotary Club.
- Lifetime Achievement in Financial Markers – Investor Relations and Governance Awards” given by Deloitte, 2011.
- Prémio Prestígio Mercúrio, given by Confederação de Comércio e Serviços de Portugal and by Escola de Comércio de Lisboa (2011).
- Grande Prémio “Meios e Publicidade”(2013)
- “Life Time Achievement Award” by KPMG, at Fórum Empresarial do Algarve - LIDE Portugal (Group of Business Leaders, 2013)
- 1st Award of Prémio Prestígio Apigraf 2014”
- Prémio BIC Sénior 2014.

As the academic and journalist António Valdemar would write, under the choice of the 100 most influent Portuguese in the last 100 years, “Francisco Balsemão intervened, in a decisive way, in the last four decades, in the transformation of the Portuguese society. He committed to the restitution of freedom and to the end of the dictatorship, to the construction of the democracy, to the formation of the party-political organization, to the change operated in journalism and in television”.

For curiosity, he adds that being both the same age and having the same profession, they never crossed path in any newspaper and, despite “different political and religious” orientations and sometimes being in disagreement and opposition to the founder of Expresso, he recognizes the contribution of his ideas and the importance “they had and still have for the image of Portugal Novo [New Portugal], that broke with the archaic heritages of salazarismo”.

The personal life of Francisco Balsemão is marked by his social origin. Soon he distinguished himself for driving a Porsche 356 down the coast, in the time when he also hang out with the most high-society, also having as a childhood friend Juan Carlos de Bourbon, the future king of Spain, at the time when his parents, the counts of Barcelona, were exiled in Portugal, in Estoril.

Having spent his childhood in Lapa, in a small palace that is still today the place of one of his offices (he has one in SIC, in Carnaxide, and another at Impresa Publishing, in Paço de Arcos), he then went to live at Quinta da Marinha, where he spends today the majority of his private life. Even though the sport that is most known to him is golf, Balsemão was also an amateur football player and a reasonable tennis player and sailor.

Of his five children (the elder, Mónica and Henrique, children of Isabel Costa Lobo; the next Francisco Maria, son of Isabel Supico Pinto; and the youngest, Joana and Francisco Pedro, children of his current wife Mercedes Presas Balsemão, with whom he his married for about 40 years), two work in the group (Mónica as marketing director and Francisco Pedro as the executive responsible of Human Resources, the Juridical Department and Social Responsibility; one, Francisco Maria, has a non-executive position as vice-president of Impresa SGPS, which however is not his main occupation, being the manager of technological companies launched by himself; the remaining two, Henrique and Joana, have their careers completely unrelated to social communication. Naturally, being all his children already adults, Balsemão has also 12 grandchildren.

Balsemão’s great challenges ahead of the two governments he led can be summed in three major lines, even though all can converge in the greatest of his wills: the liberation of the civil society.

To do so it was needed, in first place, to revise the Constitution of the Republic, since it continued to foresee military tutelage over the most diverse political acts; in second place, to prepare the files and the indispensable supports for Portugal’s entrance in the then European Economic Community (EEC), counterbalancing that side with an accentuated improvement of the relations with the Portuguese-speaking African countries; thirdly, to support the economy and the companies, allowing a sustainable development, creator of wealth and employment that would guarantee the universality of social services.

The work as hard and it is not possible to day that everything went as predicted. On one side, PSD was the stage of the most diverse intrigues, namely by Eurico de Melo and Cavaco Silva; on the other, Freitas do Amaral, who’d refuse to remain the VII Government (Balsemão’s first), claiming that he promised not to continue in case Eanes won, acted as another destabilization pole.

The government of Pinto Balsemão – VII Governo Constitucional (9.1.1981-4.9.1981)


Prime Minister

Francisco Balsemão


Secretary of State

Basílio Horta


Home Affairs

Fernando Amaral


National Defence

Luís Azevedo Coutinho


Foreign Affairs

André Gonçalves Pereira



José Meneres Pimentel


Finance and Planning

João Morais Leitão


Education and Science

Victor Crespo



Nascimento Rodrigues



Carlos Macedo

Francisco Balsemão



Agriculture and Fishing

João Vaz Serra Moura


Commerce and Tourism

Alexandre Vaz Pinto


Industry and Energy

Ricardo Bayão Horta


Housing and Public Works

Luís Barbosa


Transports and Communications

José Viana Baptista


Administrative Reform

Eusébio Marques de Carvalho


Life Quality

Augusto Ferreira do Amaral

 João Vaz Serra de Moura



European Integration

Álvaro Barreto


The first of Balsemão’s governments was, thus, the one where the leaders of the other parties of the colligation didn’t participate. Nonetheless, when he presents the Government’s program he unequivocally states that that is for four years. “The extended majority that Aliança Democrática obtained on last October 5th [of 1980] guarantees a future of governmental stability.” (Diário da Assembleia da República, January 17th, 1981). Nothing could be more wrong! Francisco Balsemão’s first Government was a sucession of episodes that resulted from the instability created within the parties themselves and having also Belém, in other words, the Head of State, as an adversary in the chance of a Constitutional revision. Twenty years later, in an interview given to the newspaper himself founded, he would say “When I was prime-minister, I had been and I knew I’d keep on being on the media’s side and I understood better some mechanisms. What irritated me the most wasn’t that they’d speak ill about me, it was something that continues to happen now. For instance: we are stressing a specific event – whether it is the inauguration of a bridge, whether a set of social security measures, whatever – and journalists don’t speak about what is being done. The politician then at that point is happy, thinks that he or she is making the country progress and is confronted with totally diverse questions: what was said, in the previous day, by the district president of his/her party, or how he or she comments the fact that the President of the Republic was going to make a speech attacking the Government. That was the part that I disliked the most, because I find it wrong even in journalistic terms”. (MONTEIRO, Henrique e SANTOS, Nicolau, interview with Francisco Balsemão, Expresso, 2nd of June, 2001)

To this instability corresponded several minor political episodes that ended with the demand, from PSD and its leader, so that the remaining parties fully committed in the ruling action. The constant political intrigue episodes make of this 1st government of Balsemão a short one (less than nine months), taking the prime-minister to intense negotiations aiming for a bigger commitment and integrations of his colligation partners in the Government and an internal clarification in PSD. That is how he is exonerated, under his request, from the prime-minister office (Diário da República nº 176/81 Série I 1º Suplemento, Decreto nº 105-C/81, 3/8/1981).

Thus, he is able to win in all fronts, and it is how that, on September 4th of 1981, even though with the same prime-minister, as well with some of the ministers that transited with him, the government changes radically, entering it with the position of vice-prime-minister and minister of Defense the then CDS leader Diogo Freitas do Amaral and, as the Minister of State and Quality of Life (the Environment theme was always particularly dear to him) Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, besides João Salgueiro, as minister of State, Finance and Planning.

However, in the appointment of his second Government, Balsemão doesn’t speak of four years anymore. Resorting to a tradition, he raises the stakes right in the first line of the speech and challenges the President of the Republic, the opposition and his own partners with the presentation of a vote of confidence in the end of the debate of the Government’s program. “The Government I preside to – states – intends to demonstrate without a doubt, that it enjoys not only the tolerance of Assembleia da República, but also the expressed and committed support the absolute majority of the deputies in this assembly. (Diário da Assembleia da República, 15th of September, 1981). In that same speech, Balsemão defends a Constitutional revision, and the autonomy of local power and the mainland’s administrative regionalization.

Government of Pinto Balsemão – VIII Governo Constitucional (4.9.1981-9.6.1983)


Prime minister

Francisco Balsemão


Vice prime minister

Diogo Freitas do Amaral


State and Quality of Life

Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles


State, Finance and Planning

João Salgueiro


National Defence

Diogo Freitas do Amaral

Ricardo Bayão Horta



Deputy Prime minister

Fernando Amaral


Parliamentary affairs

Fernando Amaral

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa


12.6.1982- 9.6.1983

Home affairs

Ângelo Correia


Foreign affairs

André Gonçalves Pereira

Vasco Futscher Pereira



Justice and Administrative Reform

José Meneres Pimentel


Education and Universities

Vítor Crespo

João Fraústo da Silva




António Queirós Martins

Luis Morales


Social Affairs

Luís Barbosa


Agriculture, Commerce and Fishing

Basílio Horta


Indúustry, energy and exports

Ricardo Bayão Horta


Culture and Scientific Coordination

Francisco Lucas Pires


Housing, Transports and Public Works

Luís Viana Baptista



The VIII Government would have bigger stability and reach, despite the complexity of the internal and international context in the beginning of the 80’s. On one side, the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, causing a disequilibrium in the fragile balance of the so called «cold war»; on the other side, from Poland, under the effect of the «Solidarity» union, led by one worker of Gdansk shipyards, Lech Walesa (whom would be a decade after the president of an already democratic Poland), winds of freedom were blowing. The Portuguese government, a loyal partner of NATO and a natural ally of the USA, followed the movements in Poland with interest, knowing that the recent election of a Polish pope – John Paul II – contributed for those winds. In fact, the Portuguese government was the first to condemn the repressive action against Solidarity done the Polish communists.

Simultaneously, the successive oil crisis and the revalorization of the Escudo (the national currency) done by Cavaco Silva, which had clear electioneering effects, but relatively harmful from the economic point-of-view, created successive internal difficulties.

Likewise, the action of the Communist Party, by then still subservient of an empire with headquarters in Moscow, had created a set of destabilisations aimed to gather momentum in the decolonization, namely of Angola, and that lived times when its prevalence in the union movement was strong and bolder than it came to be after the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

It is under this framework that it should analyzed the importance of the 1982 Constitutional revision, to which the then prime-minister fully committed and that is, probably, his greatest legacy. Has himself stated

 in 1982, the Constitution was revised and, with that revision, the Revolution Council was eliminated and the Armed Forces were subordinated to the democratic political power. The country moved towards EEC; and, despite the difficulties and the traumas of the decolonization, State to State relationships were established with the Portuguese-speaking African countries. The local power allowed, in few years, progresses in the Portuguese province, that hadn’t been achieved for several decades. The regional autonomy, in Azores and Madeira, contributed, decisively, for the unity of the Portuguese State and for the progress of those until then forgotten archipelagoes. Mentalities changes, many prejudices were destroyed, today’s Portuguese society has little to do, despite the fundamental values, with the immobility or the resignation of the mental structures of the 70’s; and the youth of the 80’s decade is enough of a proof of all of that.

There were, however, political aspects that aren’t due to only one person, one party, one government, but to joint efforts and of the circumstances created by Portuguese committed to their country’s wellbeing. (BALSEMÃO, 1984: pág. 9).


But the revision hadn’t only political effects. Its economic effects would also be decisive in the continued stabilization policy and in the consolidation of finances and of the economy. The essential, at the time, was to reduce the deficit of current transactions, which was achieved and would continue to be, according to the 1983 plans if the political crisis triggered after the municipal elections, and that was already referred, hadn’t contributed for the aggravation of the situation, which actually led to the entrance of IMF, for the second time, in our country (the first had been during the PS Government, in 1977).

From the political point-of-view, the Constitution, by ending the military tutelage over the country – the Revolution Council had powers similar to the ones of a Constitutional Court, being also the Armed Forces’ exclusive legislative organ -, generated the fierce opposition of the communists and their supports, who actually performed to general strikes during the year of 1982, and of the President of the Republic that, even though elected, was a general that also presided the Revolution Council and that was the General Chief of State of Armed Forces. The tension between the prime-minister and the presided was a constant, being known that the President recorded that weekly meetings they had. Balsemão protested in all meetings against that practice which only lasted a few months.

In external relations and in Portugal’s position, once again the revision was essential. PS and PSD were both (as they are today) in favor of the country’s European position. But the political architecture, the exit from a Constitution that came not only from the sovereign will of deputies, but also from a pact between the parties and the Armed Forces Movement, didn’t allow for Portugal to join the club of the European Economic Community. During the time when PSD and PS reached an agreement about the alterations in the social and economic plan that allowed a bigger openness of the Portuguese economy, the government accelerated the files that allowed Portugal to sign the agreement to adhere to EEC, only three years after.

At the same time, the government made clear its preferential alliance with the USA, not only under NATO and the Lajes airbase agreement, but also in the assumption that the integration in Europe corresponded to a clear option for the western world. Recall that, by that time, many people defended that Portugal should belong to the «non-aligned» movement, which means, to not choose a side in the dispute between democratic and communist countries. The «non-aligned» were, in fact, almost a euphemism for the countries that without formally being of the soviet sphere were clearly anti-Americans. In the defense of the «non-alignment» policy, the own President of the Republic vacillated, whilst the majority of relevant militaries were favorable to it, as well as other politicians that had an important role, such as the former prime-minister Lurdes Pintassilgo or some leaders more aligned to the left of the Socialist party, besides the communists, of course, to whom the cut with the proximity to the United States suited in absolute.

Regarding Africa, and in special the Portuguese-speaking countries, it was possible, keeping that principles defined still in the time of Sá Carneiro, in an historical letter to Samora Machel, to deepen the relations, establish behavior rules, respect sovereignties.  The prime-minister, who had been strongly accused of despising this African front, was able to precisely refute that idea with a visit to Mozambique where the then president Samora warmly received and met him, opening an important way for Portuguese businessmen to have the role they would later perform in the African continent.

Right after the constitutional revision, perhaps the most structuring measures achieved by the government must have been the reduction of the State’s monopoly in the financial system. Recall that, until then, all banking was nationalized, something inherited from a military assembly on March 11th of 1975 that decreed so. In the already quoted balance that the prime-minister made of his action, stands out:

There were reviewed the norms to apply to insurance companies in the application of their reserves, among which stands out the obligation of a minimum percentage to be channeled for the acquisition of financial obligations and shares of private companies.

Legal and fiscal dispositions applied to investment and financial location societies were completed. This new framework allowed the start of the operation of three investment societies and the authorisation of a fourth. The constitution of seven societies of real estate finance allocation and a real estate was also authorised.


Note that these societies were the embryos of the new private banks created at the time and that, later, would absorb, by purchase, a big part of the nationalized bank.

Also the business front, it is noteworthy the alteration of the status of Instituto de Participações do Estado (IPE), which at the time controlled a big part of the economy, transforming it in a public capital society, instead of a merely public company. Such allowed the institute to launch alienation tenders of its shares, giving back to the private initiative sectors and business which belonging to the public sector was manifestly anachronistic.

The navigability of the Douro, creating a new path for product drainage and that transformed today also into a touristic destination with ships that go up and down the river admiring what was, meanwhile, considered a World Heritage Site, the Alto Douro, was another of the works for which the then prime-minister is honored until today in the region.

In the cooperative sector, that Balsemão had under his leadership in Sá Carneiro’s government, its autonomy developed, in order to correspond to the civil society’s desires, while in the agricultural front, after the occupation of lands, mainly by militants connected to PCP or to the extreme-left-wing, several dozens of acres of land were distributed in the intervention zone of the agricultural reform, allowing the existence of small farmers dedicated to land. It is also noteworthy the creation of Reserva Agrícola Nacional [National Agricultural Reserve] and of Reserva Ecológica Nacional [National Ecological Reserve].

In the social plan, the VII and VIII Constitutional Governments had an equally active policy. Right from the start, allowing the generalized and annual increase of benefits like pensions and allowances, at the time much more limited than nowadays. Social protection also expanded to new risks, namely to professional diseases and Social Security was expanded to social classes that weren’t included until then, namely artists, intellectuals, priests, etc.

It was also during this time that the problem of Misericórdias was unlocked, ending with a litigation that dated from 1975 and allowing an intervention in the social areas that is kept until today. Along, it was strengthen the role of Instituições Particulares de Solidariedade Social (IPSS), confirming constitutionally their independence regarding the State, in an attempt to stimulate the volunteering and solidarity capacity, namely in the fields that were denied to them, such as health, education or housing.


“Throughout my twenty nine months as prime-minister, I also insisted in the expression ‘liberation of the civil society’, aiming the capacity of privates interests to organize, in such a way they don’t need the State, a circumstance that doesn’t necessarily mean, that they are against the State” (BALSEMÃO, 1984: page 25).


This central idea of Francisco Balsemão, which he carried through the years following his exit from the government, continues to the central in the Portuguese society. A society that, as all analysts conclude, lives too leaned on the State and with a deficit with its own initiative. Unfortunately, the governments that followed didn’t give the same importance to this quest. As stated the then prime-minister, Portugal was the country where the one that evaded taxes the most was «more of a hero than condemned by morality» (BALSEMÃO, 1984: pág.25). in other words, the State was seen (in a way it still is) not as a patrimony of the Portuguese community, but something that is external to it and that is simultaneously «courted and hated».

The passage of a man that was, perhaps, along with Sá Carneiro, the only true liberal social-democrat that led the Portuguese government, intending not to end nor even diminish the State, but only its excessive weight (which at the time didn’t compare to today’s); that intended that the society could and should have initiatives on the behalf of the most disadvantage without having to systematically count with the State support; that defended that companies should develop, without complexes of being profitable and distributing their profits with their owners and shareholders, that passage was relatively meteoric (in truth, and counting with Sá Carneiro’s government, he was only in full force for little more than three years. But it was, curiously, one of those who changed the most the face of Portugal in a time when it was hard for someone to proclaim being a defender of capitalism or even a supporter of the western democracy. He had, in the constitutional revision, Mário Soares’ PS as an ally (even today they are friends), but as internally, in the government and in the party, as well as externally, he added enemies. Today, many recognize him the reason he had, but at the time his struggle was gigantic, wearing.

It was under that fight and many intrigues that, despite in the municipal elections of 1982 the parties that formed the AD colligation had reached more than 41% (against 31% of PS), Freitas do Amaral claims to be profoundly shocked with the result, considering it an electoral failure, in that same night in RTP. Following the crisis opened then by the vice-prime-minister, Francisco Balsemão, who remains as president of the party, proposes to then prime-minister, the general Ramalho Eanes, an agreement with the AD parties, with a new prime-minister: Vítor Crespo.

The president of the republic, after several hesitations, among which having been prepared the nomination decree of the new prime-minister, he ends up on refusing the suggestion and decided to call elections for the april 25th of 1983, which PS wins, without absolute majority. The socialist ally with PSD, the so called «central block» government, being PSD, after the Balsemão’s exist in the Montechoro Convention in 1983, led by Carlos Mota Pinto, returned to the party after stepping aside from it in 9175.

Having abandoned the active politics very soon – at the time he ended functions as prime-minister he was 46 years old – he continued his career ahead of what was his great calling and dedication: journalism. It was also in the relation with journalism that his government stood out, perhaps, regarding all others. Balsemão, being one of them, always understood the role of media professionals and the most obvious proof that he has of that quality of his is the fact that the newspaper of which he is the founder of and was its first director was one of his of main critics.

The instability created, artificially in a way, tried to knock him downs precisely because with him, the «usual suspects» didn’t had access to the State’s benefits to which they were used to. After, came other times, times of Europe money, of megalomania and the greyer times of crisis. Much of what is discussed today are themes that, 35 years ago, in Balsemão’s governments, were already on the table. Maybe that is, posthumously, his greatest victory as the prime-minister of Portugal.