The (current) 2 biggest political groups in the European Parliament, the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D, have their youth structures lead by 2 Portuguese: Lídia Pereira and João Albuquerque, respectively.
Lídia Pereira, a young woman just 27 years old, is the second candidate from PSD (the EPP-affiliated social democrats) in the upcoming elections. With the latest polls indicating that her party will be able to secure 7 to 8 seats in the European Parliament (EP), it’s certain she will get an office in Brussels, where she currently resides.
Lídia moved to Belgium to pursue a master degree in College of Europe, after finishing a bachelor’s in Economy in Coimbra in 2014. Despite being affiliated to the centre-right PSD since 2012, Ms Pereira has pursued a career in consultancy after finishing her studies – first at Ernst & Young and now at Deloitte. According to previous interviews, she underlines the “importance of bringing the learning outcomes from these private companies to politics”, defending she always draw a line between her professional and her political activities.
João Albuquerque, 32 years old, has a more ‘by the book’ trajectory: currently working as an advisor at the Portuguese Ministry of Home Affairs, he was a political advisor at the S&D Group on the European Parliament and policy advisor for public policies and urban planning at a local parish council in Lisbon, where he pursued his studies and currently resides.
Mr Albuquerque is the President of the Young European Socialists since April 2017 and holds the 11th position in the Portuguese socialists’ list for the European elections. According to recent polls, it is unlikely he will be granted a seat in the EP, as the socialists are predicted to win 9 to 10 seats.
In Portugal, the most recent leaders have a political trajectory similar to João: they all start young in political youths movements and move their political careers from a local to a regional, then to a national level fairly quickly.
Pedro Passos Coelho, the previous Prime-Minister, became a deputy to the Portuguese Assembly of the Republic (Parliament) at 26 years old after a political career at the youth branch of the social-democrat PSD. António Costa – current Portuguese Prime-Minister was an MEP and a Vice-President of the European Parliament, a Minister in 2 socialist governments, and Mayor of Lisbon, but his first political election was for the Lisbon Municipal Council in 1983, when Costa was 22 years old and studying Law in Lisbon.
Looking into the past of both PS and PSD, it does not come as a surprise for me that the social-democrats have picked a young contender as their number 2.
The European elections serve as a test tube for ambitious young candidates, and the European Parliament as an arena for future leaders to put their potential to a ‘test-drive’. Internally, it helps parties to reward those who have been loyal to the party but aren’t succeeding much in national politics, while at the same time giving them a European platform to prove their worth.
It’s a high-gain, low effort ‘game’ for the big parties.