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Gilets Jaunes echoes heard in Lisbon

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Gilets Jaunes echoes heard in Lisbon
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Portuguese people watch the yellow vest protests in France with empathy.

While Portugal deals with coming out of a tough austerity, it's still in a vulnerable position.

It comes at the time of the European Socialist Party Congress in Lisbon.

One Frenchman in the city says he's seen the country improving in recent years.

“Yes, I think that Portugal is an example but we never speak about it in the French media. We never speak about Bloco de Esquerda party."

“Portugal is always depicted as the Paradise of socialism, but here years of austerity have left a profound mark in society. Many feel abandoned and feel left behind by globalization and the gap between real life and politics is far from being closed," says Brussels correspondent Elena Cavallone.

Far from the tourist sites, we meet some residents of the Benfica neighborhood.

Middle-class families and pensioners live in this area of Lisbon.

But there's a widespread feel of pessimism about the situation in the country.

“There's a lot of misery. Many people have nothing to eat and they have to ask for charity. They have to ask for money in the street to eat and feed their children”.

“Everything is getting worse in France. They earn more but everything is more expensive. I don’t like vandalism but I know that they fight in order to improve living conditions," says one resident.

"Modern European socialism is not like the old one in the Mediterranean style, the one that was close to citizens. This is a socialism that is closer to the right, more radical and in my opinion this is not the solution at this moment," remarks another resident.

In recent years, social democracy has been criticized for not promoting social justice.

In Lisbon during the annual congress, the presidential candidate of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, says that events in Paris are a wake up call.

“Whatever your political orientation is in Europe, if you look at what's happening in Paris and in most member states, we are all under an obligation to give back hope to the people who have no hope left and this is what Gillet jeunes say to me. We have to give hope back to people," says Frans Timmermans, candidate for the PES to the European Commission presidency.

Across Europe, far right and populism have managed to give voice to people’s anger.

The next European elections might be the last chance for the socialist party to gain back its electorate.