A recent cover story of TIME magazine called the almost-over first decade of the new millennium “The Decade From Hell.” For Lisbon and Portugal in general however, it was not so bad. Not in economic terms, since the country suffered with the global crisis as much as everyone else, but the last ten years was a period of positive change in several other areas in the city and the country. With the handing over of Macau to China at the end of 1999, Lisbon was for the first time in five centuries just the capital of Portugal, and not of an empire. It had no choice but to better integrate itself fully into Europe, and that’s what it did from day 1. It is now a much more progressive, forward-thinking city, with a larger number of cultural attractions that have also helped it increase its number of tourists and revenue.
Below is a list of the major events that marked Lisbon and all of Portugal from 2000 to 2009, from politics to cultural events and international distinctions, to major local milestones:
-Lisbon starts the new millennium as the capital of the European Union for six months, just days after handing Macau over to China. For the first time in five centuries it does not have an overseas colony, and celebrates 500 years of its discovery of Brazil.
-Porto is named European capital of Culture, leading to massive renovations around the city, including an expanded airport which eventually wins a Best European Airport award by Airports Council International, and opens a new state-of-the-art metro.
-The Douro Valley and the historic center of Guimarães are declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
-The Euro is the new currency of Portugal, together with eleven other European countries.
-American president George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar meet in Portugal’s Azores for a controversial summit discussing the start of the Iraq war.
-Portugal hosts Euro2004, the European soccer championships in new stadiums in eight cities: Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Faro, Aveiro, Leiria, Braga, and Guimarães. The national team reaches the finals for the first time but loses to Greece.
-The Azores’ Pico landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
-Prime Minister Durão Barroso resigns to take over as President of the European Commission, leading to early elections in Portugal. While taking over the most powerful office of the European Union gave him an international status, his image at home was greatly damaged, in part due to his allowing of the Iraq war summit to take place in the Azores. His party is defeated by the Socialists who win an overwhelming majority.
-Lisbon hosts the MTV European Music Awards with Madonna opening the show with the first performance of her new single “Hung Up.”
-The Dakar Rally starts in Lisbon for the first time.
-Lisbon Casino opens to rival the largest one in Europe, in nearby Estoril.
-The New 7 Wonders of the World are announced in Lisbon.
-After threats that the world-class Berardo Collection of modern art would move to Paris, the Portuguese government reaches an agreement to keep it in Lisbon and provides space for the opening of the new Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
-The Lisbon Treaty was signed by the leaders of all European Union countries in Lisbon, reviewing and restructuring the EU constitutional framework.
-A year of milestones and special celebrations: It’s the 20th anniversary since the fire that destroyed much of Lisbon’s historic Chiado district, 250 years since the renovation of Baixa after the Great Earthquake, 10 years since Lisbon hosted the World Fair, and Portugal’s greatest film director Manoel De Oliveira turned 100 years old as the world’s oldest active film director.
-Portugal remembers its cultural heritage around the world with the selection of the 7 Portuguese Wonders of the World, inspired by the announcement of the new 7 Wonders of the World two years earlier.
-Lisbon receives the exhibition “Encopassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 15th and 16th Centuries” organized by the Smithsonian Institute and previously shown in Washington DC.
-Lisbon finally opens its Design and Fashion Museum.
-Lisbon wins Europe’s Leading Destination, Best European City Break, and European Cruise Destination at the World Travel Awards.