Mario Soares obtained a degree in philosophy from the University of Lisbon (1951), law degree from the University of Lisbon (1957) and specialized legal studies at the Faculty of Law of Sorbonne, Paris.
As a student, he was an activist against the Salazar dictatorship and in 1957 he began his law practice defending political dissidents. In 1964 he helped found a clandestine society called the Portuguese Socialist Action (ASP) that, in 1973 became the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS). He became Secretary General of the PS in 1973, leading the political party, until 1986. By the time dictatorship fell in 1974, he had been jailed 12 times, deported to São Tomé (1968) and exiled in Paris (1970–1974).
He returned to Portugal in 1974 and became foreign minister in the new but still military-controlled government, where he oversaw negotiations for the liberation of Portugal’s colonies.
In 1976, Mario Soares became the first constitutionally elected prime minister since the 1974 revolution, serving from 1976 to 1978, and from 1983 to 85. During his time in office he oversaw Portugal’s entry into the European Union. In 1986 became the first civilian president since 1926. He was re-elected in 1991 and ended his mandate in 1996. In 1991, he founded the Mario Soares Foundations, which he still chairs today.
He is a member of the Portuguese Council of State, since 1996 and President of the Portugal-Africa Foundation, since 1997. He was president of the Independent World Commission for Oceans from1995-1998; president of the European Movement from 1997-1999 (nowadays honorary president); president of the Committee of the Wise of the Council of Europe from 1997-1998; president of the Committee for the Promotion of a Global Water Contract, since 1997; In 1999 he was elected deputy to the European Parliament where he has been a member of the Commissions of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and of Common Security and Defense, President of the IPS-Inter Press International (Rome) from 2001-2007 (nowadays member of the International Board of Trustees) and President of the Commission for the Religious Freedom (2007-2011) and President of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Prize (UNESCO), SINCE 2010.
He has been a member of NOTRE EUROPE (Paris) since 1997; the Club of Rome, since 1998; the Club of Madrid (Madrid) and the Fundación Cultura de Paz (Spain), since 2001; the Club of Monaco, since 2002; Club de Biarritz (Europe/Latin America Meetings)”, since 2003; Patron of the International Ocean Institute (IOI) since 2009; member of the New Policy Forum (former World Political Forum), since 2010.
Mario Soares is the author of numerous books on philosophy and politics, including his partly autobiographical work Le Portugal baillonné: un témoignage (1972). He has received many awards and distinctions including the Human Rights International Award (1977), the Robert Schumann Prize (1987), the Simón Bolívar Prize (1998), the President’s Medal of the George Washington University (1998), the North-South Prize (2000), the Gold Medal of the University of Berkeley (2000), the Latinity Prize (2004), the Honour Medal of the Schuman Foundation, the Portuguese Parliament Gold Medal for Human Rights (2008). He is Doctor Honoris Causa of 40 universities all over the world.