Portugal & Spain - Iberism or Iberian Federalism (Part III)

The first two parts of this series on Portugal and Spain can be seen here:

Portugal & Spain - the territorial disputes of Olivenza and the Savage Islands (Part II) 

Portugal & Spain - the Iberian brothers (Part I) 


The origins of Portugal and Spain lie in counties and kingdoms which were together at some point in Iberian history. The County of Portugal, in the north of todays’ Portugal, was founded in 868 by Vímara Peres. In 1065, this county was part of the Kingdom of Galicia, and then both became part of the Kingdom of Léon (1071). In 1093, the king of Léon gave the County of Portugal and the hand of his daughter to Henry of Burgundy, who helped him in the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.

The first king of an independent Portugal, King Afonso Henriques, was born from this marriage in 1109. After his father’s death, his mother fell in love with an important Galician noble, but Afonso Henriques and other nobles did not approve of this relationship as they were afraid that Galicia or Léon would increase their influence in the County. So Afonso Henriques fought with his mother and declared the County of Portugal an independent country in 1128 (he only recognized it in 1143).

Portugal had to fight for its independence several times. In 1385 a new dynasty started in Portugal after the wars with Castilla. England helped Portugal in this war, originating the longest-standing alliance in the world. After another Portuguese succession crisis in 1580, Portugal lost his sovereignty to Spain for 60 years. During this period, three Spanish kings ruled Portugal: the first two accepted that the Portuguese boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct from Spain, but with the third king everything changed. Taxes started to rise, Portuguese nobles started to loose their government posts in Portugal to Spaniards, and Portugal started resmbling just another royal province of Spain. The Spanish kings were unable to protect the Portuguese colonies, which contributed toward the general discontentment and in 1640, a new dynasty started in Portugal.

The Portugese discontentment lasted for several years, and it might be the reason why Iberism as a movement was started by the Spaniard José Marchena in the 18th century. Years after, Sinibaldo de Mas, a Catalan diplomat, created the Iberian flag in 1854. The flag mixes the colors of the Spanish and the royal Portuguese flag. The Catalan always have had a big interest in Iberism because they do not want Catalonia to be part of Spain, and Iberism weakens the central government in Madrid. With Catalonia and Portugal together in the Iberian Union, it would be easy to defend their minority interests in Madrid.

The pan-movements of Italy and Germany helped to spread Iberism, which reached its apogee in the 19th century. Iberism was spread by republicans, socialists, liberals and freemasonic movements in both countries. The similarities of the Portuguese and Spanish dictatorships were not enough to reunite the Peninsula, the two dictators collaborated but never tried an union.

Portugal is an older nation than Spain, which helped it to develop an strong feeling around the Portuguese nationality and reject the rule of a foreign power. Iberism is stronger in Spain, already a union of different kingdoms, which do not always agree with the central government in Madrid. This can still be noticed today with the nationalist movements in Catalonia and in the Basque Country, and, at a lesser dgree, in Galicia.

Iberism was, and still is, defended by public figures from both countries, such as former presidents, intellectuals, writers, former ministers and politicians. Last year, a political party was created in Spain, the Partido Ibérico (Íber), which wants to unite Portugal and Spain in an Iberian project that will give more strength to both. The defendants of Iberism are right: the common voice of Portugal and Spain will be heard stronger in the world, and in the European Union.

The Iberian Federation (or another name) would be the second largest country in the European Union after France, and the fourth in Europe, after France, Ukraine and Russia. The Iberian Federation would occupy the fifth place on the list of the most populated EU members and the eleventh place in the GDP list. This position would give the weight of its voice in the international community. Portuguese and Spanish are important languages around the world due to historic discoveries.

Currently, Portugal and Spain are both in the EU, in the Schengen Agreement and use the same currency - the Euro. The European Commission is a common government, they also have a common parliament, the European Parliament and many laws are similar, if not the same. They just have different local governments and regimes (republic in Portugal and monarchy in Spain). Considering the facts, it seems that the two countries are already part of a Federation - the future of the European Union will bring more integration and more cooperation, so there is no need to create an Iberian Federation.

The common European project put us together again and we learnt to live like brothers but as all brothers, Portugal and Spain have differences, too. They grew up in different ways and the Portuguese nationality is more important for the Portuguese people than an Iberian Union where we already lived during 60 years and we did not like it. The brothers can live apart, but in the same house: the European Union.

This was the last of three articles about Portugal and Spain. In the first one I did a small resume of the origins of the two countries and their current relations. And in the second article I wrote about the territorial disputes between Portugal and Spain.

(As Portuguese, the article shows my Portuguese point of view, feel free to share your Spanish point of view in the comments)