The importance of the Língua Portuguesa as a basis for cooperation between Portuguese speaking countries
"My homeland is Portuguese Language", Fernando Pessoa

On the 27th of June the Portuguese language (Língua Portuguesa) celebrated 800 years that marked the date of the oldest document in Portuguese language (1214), it was the testament from our third king, D. Afonso II. At that time Portuguese was only spoken in Portugal, which was only half of what is today, and probably not everyone were speaking Portuguese like the high society did during that time. Portuguese discoveries around the world started in 1415 that helped spread the Portuguese language.

Nowadays, Portuguese is the 4th most spoken language in the World, the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere and the official language in nine countries: Angola; Brasil; Cabo Verde; Guiné Bissau; Guiné Equatorial; Moçambique; Portugal; São Tomé e Príncipe; Timor-Leste (the names are in Portuguese). In other former Portuguese colonies the Portuguese language continues to be spoken by old people (Goa, Diu, Damão in India; Batticaloa in Sri Lanka; Malacca in Malaysia) or have some importance in the schools (Macau in China; Uruguay). Due to Portuguese speaking emigrants Portuguese language spread into new countries like Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra and Venezuela during the last century.  

The nine countries with Portuguese as an official language are members of a community called Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP - Comunidade de Países de Língua Portuguesa). It was founded in 1996 by seven countries, Timor-Leste joined as the eighth member in 2002 when Timor gained his independence from Indonesia. The latest member, Guiné Equatorial, joined the community during the last summit of CPLP in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste.

This last accession of Guiné Equatorial into CPLP has not found consensus, Portugal was against this country as a member of CPLP as it has one of the worst authoritarian regimes in the world. The way how the ceremony took place in Dili was also strange and undemocratic because there was no voting as expected. Although all other members, including Portugal, had already said before that they would accept Guiné Equatorial, but with some conditions such as the abolition of the death penalty. In the strange way the summit on 23 of July in Dili had already started with Guiné Equatorial as the new member of CPLP. This was a big surprise for the President and Prime-Minister of Portugal that were together in Dili. Another fact that aroused surprise was on the day before the 10th Summit of the CPLP, when the webpage of the government of Guiné Equatorial showed one article in French and Spanish (the other two official languages in the country) but not in Portuguese that Guiné Equatorial was already member of the CPLP.

CPLP was created by the countries which share a common language and many other cultural and political characteristics, but Guiné Equatorial does not match with many of them. CPLP community gained a greater economic importance and all nine countries produce the same amount of oil as the countries in the Middle East. The Portuguese language community includes State-members that are among the countries with the fastest economic growth in the world (Brasil, member of BRICS; Angola, that had between 2001-2010 the world’s highest annual average GDP growth) and others with a great potential (Moçambique and Timor-Leste).

CPLP members are attractive for the world market. China delegated from Macau (former Portuguese colony until 1999) the wish to establish ties with the members of CPLP. Macau, that still has great traces of Portuguese culture and declared Portuguese as official language, aspires to have full membership. The community of Galicia, in the north-west corner of Spain, wants to be a full member of CPLP as Galician and Portuguese language are sharing the same origins and are still very similar. Japan, Georgia, Namibia and Turkey joined Mauritius and Senegal as associate observer in this summit in Dili, but other countries are still waiting for this status as Morocco and Peru, furthermore, India have interests in joining CPLP as an associate observer.

These interests show the importance of the Portuguese language in the world. Besides, the countries, where Portuguese is an official language, are growing economically fast, but they still need to develop their own economic infrastructures. Except Portugal, all countries from CPLP are economies in development that need help from others to improve their life conditions.

The influence of the Portuguese Empire is pushing this cultural community for a more economic side. But even the countries that did not have connection to the Portuguese influence as Turkey and Georgia, they got into CPLP because of some similarities with the Portuguese cuisine and their good relations with the members of CPLP. Namibia joined CPLP more due to the big community of Angolans living there, on the other side, Japan joined because of the big community of Japanese living in Brazil.

In a world more and more divided in economic communities, the market of the Portuguese-speaking countries is desirable for other states as a promising future project. CPLP represents a connecting point between full right members and associate observer members, therefore this can lead CPLP to a new stage, more economical one but it will never recede from their cultural and linguistic origins.

CPLP can contribute to the democratization of Guiné Equatorial, if this happens the community will improve its diplomatic influence in the World. CPLP showed a good work in the mastering the coup that occurred in Guiné Bissau in 2012. It can also provide support to Timor-Leste that has been threatened by Australia because of his sea, where this small country has its greatest riches.

After some years that CPLP was "asleep”, a new time has come. If no changes are recorded in the policy of Guiné Equatorial in the future, CPLP can lose its international credibility as among its members would be one of the less democratic countries in the world. CPLP needs to find a way in order to balance their old goals with their new one. The community can’t attach less importance to their cultural and linguistic bases than to their common economic prosperity.


Edited by: Natalia Ghincul
Photo Credits: Romancing the languages