The Iberian County

This article explains why Portugal has become the Iberian County instead of the Iberian Country. Catalonia will reach the same status if it were to become independent, myopically speaking. In an increasingly interconnected World, where an unstoppable China in an emerging Asia remains the emerging superpower, and the United States is resisting to let go its status of strongest and most admired nation on Earth, the European Union with its dozens of national aspirations is becoming increasingly irrelevant. If Spain is already irrelevant, how wouldn’t Portugal be? Portugal and Spain should integrate as a way to become relevant in Europe and Latin America and show the World the way forward.

Yes Portugal is the Iberian County and the numbers show it. Portugal has about 10 million inhabitants or 19% of the total population in the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal has a per-capita-income of about 24.000 USD, 20%  less than Spain’s 30.000 USD which makes Portugal’s GDP about 15% of the total output of Iberia. Refer these numbers to the European Union and the comparison between David and Goliath becomes more pronounced.

Once upon a time Portugal and Spain were World Empires that split the World in two in the Treaty of Tordesillas signed on 7 June 1494 in the city of Tordesillas in the province of Valladolid (Spain). Once upon a time… I am afraid is no longer reflection of what either country has become. Portugal lost its last colonies during the Oliveira Salazar dictatorship which concluded with the independence wars after which Angola and Mozambique obtained independence. Portugal became a democracy in 1974 entering for the first time in its history the post-colonial era.

Let’s compare Portugal with Los Angeles County in California. Los Angeles County in California has a population of almost 10 million and an area of circa 12,000 square kilometers. Los Angeles County has an aggregate annual output of $500 billion, larger than that of Switzerland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and twice that of Portugal ( Los Angeles is the United States’ most important port. Two of the World’s top 100 Universities (UCLA and USC) are also located in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County is however not a state or an independent nation. Americans got it right from the very beginning: the Union makes everyone stronger. There are 14 Fortune top-500 companies headquarters in Los Angeles. How many are based in Portugal? None of the Portuguese Universities makes it to the World’s top 200.

Spain is Portugal’s major trade partner. Portugal exports 24% of its total exports to Spain and imports 32% of its total imports from Spain ( Spain exports 10% of its total exports to Portugal but only imports 4% of its total imports from Portugal.

Let’s now look at the combined numbers of Portugal plus Spain, obviously including Catalonia (we love Barcelona!). Portugal plus Spain or Reypública (Reyno+Republic) would be the largest country in the European Union by territory and the fifth most populous by population. The combined output of Reypública would be Europe’s fifth largest by a small margin almost beating Italy’s. But most important Reypública would show all Latin American nations a way forward to integrate, building the first twenty-first century Commonwealth-type organization and mimicking what the United States of America accomplished during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: total integration.

Portugal has become the Iberian County. And Catalonia wants to become independent… Independent from what? A well-known Spanish intellectual who writes for a Catalan newspaper and is based in Paris acknowledged last summer that not even (most of) the French would care about an independent Catalonia (would the Germans care about an independent Alsace or Bretagne?). Catalonia would remain alone in a big World. Catalonia is singular and risks becoming single without a partner that it now has in Spain.

Many in Portugal might say that the country has already an ally in England. England and Portugal signed the Treaty of Windsor in 1373, the oldest alliance on record. The alliance was only interrupted during the time the Iberian Union was in place between 1580 and 1640. Portugal has much more in common with Spain than it does with England. England might have been a trustworthy ally. Spain is a neighbor and has become a friend.

Spain is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of it has become a country with a number of unmanageable governance layers. The “Estado de las Autonomías” may have to be dissolved by decree or referendum. The Oligarchs and the Caciques belonging to the Socialist Party and the Popular Party have become strong in many of the 17 Autonomous Communities and are disobeying instructions from the Central Government, turning into rebel sons and daughters. Portugal should be part of a new territorial design for Iberia, and is wanted, desired and loved on Spanish soil.

Let’s be smart. Let’s integrate and I am not referring to my pre-calculus class in High School. Portugal and Spain should meet one more time at Tordesillas, this time to show the whole World that integration is possible and to seal a Thousand-Years Alliance to lead the World towards total integration and a Global Constitution: a united people, a global family, once and for all.

Agustín Remesal wonderfully presents the history of relations between Portugal and Spain in his masterpiece documentary “La Raya Quebrada” which can be watched online from RTVE