Sunday, July 22, 2007

Iberia (2): Update

The day after I waxed theoretical on Saramago's vision for a federal state of Iberia, El Pais published an article (again only in Spanish) on the same topic by Miguel Mora. It is a bit more realistic than my post. Here is an English article about the story.

The basic conclusions from the press are that, despite a clear sense of Iberian solidarity between the two countries, Saramago is indeed off his rocker. The fact is that Spain and Portugal are already quite commercially intertwined, and EU membership already accomplishes much of what an Iberian arrangement would. So an Iberian federation might be more hassle than help. Mora claims:
Today, in the 21st century and thanks to the only rampant ideology (the free market), Spain and Portugal are, paradoxically or not, more united than ever. Money, markets, workers, turists and companies flow without end from here to there, and political utopia seems to have lost all its sense. But there has been such a long time of mutual scorn that the idea continues to excite people.
All this not to mention the sticky issue of nationalism: even if the countries found an adequate power-balancing mechanism, the perceived threat of a Spanish-dominated Iberia to the small Portuguese population would likely be more than enough to kill the project. I would still agree with Saramago that Portugal would not risk losing its own identity as part of a greater Spain renamed Iberia (look at Catalunya and Pais Vasco). But the essential question here is: what's the point? It is hard to believe that Portugal would have that much to gain economically. Still, I would like to see some figures.

All the same, it's fun to think about if you're into federalism and post-national political configurations. Some more info and Iberian statistics on this blog post. Also, if you want a fun idea to gnaw at, check out Jan Zielonka's Europe as Empire, which claims the EU is turning the Continent into something more closely resembling the old neo-medieval and Holy Roman Empires: a looser and more complex structure, with interlocking levels of governance, fluctuating relationships and agreements, and its own organic rhythm beneath the chaos. Provocative and smart stuff.  

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