INTERNATIONAL

Iberolux: The proposal to merge Spain and Portugal

The mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, says the two countries would benefit from closer cooperation

Porto Mayor Rui Moreira.
Porto Mayor Rui Moreira.LUSA

The mayor of Portugal’s second-largest city is proposing a union of his country and Spain, suggesting the name “Iberolux.”

Rui Moreira, an independent who has been mayor of Porto since 2013, made this proposal at the Cities Forum 2020, a European Commission event that his home city hosted this year.

“For dozens of years we turned our backs on each other, there was a tremendous mistrust. Happily, that reality no longer exists today,” he told the EFE news agency. “We speak a language that is not the same, yet we understand each other; we have an Iberoamerican space that is essential to both countries; what’s left to do is to work on building Iberolux.”

In practical terms, Moreira is already at the helm of a city that engages in “iberoluxing” on a daily basis. Most of the tourists there are Spanish, and not just from the nearby region of Galicia but also from Catalonia – Catalans flocked to Porto to admire a selection of previously unseen Joan Miró artworks at the Serralvos Foundation – and from Madrid, especially after Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas was transferred to FC Porto in 2015.

“They are good tourists, they like to shop, eat and drink,” noted the mayor.

Benelux, Iberolux

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg created a customs union called Benelux in 1944, before the foundation of the European Union. In 1958, a treaty turned that space into an economic union.

The idea of a similar Spanish-Portuguese union is nothing new. In fact, the notion goes all the way back to the 18th century. Many leading intellectuals from both sides of the border have supported it throughout the years: Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, Lobo Antunes, Miguel de Unamuno and José Ortega y Gasset, to name a few.

Many politicians privately also see the advantages of such a union, but no political party has dared to include the idea in its campaign promises. The sole exception is Íber, a party created in the Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha in 2015 that flopped at the elections.

But Moreira believes that “the European project is alive and in good health” and ready for new proposals such as closer cooperation between two members on its southern border. Moreira noted that there is already a smooth exchange between northern Portugal and Galicia where, just like in Extremadura, thousands of Spanish schoolchildren are taught the Portuguese language. “It’s one more argument in favor of the creation of Iberolux.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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