Support in Portugal for a union between Portugal and Spain (Iberian Union) up 15% over the past three years
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
These numbers among others can be seen in this article in Spanish, which has thus far acquired 110 comments - no surprise given the controversial nature of the subject. Here's a summary of the article:
It begins with an account of the first Spanish astronaut (Pedro Duque), who always tells a story to students about how no border can be seen between the two when viewed from space, since they appear to be one single land mass:
One of the main issues between the two countries is the extension of the AVE (the Spanish high-speed train), where the Portuguese government is to spend 9 billion euros for a line from the Spanish city of Vigo (just north of Portugal) to the capital of Lisbon, and thus to the Spanish capital Madrid as well. The move is controversial for those that see it as a way to make Portugal into a kind of Spanish province. That train line is to be completed in 2013.
Here are the scheduled high-speed lines in Portugal according to Wikipedia:
- from Lisbon to Porto (300km/h new HSL expected to be finished in 2015). The two cities will be 75 minutes away.
- from Lisbon to Madrid (350km/h mixed traffic HSL expected to be complete by 2013) bringing the countries' capital cities within 2h45 of each other.
- from Porto to Vigo (250km/h mixed traffic new line between Braga and the border) which will connect both extremes (Porto and Vigo) in less than 45 minutes.
Back to the article: for reasons like these the word Spain has been mentioned quite a bit in the recent Portuguese elections. One recent survey (the Hispano-Luso or Spanish-Portuguese Barometer) shows that almost a third (30.3%) of those in Spain and 40% of those in Portugal are in favour of the two countries being one federation. In 2006 a poll conducted by the Portuguese weekly El Sol showed support of only 25%.
The reason given for the increase in support over the past three years has been the increase in cooperation between the two countries. Since 1994 Spain has been Portugal's main business partner, and imports from Spain alone account for over 50% of those into Portugal. The number of Spanish students in Portugal has also tripled over the past three years to 51,000.
Given the difference in size and population between the two it's no surprise that the Portuguese know more about Spain than vice-versa, with 54.9% of those in Portugal knowing the name of the Prime Minister of Spain, but only 6.9% of those in Spain knowing who the President of Portugal is. 41.8% of those in Spain can identify the colours in the Portuguese flag, whereas 54.2% of those in Portugal can identify those in the Spanish flag, and 53% of those in Spain have visited Portugual whereas 84% of those in Portugal have visited Spain.
As for the basic numbers: GDP in Spain per capita is 35,557 euros vs. 23,531 for Portugal. A union between the two would result in the largest country in the European Union (third-largest in Europe after Russia and Ukraine), a fifth of the population with 60 million (similar to that of France, the UK and Italy) and a linguistic potential reaching 608 million (Spanish plus Portuguese). Note that the two countries combined now make up 51 million so the article is likely combining their expected future population numbers to come up with this.
The numbers of those that are against (against or strongly against) a union are 30.5% in Spain and 34% in Portugal, whereas those that aren't sure are 29% in Spain and 17% in Portugal. A third being outright opposed is still quite a large number, and even Romania and Moldova with much stronger support for unification (51% for, 27% against in Romania) and the same language have failed to achieve anything substantial.
Then there would also be the problem of Spain having a king and Portugal being a republic without one.
The other interesting factor would be the fact that Iberian doesn't simply refer to Spanish and Portuguese but all the other languages in the family tree as well - Catalan, Galician, Asturian, etc. (with Basque as the exception to the family tree), so any discussions over a union might begin to take shape along the lines of not just a union between two countries but a larger union of all the Iberian languages and cultures located in most of the peninsula.