Post colonial opportunism

Article published on Nov. 6, 2006
community published
Article published on Nov. 6, 2006

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

From the 3 to 5 November, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries will meet in Montevideo, Uruguay, for the 16th Ibero-American summit

One month after the 11th Francophone Summit in Bucharest, EU members are looking after their relations with former colonies. Formal International gatherings such as the Ibero-American summit or the Commonwealth meetings allow Europeans to maintain their influence in the face of the hegemony of the USA and the emergence of countries such as China. How do these work? The common language is used to promote political interests and values associated with them.

Iberian opportunism

Today, most of 480 million people who speak Spanish or Portuguese in the world live in South America. Since 1991, Ibero-American summits are organised every year to unite and foster dialogue between the countries concerned. But for all that, it seems that cooperation between Spain, Portugal and their former colonies is determined by political realism. In 2002, its members reasserted “the validity and importance of multilateralism and regionalism” in the world, while inviting the Iberian community to “profit from its potential”. A hint of opportunism? Without a doubt. In 1982, the conflict between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands demonstrated the limits of pan Americanism: ever since, the South Americans turn towards Europe more eagerly. For Madrid and Lisbon, the benefit of this special relationship are undeniable. They share a common language and can better control immigration. Spain has notably become the second largest investor in Latin America behind the United States.

The Commonwealth’s slow death

The Commonwealth of Nations is the association, created after the First World War, of countries that once made up the former British Empire (former colonies or protectorates). The Head of the Commonwealth is the United Kingdom’s own sovereign. It promotes “the protection and promotion of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values”, and its member countries, linked by common interests, remain independent and neutral. The Commonwealth agenda includes classic values such as the respect for democracy and good governance amongst its 53 members as well as in the rest of the world. Although its initial economic privileges have gradually diminished in favour of regional partnerships, the United Kingdom still reaps certain advantages from the existence of the Commonwealth, such as the preservation of British heritage in the fields of culture, justice or administration.

Is the Francophone world becoming too large?

The International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) unites more than fifty countries, and around 175 million people, who share French as their mother tongue or culture. At the 11th Francophone Summit in Bucharest in September 2006, the member states finally recognised they could no longer fight the use of the English language on a global scale. Their new strategy for the development of the French language would no longer be confrontational. The participants also asserted the political character of the OIF: internal national problems of certain will now be flagged and the organisation’s actions assessed. This is another way of putting France’s own power to the test.