Foreign relations of Spain

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After the return of democracy following the death of General Franco in 1975, Spain's foreign policy priorities were to break out of the diplomatic isolation of the Franco years and expand diplomatic relations, enter the European Community, and define security relations with NATO, later joining the organization in 1982.

Spain has established itself as a major participant in multilateral international security activities. Spain's European Union membership represents an important part of its foreign policy. Even on many international issues beyond western Europe, Spain prefers to coordinate its efforts with its EU partners through the European political cooperation mechanisms.

Regional relations

Spain has maintained its special identification with its fellow Spanish-speaking countries. Its policy emphasizes the concept of an Ibero-American community, essentially the renewal of the historically liberal concept of "Hispano-Americanismo" (or Hispanic as it is often referred to in English), which has sought to link the Iberian peninsula to the Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America through language, commerce, history and culture. Spain has been an effective example of transition from dictatorship to democracy, as shown in the many trips that Spain's King and Prime Ministers have made to the region. Spain maintains economic and technical cooperation programs and cultural exchanges with Latin America, both bilaterally and within the EU.

Meanwhile, Spain has gradually begun to broaden its contacts with Sub-Saharan Africa. It has a particular interest in its former colony of Equatorial Guinea, where it maintains a large aid program. More recently Madrid has sought closer relation with Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and others to find solutions for the issue of illegal immigration to the Canary Islands.

Spain is also known as a broker in the Middle East. In its relations with the Arab world, Spain frequently supports Arab positions on Middle East issues. The Arab countries are a priority interest for Spain because of oil and gas imports and because several Arab nations have substantial investments in Spain.

Spain has been successful in managing its relations with its three European neighbours, France, Andorra, and Portugal. The accession of Spain and Portugal to the EU has helped ease some of their periodic trade frictions by putting these into an EU context. Franco-Spanish bilateral cooperation is enhanced by joint action against Basque ETA violence. Ties with the United Kingdom are generally good, although the question of Gibraltar remains a sensitive issue.

Today, Spain is trying to expand its still narrow relations with east Asian nations. China, Japan and South Korea are the main points of interest for Spain in the region. Thailand and Indonesia are Spain's main allies in the ASEAN region, having a considerable number of agreements and a very good relationship. In the recent years Spain has also been boosting its contacts, relations and investment in other Asian countries, most notably Vietnam and Malaysia. Relations with the Philippines are, despite of the colonial past, considerably weaker than the ones Spain has with other countries in the area, dealing mostly with cultural aspects and humanitarian assistance programs.

Disputes - international

Whilst the Disputed status of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom is perhaps the best known territorial dispute of Spain. Spain has a territorial dispute with Morocco concerning the five places of sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on and off the coast of Morocco - the coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which Morocco contests, as well as the islands of Peñon de Alhucemas, Peñon de Vélez de la Gomera, and Islas Chafarinas. Portugal continues to claim Olivenza/Olivença, asserting that under the Vienna Treaty of 1815, Spain recognized the Portuguese claims as "legitimate". The historic disputes with Portugal over the Savage Islands in the Atlantic Ocean were resolved in recent times.

The strategic position of the Strait of Gibraltar has left a legacy of a number of sovereignty disputes. Spain maintains sovereignty over Ceuta, Melilla, Peñon de Velez de la Gomera, Alhucemas and the Chafarinas Islands (captured following the Christian reconquest of Spain) based upon historical grounds, security reasons and on the basis of the UN principle of territorial integrity. Spain also maintains that the majority of residents are Spanish. Morocco claims these territories on the basis of the UN principles of decolonisation, territorial integrity and that Spanish arguments for the recovery of Gibraltar substantiate Morocco’s claim.[1]

Olivenza (Spanish) or Olivença (Portuguese) is a town and seat of a municipality, on a disputed section of the border between Portugal and Spain, which is claimed de jure by both countries and administered de facto as part of the Spanish autonomous community of Extremadura. The population is 80% ethnic Portuguese and 30% of Portuguese language. Olivenza/Olivença was under continuous Portuguese sovereignty since 1297 until it was occupied by the Spanish in 1801 and formally ceded by Portugal later that year by the Treaty of Badajoz. Spain claims the de jure sovereignty over Olivenza/Olivença on the grounds that the Treaty of Badajoz still stands and has never been revoked. Thus, the border between the two countries in the region of Olivenza/Olivença should be as demarcated by that treaty. Portugal claims the de jure sovereignty over Olivenza/Olivença on the grounds that the Treaty of Badajoz was revoked by its own terms (the breach of any of its articles would lead to its cancellation) when Spain invaded Portugal in the Peninsular War of 1807.

Portugal further bases its case on Article 105 of the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, which Spain signed in 1817, that states that the winning countries are to "endeavour with the mightiest conciliatory effort to return Olivenza/Olivença to Portuguese authority". Thus, the border between the two countries in the region of Olivenza/Olivença should be as demarcated by the Treaty of Alcanizes of 1297. Spain interprets Article 105 as not being mandatory on demanding Spain to return Olivenza/Olivença to Portugal, thus not revoking the Treaty of Badajoz. Portugal has never made a formal claim to the territory after the Treaty of Vienna, but has equally never directly acknowledged the Spanish sovereignty over Olivenza/Olivença.

Spanish public opinion is not generally aware of the Portuguese claim on Olivenza/Olivença (in contrast to the Spanish claim on Gibraltar or the Moroccan claims on Ceuta, Melilla and the Plazas de soberanía). On the other hand, awareness in Portugal has been increasing under the efforts of pressure groups to have the question raised and debated in public.

Bilateral relations


Country Formal relations began on Notes
 Albania12 September 1986
 Armenia27 January 1992
 Belarus13 February 1992
 Bulgaria8 May 1810See also Bulgaria–Spain relations
 Croatia9 March 1992See Croatia–Spain relations
 DenmarkSee Denmark–Spain relations
 FranceSee France–Spain relations
 GreeceSee Greece–Spain relations
  • Greece has an embassy in Madrid.[17]
  • Spain has an embassy in Athens.[18]
 Holy See1530See Holy See–Spain relations
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Madrid.
  • Spain has an embassy to the Holy See based in Rome.[19]
 HungarySee Hungary–Spain relations
  • Ireland has an embassy in Madrid.[22]
  • Spain has an embassy in Dublin.[23]
 ItalySee Italy–Spain relations

Both countries established diplomatic relations after the unification of Italy. Relations between Italy and Spain have remained strong and affable for centuries owing to various political, cultural, and historical connections between the two nations. In the Early modern period, southern and insular Italy came under Spanish control, having been previously a domain of the Crown of Aragon. This extended period of foreign domination left marked influences in the modern southern Italian dialects. During the Spanish civil war, the Corps of Volunteer Troops, a fascist expeditionary force from Italy, supported the Nationalist forces led by Francisco Franco. It's estimated that around 75,000 Italians fought in the war.

 Moldova30 January 1992See Moldova–Spain relations
  • Moldova has an embassy in Madrid.[28]
  • Spain is accredited to Moldova from its embassy in Bucharest, Romania.
  • In 2008, the Spanish government indicated that 12,582 Moldovan citizens were legally working there.[29] Spain is a significant investor in Moldova through Unión Fenosa which owns three of Moldova's five energy distribution companies.[30]
 PortugalSee Portugal–Spain relations

Relations between Portugal and Spain are also good. They cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking and tackling forest fires (common in the Iberian Peninsula in summers), for example. These close relations are facilitated by similar governments: the government of conservative Spanish PM José María Aznar coincided with the government of also conservative José Manuel Durão Barroso in Portugal; today, both José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and José Sócrates of Portugal are socialists.

Portugal also holds claim to the disputed territory of Olivença in the Portuguese-Spanish border.

 Romania5 January 1967See Romania–Spain relations
 Russia1520See Russia–Spain relations

Spain and the Grand Duchy of Moscow first exchanged envoys in the 1520s; regular embassies were established in 1722. Soviet-Spanish relations, once terminated after the Spanish Civil War, were gradually reestablished since 1963 and fully established in 1977. Trade between two countries amounts to two billion Euros (2008); in March 2009 two countries signed an energy agreement providing national energy companies access to other party's domestic markets.

 Serbia14 October 1916See Serbia–Spain relations
 TurkeySee Spain–Turkey relations
 Ukraine30 January 1992
 United KingdomSee Spain–United Kingdom relations

The 2001 UK Census recorded 54,482 Spanish-born people living in the UK.[43] In comparison, it is estimated that 100,000 British-born people live in Spain.

Latin America

With Latin American countries: During Aznar's government, Spanish relations with some Latin-American countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba worsened, but were exceptionally good with others like Colombia, Dominican Republic and several Central America republics. Zapatero's victory in the 2004 general elections changed this setting. Despite long-standing close linguistic, economic and cultural relations with most of Latin America, some aspects of Spanish foreign policy during this time, such as its support for the Iraq War, were not supported or widely favored.

Today, relations with Venezuela are quite good, which has caused some controversy with the United States, who have been in recent disagreements with Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and its growing relations with "Anti-American Nations", such as Cuba, China, Russia and several Islamic Middle Eastern countries. However, due to a notable public incident in 2007, Venezuelan-Spanish ties were briefly suspended,[46] though were later re-established.

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Argentina1863See Argentina–Spain relations

A diplomatic crisis with Bolivia in 2005 due to a misunderstanding was quickly resolved by Zapatero and Spain became the first European country visited by Evo Morales on January 4, 2006. However, there remain problems surrounding the exploitation of oil and gas fields in the country by Spanish corporations like Repsol.

Bolivian President Evo Morales met King Juan Carlos and held talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero during a visit to Spain in September 2009 with the intention of resolving issues concerning the nationalisation of the Bolivian energy sector. The move has the potential to hurt some Spanish companies however relations were said to be "positive" between the Bolivian state and Spanish private sector energy companies. Evo Morales said that Bolivia is ready to accept outside investment in its energy and natural resource industries as long as foreign firms do not act as owners and that Bolivia is "looking for investment, be it from private or state sector. We want partners, not owners of our natural resources."

It was suggested that Bolivia would also negotiate with Spanish companies to produce car parts and lithium batteries in the future.[49]

 BrazilSee Brazil–Spain relations
 Chile1844See Chile–Spain relations

Both nations are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

 Colombia1881See Colombia–Spain relations
 Costa Rica1838
 CubaSee Cuba–Spain relations
 Dominican Republic
 El Salvador24 June 1865
 Mexico26 December 1836See Mexico–Spain relations
  • Nicaragua has an embassy in Madrid.[78]
  • Spain has an embassy in Managua.[79]
 Paraguay10 September 1880See Paraguay–Spain relations
 UruguaySee Spain–Uruguay relations
 VenezuelaSee Spain–Venezuela relations


Country Formal relations began on Notes
 CanadaSee Canada–Spain relations
 Equatorial Guinea1968
 India1956[105]See India–Spain relations
 Israel1975See Israel–Spain relations
 North Korea7 February 2001 See Foreign relations of North Korea
  • With the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2001, Spain completed the process of universalizing its diplomatic relations.
 South Korea7 March 1950 See South Korea–Spain relations
  • With the normalization of diplomatic relations with South Korea on 7 March 1950 Spain completed the process of universalizing its diplomatic relations.
  • First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yong met with his Spanish counterpart Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ignacio Ybáñez Rubio in Madrid on June 1 for the tenth Republic of Korea-Spain high-level policy consultation. In the meeting, the two sides discussed ways to step up bilateral cooperation.[111]
  • South Korea has an embassy in Madrid.[112]
  • Spain has an embassy in Seoul.[113]
 Malaysia12 May 1967See Malaysia–Spain relations

Malaysia has an embassy in Madrid,[114] and Spain has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur.[115] Spain established a diplomatic relations with Malaysia on 12 May 1967 with both the Malaysian and Spanish embassy were opened in 1985.[116]

 MoroccoSee Morocco–Spain relations

Spain has several interests in Morocco. This is dictated by geographic proximity and long historical contacts, as well as by the two Spanish enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Africa. While Spain's departure from its former colony of Western Sahara ended direct Spanish participation in Morocco, it maintains an interest in the peaceful resolution of the conflict brought about there by decolonization. These issues were highlighted by a crisis in 2002, when Spanish forces evicted a small contingent of Moroccans from a tiny islet off Morocco's coast following that nation's attempt to assert sovereignty over the Spanish island.

 New Zealand28 March 1969See New Zealand–Spain relations

Pakistan and Spain enjoy extremely cordial and friendly ties.[120] Relations were established in the late 1950s. Pakistanis form the largest Asian immigrant community in Spain. Pakistan has an embassy in Madrid and a consulate-general in Barcelona and Spain has an embassy in Islamabad and honorary consulates in Karachi and Lahore.

 PhilippinesSee Philippines–Spain relations

Philippine former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo concluded her second state visit in Spain in July 2006, bringing back millions of dollars of Spanish investments, particularly in Tourism and Information Technology. The Spanish king, Juan Carlos I, also reiterated in Mrs. Arroyo's visit, his support for her project in the Philippines to re-establish Spanish as an official language in the country. He and his wife, Queen Sofia attended the 1998 centennial celebrations in Manila, commemorating 100 years of independence from Spain. The mediation of King Juan Carlos I is said to have produced the pardon and liberation of two Filipina domestic workers sentenced to death in Kuwait and the UAE.

  • Philippines has an embassy in Madrid.[121]
  • Spain has an embassy in Manila.[122]
 United StatesSee Spain–United States relations

Under the government of José María Aznar, Spain developed exceptionally good relations with the USA, in great part due to the personal empathy between Aznar and George W. Bush. Following Zapatero's decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq immediately after the 2004 general elections, relations predictably soured, although important commercial links remained intact. When elected, President Barack Obama expressed his wish to enhance cooperation between both countries, especially in policies like the Green Energy plan from Zapatero,[123] introducing the AVE (the Spanish High Speed Train) in United States [124] and aiding US by receiving in Spanish prisons Guantanamo Prison detainees [125]

See also

Further reading



  1. Dr Gerry O’Reilly, GIBRALTAR: SOVEREIGNTY DISPUTES AND TERRITORIAL WATERS, IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, Spring 1999
  2. Embassy of Albania in Madrid (in English and Spanish)
  3. Embassy of Spain in Tirana (in Spanish)
  4. Embassy of Andorra in Madrid (in Spanish)
  5. Embassy of Spain in Andorra la Vella (in English and Spanish)
  6. Embassy of Armenia in Madrid (in Armenian, English and Spanish)
  7. Embassy of Bulgaria in Madrid (in Bulgarian, English and Spanish)
  8. Embassy of Spain in Sofia (in Bulgarian and Spanish)
  9. Embassy of Croatia in Madrid (in Croatian and Spanish)
  10. Embassy of Spain in Zagreb (in Croatian, English and Spanish)
  11. Embassy of Denmark in Madrid (in Danish and Spanish)
  12. Embassy of Spain in Copenhagen (in Danish, English and Spanish)
  13. Embassy of France in Madrid (in French and Spanish)
  14. Embassy of Spain in Paris (in French and Spanish)
  15. Embassy of Germany in Madrid (in German and Spanish)
  16. Embassy of Spain in Berlin (in German and Spanish)
  17. Embassy of Greece in Madrid (in Greek and Spanish)
  18. Embassy of Spain in Athens (in English and Spanish)
  19. Embassy of Spain to the Holy See (in Spanish)
  20. Embassy of Hungary in Madrid (in Hungarian and Spanish)
  21. Embassy of Spain in Budapest (in English and Spanish)
  22. Embassy of Ireland in Madrid (in English and Spanish)
  23. Embassy of Spain in Dublin (in English and Spanish)
  24. Embassy of Italy in Madrid (in Italian and Spanish)
  25. Embassy of Spain in Rome (in Italian and Spanish)
  26. List of Maltese representations in Spain
  27. Embassy of Spain in Valletta (in Spanish)
  28. Embassy of Moldova in Madrid (in Moldovan)
  29. "Extranjeros con tarjeta de residencia en vigor incluidos en el Régimen General según nacionalidad y tipo de autorización de residencia. 31-12-2008". Secretaría de Estado de Inmigración y Emigración. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  30. "Moldova". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  31. Embassy of Portugal in Madrid (in Portuguese and Spanish)
  32. Embassy of Spain in Lisbon (in Portuguese and Spanish)
  33. Embassy of Romania in Madrid (in Romanian and Spanish)
  34. Embassy of Spain in Bucharest (in English, Romanian and Spanish)
  35. Embassy of Russia in Madrid (in Russian and Spanish)
  36. Embassy of Spain in Moscow (in English and Spanish)
  37. Embassy of Serbia in Madrid (in Serbian and Spanish)
  38. Embassy of Spain in Belgrade (in Serbian and Spanish only)
  39. Embassy of Spain in Ankara (in Spanish and Turkish)
  40. Embassy of Turkey in Madrid (in Spanish and Turkish)
  41. Embassy of Spain in Kiev (in Spanish and Ukrainian)
  42. Embassy of Ukraine in Madrid (in Spanish and Ukrainian)
  43. "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  44. Embassy of Spain in London (in English and Spanish)
  45. Embassy of the United Kingdom in Madrid
  46. Chavez freezes relations with Colombia, Spain
  47. Embassy of Argentina in Madrid (in English and Spanish)
  48. Embassy of Spain in Buenos Aires (in Spanish)
  50. Embassy of Bolivia in Madrid (in Spanish)
  51. Embassy of Spain in La Paz (in Spanish)
  52. Embassy of Brazil in Madrid (in Portuguese and Spanish)
  53. Embassy of Spain in Brasília (in Portuguese and Spanish)
  54. Embassy of Chile in Madrid (in Spanish)
  55. Consulate-General of Chile in Barcelona (in Spanish)
  56. Embassy of Spain in Santiago (in Spanish)
  57. Embassy of Colombia in Madrid (in Spanish)
  58. Embassy of Spain in Bogota (in Spanish)
  59. Embassy of Costa Rica in Madrid (in Spanish)
  60. Embassy of Spain in San José (in Spanish)
  61. Embassy of Cuba in Madrid (in Spanish)
  62. Embassy of Spain in Havana (in Spanish)
  63. Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Madrid (in Spanish)
  64. Embassy of Spain in Santo Domingo (in Spanish)
  65. Embassy of Ecuador in Madrid (in Spanish)
  66. Embassy of Spain in Quito (in Spanish)
  67. Embassy of El Salvador in Madrid (in Spanish)
  68. Embassy of Spain in San Salvador (in Spanish)
  69. Embassy of Guatemala in Madrid (in English and Spanish)
  70. Embassy of Spain in Guatemala City (in Spanish)
  71. Embassy of Honduras in Madrid (in Spanish)
  72. Embassy of Spain in Managua (in Spanish)
  73. Embassy of Mexico in Madrid (in Spanish)
  74. Consulate of Mexico in Barcelona (in Spanish)
  75. Embassy of Spain in Mexico City (in Spanish)
  76. Consulate-General of Spain in Guadalajara (in Spanish)
  77. Consulate-General of Spain in Monterrey (in Spanish)
  78. Embassy of Nicaragua in Madrid (in Spanish)
  79. Embassy of Spain in Managua (in Spanish)
  80. Embassy of Panama in Madrid (in Spanish)
  81. Embassy of Spain in Panama City (in Spanish)
  82. Embassy of Paraguay in Madrid (in Spanish only)
  83. Consulate-General of Paraguay in Barcelona (in Spanish)
  84. Consulate-General of Paraguay in Málaga (in Spanish)
  85. Embassy of Spain in Asunción (in Spanish)
  86. Embassy of Peru in Madrid (in Spanish)
  87. Embassy of Spain in Lima (in Spanish)
  88. Embassy of Uruguay in Madrid (in Spanish)
  89. Consulate-General of Uruguay in Barcelona (in Spanish)
  90. Consulate-General of Uruguay in Las Palmas (in Spanish)
  91. Consulate-General of Uruguay in Santiago de Compostela (in Spanish)
  92. Embassy of Spain in Montevideo (in Spanish)
  93. Embassy of Venezuela in Madrid (in Spanish)
  94. Consulate-General of Venezuela in Barcelona (in Spanish)
  95. Consulate-General of Venezuela in Bilbao (in Spanish)
  96. Consulate-General of Venezuela in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (in Spanish)
  97. Consulate-General of Venezuela in Vigo (in Spanish)
  98. Embassy of Spain in Caracas (in Spanish)
  99. Embassy of Canada in Madrid
  100. Embassy of Spain in Ottawa
  101. Consulate-General of Spain in Montreal
  102. Consulate-General of Spain in Toronto
  103. Embassy of Equatorial Guinea in Madrid (in Spanish)
  104. Embassy of Spain in Malabo (in Spanish)
  105. Indo-Spain Relations
  106. Indian Embassy in Madrid
  107. Honorary Consulate Generals of India in Spain
  108. Spanish Embassy in India
  109. Embassy of Israel in Madrid (in Hebrew and Spanish)
  110. Embassy pf Spain in Tel Aviv (in English and Spanish)
  112. Embassy of South Korea in Madrid (in Korean and Spanish)
  113. Embassy of Spain in Seoul (in English and Spanish)
  114. "Official Website of Embassy of Malaysia, Madrid". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  115. "Embassy of Spain in Kuala Lumpur". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Spain). Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  116. "(ESPANA-MALASIA) RELACIONES BILATERALES" (PDF) (in Spanish). Ministerio De Asuntos Exteriores Y De Cooperacion. p. 5. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  117. Embassy of Spain in Rabat (in English and Spanish)
  118. Embassy of New Zealand in Madrid
  119. Embassy of Spain in Wellington
  121. Embassy of the Philippines in Madrid (in Spanish)
  122. Embassy of Spain in Manila (in English and Spanish)
  123. "Renewable Energy in Spain: Details on the Government's New FIT Regulation".
  124. "Obama's Transportation Secretary Impressed by Spain's AVE".
  125. "Spain offers to help Obama in closing Guantanamo".
  126. Emabassy of Spain in Washington, DC (in English and Spanish)
  127. Embassy of the United States in Madrid (in English and Spanish)
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