Spain reignites island tussle

By Brendan de Beer, in News · 31-12-2014 12:56:00 · 3 Comments
Spain reignites island tussle

Spanish authorities have this week confirmed they have filed an application with the United Nations to expand their continental shelf in the Atlantic between the Canary Islands and Madeira by 296,000 square kilometres. In the proposal sent to the UN, Spain has also rekindled its intention to grab a share of the economic exclusive zone off Portugal’s Savage Islands.

According to the coordinator of the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute, this will be one of the biggest increases of the country’s territory in recent memory.
“This will be the largest sovereign expansion since Christopher Columbus”, Luis Somoza Losada told Spanish newspaper El Pais this week.
The daily reveals that while Portugal and Spain are not in agreement with regards to the territory in question, the impasse will probably be resolved by means of a “Solomon-like division.”
The area in question, which is roughly the size of Italy, is also believed to have sizeable gas reserves and could also contain oil.
But both Lisbon and Madrid, despite their differences, have this week indicated that a solution that suits both sides is a strong possibility.
The issue with the boundaries between the Canary Islands and Madeira came to the fore in 2013, when Spain quietly lodged an official request with the United Nations to have Portugal’s southern-most territory, the Savage Islands, declared as rocks and not as islands.
The demand issued by Madrid is aimed at reducing Portugal’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), currently the largest of any European nation, and will allow Spanish vessels from the Canary Islands to venture closer to Madeira.

Measuring a mere 2.73 square kilometres or 20 hectares – although its highest point is 165 metres high – the Savage Islands are more significant for the sea which surrounds them.
The islands are located between Madeira and the Canary Islands, allowing Portugal’s territorial waters to reach within 40 nautical miles of the Spanish territory. In terms of distance, the Savage Islands are substantially closer to the Canaries than they are to Madeira.
These islands have been a Portuguese territory since 1438, the same year that a human being first set foot on Madeira, unlike the Canary Islands which was colonised by the Spanish.
They are inhabited only by a small team of wardens from the Madeira Nature Park, though the Portuguese navy has seized a series of Spanish fishing vessels over the years for breaching territorial borders.
But Spain and its fishermen from the Canaries firmly believe this tiny set of islands cannot be classed as anything but rocks. While Madrid insists it does not have an issue over the sovereignty of the Savage Islands, having them classified as rocks would effectively eliminate the sovereign rights that Portugal has held for almost 700 years.
The Savage Islands are not the only territory which is being contested by Portugal and Spain.
The town of Olivença, located south of Elvas in the Alentejo and Badajoz across the border, has been the centre of a dispute that has lasted two centuries.
The Portuguese Defence Force’s Geographical Institute (IGE) has repeatedly declined to draw the geographical line between Portugal and Spain where this town is situated, leaving a huge void along the border which divides the two countries.
The geographical omission by the Defence Force has been justified by the fact that Olivença is a Portuguese territory occupied by the Spanish and no lines will be drawn until Portugal wins the battle the Vienna Treaty said it had won in 1817. It was then that Spain’s forces, backed by Napoleon were defeated after an occupation which had lasted 16 years.
Vienna thereby cancelled the Badajoz Treaty in 1801 which saw Portugal surrender Olivença to Spain and Napoleonic forces ending more than 500 years of Portuguese rule, after it was founded in 1297.
Despite diplomatic scurries, the United Nations is only expected to issue a verdict on the Savage Islands later this year, while the issue of Olivença is set to remain undecided.


Rebecca, the Portuguese aren't weak just resigned. I might be mistaken but I know of no dynastic war perpetrated by the Portuguese against the Galicians nor the Castilians/Spaniards. During the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, Salazar forbid his general from occupying Olivença as to avoid the very real probability of the war enveloping Portugal proper. Spain is the aggressor as history has proven. Spain will never subdue Portugal.

by Victor Dias from Other on 07-01-2015 05:53:00

I'm part of the Portuguese diaspora and when I (along with my extended family) heard about the latest Spanish attempts at shafting Portugal we were stunned but resigned. Resigned to the fact that Spain is a bully. 900 years, first with Castile and then with Spain proper. Time to demand the return of Olivença.

by Victor Dias from Other on 03-01-2015 05:07:00


by rebecca from Other on 02-01-2015 05:41:00
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