The world is not round and the Atlantic (no longer) is the center

The world is not round and the Atlantic (no longer) is the center
The world is not round and the Atlantic (no longer) is the center

Anyone buying a world map in Portugal will see the familiar image of the Atlantic Ocean in the center and the Pacific along the shores. Anyone who buys the same map in Japan will see that the Pacific is in the center and the Atlantic is in the corners. In the first case, Portugal is in the center and in the second case it is in the periphery.

It should be made clear that the above description reflects the difficulty of projecting a sphere (the world) onto a plane (a sheet of paper) and not any adherence to the fantasies that survive on the internet about the shape of the Earth. But it also reflects the transition from the strategic, political and economic center of the 20th century to the 21st century.

For centuries, various civilizations emerged and between Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, Egypt, China, Japan, India, Ethiopia or the civilizations of Central and South America, the world had several centers, none of them truly dominant. The Maritime Discoveries established or strengthened links of connection and knowledge, and the globalizations that followed brought the various worlds closer together, establishing a center and several peripheries. And until recently, the Atlantic centrality appeared relatively well represented on the maps we know best.

However, the world is changing. The attention of the United States turned to the west coast during the Obama Administration and the European Union recently presented its new Strategy for the Indo-Pacific. London, Washington and Canberra have established a new Pacific security partnership. In Europe, Brexit and the resurgence of Russia mark the continentalization of the European Union and, finally, according to the World Economic Forum, of the 29 economic megaregions of the world, 12 are in the Pacific and the rest are spread across the rest of the planet, being that of the five that only London-Manchester is in Europe, which, as is well known, is no longer part of the European Union, it is in the Atlantic. None of this is unexpected but it’s not good news.

In this context, Portugal will be all the more relevant the more we mobilize and coordinate the different constants of our external presence, which the current Minister of Foreign Affairs defined as a hexagon composed of the Atlantic, European, Portuguese, diaspora, internationalization and multilateralism. Among these, there is one that Ernâni Lopes tirelessly repeated: Portugal will be bigger in Europe if it is bigger in the Portuguese language and it will be bigger in the Portuguese language if it is bigger in Europe.

There is, in fact, a potential for political collaboration between the European Union and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries that remains largely to be identified and explored, without prejudice to the cooperation program between the EU.
PALOP and Timor-Leste. Portugal is the only country that is both a member of the EU and the CPLP and will be able to contribute to identifying common interests and exploring their opportunities, reinforcing our role in a new centrality between Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

In the 21st century, we are replacing the map we know with one where Portugal is on the periphery. The Atlantic will no longer be the center and our national interest is to contribute to making the world more of a globe and less of a planisphere.

Happy New Year!

Associate Researcher at CIEP / Universidade Católica Portuguesa
[email protected]

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