New ambassadors on their way from the Palacio de Santa Cruz to the Royal Palace for the presentation of Letters of Credence before His Majesty the King. EFE PHOTO
History of the Ministry

Spanish diplomacy, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, traces its origins back more than five centuries, and has undergone many transformations over the course of history.

The birth of modern diplomacy dates back to the appearance of the Nation-State as a system of political organization. This occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries, when feudal systems were disappearing all over Europe, and kingdoms were being created under the power of an absolute monarch. The Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, put an end to the Thirty Years’ War and consolidated the rise of the State as we know it today, as an entity with sovereignty over its domestic affairs, and a series of foreign relations with other States.


In Spain, this period coincided with the birth of Spain as a unified kingdom, which, under the Habsburg dynasty, carried out active diplomacy in defence of the Empire’s interests. Permanent embassies to other kingdoms steadily became essential tools of the Kingdom of Spain’s foreign policy, in addition to the already existing temporary delegations or embassies. These missions were controlled by the Crown.


An institution comparable to the current Ministry—managing, from Spain’s capital, relations with other countries—was conceived during the reign of King Philip V of Bourbon. In 1714, the monarch created the figure of Secretary of State, who, among other powers, would be responsible for foreign relations. Spain’s first Secretary of State was the Marquis of Grimaldo.


This institution would undergo a great many changes one hundred years later. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna established a code for relations among the different European States, and this led to remarkable development of diplomatic law and practice, with common rules across the continent.

 
Thus, in 1833 and under the reign of Ferdinand VII, Spain transformed the former figure of Secretary of State into a Minister of State, the first of which was Francisco de Cea Bermúdez. This reformulation provided our country with an institution that was analogous to those existing in the other European nations, which basically had two new corps: consular officials and diplomatic officials, which would eventually become one corps in 1928.


Diplomatic practice consists in the management of the political, economic, trade and cultural relations, and the protection of the interests, in the broadest sense, of the State that the Embassy represents. Consular practice focuses on Spanish citizens residing or travelling abroad, although it also includes important duties involving information and defending Spanish companies, among many others. Nowadays, diplomatic officers are responsible for all these duties.


The Ministry of State changed its name to Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the Spanish Civil War. During Spain’s transition to democracy, beginning in the 1970s, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a fundamental institution, because it conveyed to the entire world the political changes wrought by Spanish society; managed Spain’s entry into the European Community; and promoted Spain’s relations with Ibero-America and other priority regions for Spanish foreign policy.


The latest change took place in 2004, when it changed its name to “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation”, in order to underline Spain’s role as a country committed to assisting the most underprivileged peoples through development cooperation.

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