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History of the Ministry

We invite you to discover the development of the ministerial department, from the outset of modern diplomacy until the creation of the current Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.

15/01/2018

The birth of modern diplomacy dates back to the appearance of the nation-State as a system of political organisation. This creation dates back to between the 15th and 17th Centuries, the period in which feudal systems disappeared throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and kingdoms emerged under the power of an absolute monarch. The Peace of Westphalia brought the Third Years War to an end in 1648 and consolidated the ascent of the State as we know it today, as an entity that has sovereign power over its internal affairs and develops a series of foreign relations with other States.

In Spain, this period coincides with the birth of Spain as a unified kingdom, which under the Habsburg dynasty was forced to develop active diplomacy in defence of the interests of the Empire. Permanent embassies to other kingdoms were shaped as essential tools of the foreign policy of the Kingdom of Spain, which were added to by pre-existing delegations and temporary embassies. These missions were controlled by the Crown.

The embryo of a comparable institution to the current ministerial department – designed to manage Spain’s relations with other countries from the capital – came about in the reign of Felipe V of Bourbon. In 1714, the monarch created the figure of the State Secretary who, among other powers, took on foreign affairs. The first to hold this position with the Marquis of Grimaldo.

This institution underwent numerous changes 100 years later. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna codified the practice of relations between different European States, which led to a significant development of diplomatic laws and practices, with common rules throughout the continent.

Spain thus transformed, under the reign of Fernando VII, the former figure of the State Secretary into the Minister of State, the first holder of which was Francisco de Cea Bermúdez. Following this alteration, our country was endowed with a similar institution to the rest of the European nations in which two new bodies would principally operate – consular and diplomatic public servants - which would end up merging in 1928.

The practice of diplomacy consists of the administration of political, economic, commercial and cultural relations and the protection of the interests, in a broad sense, of the State that the embassy represents. Consular practice focuses on the Spanish citizens that reside or have travelled abroad, although it also includes important informative functions and defends and promotes Spanish companies, among many others. Diplomats nowadays take on both of these tasks.

The Ministry of State was renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the Spanish Civil War. During the democratic transition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a fundamental institution, as it took charge of conveying the political change that Spanish society had just undergone to the world, handled Spain’s accession to the European Community and boosted relations with Ibero-America and other priority regions for Spanish foreign policy.

In 2004, the ministerial department was renamed the ‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’, with the aim of underlining Spain’s role as a country committed to supporting more underprivileged peoples through development cooperation.

The most recent change came about in 2018, with the name changing to the ‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation’, thus emphasising Spain’s pro-European vocation and the fundamental importance that Spanish foreign policy assigns, through the ministerial department responsible for this, to the European Union.​