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Redesigning the Spanish and Portuguese Welfare States: The Impact of Accession into the European Union

The expression ‘Iberian style’ is sometimes found in the sociological and politological literature. However, whether the reaction of any Spanish or Portuguese citizen to such an expression ranges from shifting an eyebrow sceptically or showing sheer puzzlement, depending on personality and circumstance, it always elicits surprise and the absence of a clue as to what it may mean. Spain and Portugal do share several common historical developments and cultural traditions. Both countries were imperial powers during long periods of time, were ruled by monarchies, industrialized later than other EU members, went through protracted periods of authoritarian rule, share a strong Catholic religious tradition (resulting in a deep process of laicization during the last 30 years), and indeed are situated in a peripheral European region: the Iberian peninsula. Nonetheless, the list of differences bears at least equal importance. Apart from numerous historical (armed) conflicts that confronted the two Iberian countries, Portugal and Spain differ in many aspects nowadays. Spain is a monarchy and a deeply decentralized political system, whereas Portugal is a centralized republic. Their labour markets function very differently, and cultural attitudes and ways of life vary significantly. Last but not least, their social protection systems show distinct characteristics and evolutionary trends, as we will see below.