Spain and the European Community

Spain and the European Community

As Spain began to emerge from its postwar isolation, successive Franco cabinets sought to establish closer ties with Europe. After Franco's death, this became Spain's major diplomatic goal. The desire to be recognized as a member of the West European democratic societies was a primary motivating factor in Spain's attempts to gain membership in the European Community (EC).

Spain had become an associate member of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) in 1958 and a full member of that organization's successor, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 1959. It also had gained membership in the World Bank. The EC, however, was much more reluctant to have Spain join its ranks. Agreement for a preferential commercial trade pact was reached in March 1970, after six years of negotiations, but it was a strictly economic accord. The continued existence of undemocratic governmental institutions in Spain was strongly resented by member countries of the EC, and it continued to be a barrier to Spanish accession.

Shortly after Spain's first democratically elected government in more than forty years came to power in June 1977, Prime Minister Suarez dispatched his foreign minister to Brussels to present Spain's formal application to join the EC. The major political parties in Spain, divided over other issues, all firmly supported this attempt to advance Spain's modernization as well as its international legitimation. Prospects for the approval of this application were enhanced by the implementation of democratic policies by the post-Franco governments. European attitudes toward Spain began to improve, and Spain was admitted to membership in the Council of Europe, in November 1977. The Spanish government's determination to continue moving in the direction of closer relations with Europe was manifested in the creation in February 1978 of a new cabinetlevel position, that of minister in charge of relations with Europe.

Nevertheless, negotiations for Spain's accession to the EC were complicated and protracted. After Spain had acquired the necessary democratic credentials, the economic implications of the prospective Spanish accession caused misgivings among EC members. Spain's level of economic development was significantly lower than that of other member nations, and its industrial sector was in need of profound structural reform. There were also difficulties concerning Spain's fishing fleets. It was in the area of agriculture, however, that the potential consequences of Spanish membership created the greatest concern among EC members, particularly France. These and other factors would necessitate substantial increases in budget expenditures on the part of the EC, which was already experiencing a financial crisis.

After lengthy bargaining, agreements were reached on these issues, and a Treaty of Accession was signed in the summer of 1985. On January 1, 1986, Spain finally entered the EC, along with Portugal. The terms of the Treaty of Accession were less than favorable to Spain, making the country a net contributor to the EC budget for several years, but there was no popular or governmental protest. A major nonpartisan foreign policy objective had been achieved, and most Spaniards savored the longawaited feeling of formal inclusion in the West European society of nations.

Their enthusiasm was tempered in subsequent months, as issues, such as the barring of Spanish fishermen from Moroccan waters because of an EC dispute with Morocco, made clear that not all aspects of EC membership would be beneficial to Spain. A poll taken in the spring of 1987 revealed that a large majority of Spaniards believed that entry into the EC had not helped Spain. Farmers were particularly dissatisfied with the consequences of the EC's Common Agricultural Policy. Nevertheless, the same poll indicated that a majority of Spaniards favored EC membership and that their sense of being "citizens of Europe" was increasing.

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