Spain, Western Europe and the European Community

By Gooch, Anthony | Contemporary Review, August 1992 | Go to article overview

Spain, Western Europe and the European Community


Gooch, Anthony, Contemporary Review


ANYONE looking through the political literature and newspapers published in Spain in recent times will find constant references to el europeismo de Espana and la vocacion europea de Espana, i.e. the essentially European nature of Spain and Spain's vocation or calling as a European nation. Such a person will also frequently come across a variant on the same theme: la europeizacion de Espana, i.e. the Europeanization of Spain, an expression now implying that, although Spain is a European country, there is a will that she should become increasingly more so. There is a desire to obliterate the image fostered by the famous tourist slogan Espana es diferente, subsequently ousted from the hoardings by |Spain is not different -- you can use your credit-card here, too'. Because of the perception, deeply ingrained in many quarters, that l'Afrique commence aux Pyrenees, successive Spanish governments have felt the need to stress the concept of Spain's |Europeanness', of Europe as Spain's |international anchorage'. Spain had to overcome the isolation of nearly forty years created by the Franco Regime, but this was merely an acute form of the isolation which had begun in the late seventeenth century. Spain, for long so near to God and so far from la civilisation europeenne, was returning to the fold after three centuries.

The attempt to join the EEC had been initiated in 1962, under Franco, but the psychological legacy of the Civil War and the nature of the Regime meant little or no progress. Martha Gellhorn has said that the Spanish Civil War engaged, on both sides, elements of idealism and nobility such as have been present in no other modern war. And the elements of hatred have been no less. In Holland people remembered the Duke of Alba, in Britain they remembered the Armada, but what they all remembered, Dutch and British, French and Belgians, was the Civil War, and many were disinclined to forget.

Once democracy was established, entry into the EEC became the king-pin, the ultima ratio of Spanish foreign policy. There was a saying -- la Santa Trinidad de la politica exterior espanola: Gibraltar, CEE y OTAN/The Holy Trinity of Spanish foreign policy: Gibraltar, EEC and NATO, but, in fact, the Community now easily comes first. Spain's perception was that entry into the EEC would set the final seal of approval on her young democracy, it would be the ultimate accolade, and many abroad were of the same view: c'etait l'enjeu definitif. She had been admitted to the Council of Europe in 1977, but the date that really mattered was 1st January 1986: in the Community at last! 1986 was an annus mirabilis for Spain, and, particularly, for her foreign relations. In that year the Socialists were returned to power for a second term, formal diplomatic ties were established with Israel, the country's status as a member of NATO was confirmed, and, above all, the doors of the European Community were finally opened.

Spain had seen that laying siege to Brussels would not suffice: individual battles had to be fought in Paris, London, The Hague -- it had to be an assault tous azimuts. It was a tough fight. Spain wanted a long period to adapt her vulnerable industry. There were difficulties over protective tariff s and other financial matters. There were problems over the free movement of labour, and over fishing quotas. Above all, Spain wanted a short period of adaptation for her competitive agricultural produce. At one time, Europe, and very much in particular France, seemed to be littered with over-turned Spanish fruit and vegetable lorries. There was a lack not only of enthusiasm but, indeed, even of elementary politesse.

France

The French connexion, then, required special attention. Spain lost a fleet at Trafalgar thanks to France. The Napoleonic armies left memories in the Peninsula that rancoured bitterly and lingered long. Known to the French simply as la campagne d'Espagne, the Peninsula War is, in Spanish, officially called la guerra de la independencia, but, in popular parlance.

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