European Union

European Union
   There has been enthusiastic support in Spain since the 1960s for greater integration into Europe, in part as a reaction against what was perceived as the cultural, political and economic isolation of the country, particularly during the Franco regime (see also europeísmo). The first application for membership of the then European Economic Community was made in 1962, but was rejected because of the absence of democratic institutions in Spain. Nevertheless, a preferential trade agreement was signed with the EEC in 1970. The first democratically elected government of the post-Franco period applied formally for membership in July 1977, and in November Spain joined the Council of Europe and adopted the European Convention on Human Rights. Both economically and politically, post-Franco governments were faced with a number of daunting tasks in preparing for EC entry. By 1975, Spain's economy was still one of most protected in Europe. Furthermore, the UCD government had perforce to devote most of its attention to political and constitutional issues related to the transition to democracy. Consequently, when PSOE came to power in 1982, major restructuring of the economy was long overdue. Its election promise to create 800,000 jobs had to be subordinated to the pursuit of greater competitiveness. One of the first illustrations of this was the Law on Reconversion and Industrialization (1984), which attempted to modernize industries like shipbuilding, steel manufacture and textiles, creating in the process serious job losses in these industries. The negotiations over entry were complicated, partly because of Spain's long tradition of protectionism, partly because of her level of industrial development. In 1983, industrial output in Spain was only 60 percent of the EC average. Though there had been vigorous investment in certain heavy industries in the 1970s, this sector, particularly steel production, was out of phase with the rest of Europe, and was achieving high levels of productivity precisely at the time when demand in the rest of the world was falling off. A further problem was the low cost and high productivity of Spanish agriculture, which was regarded with some apprehension by other member-states with similar Mediterranean economies. Had special conditions not been applied, Spanish agricultural production would, by itself, have made the pre-1986 nine-member Community self-sufficient in wine, fruit and vegetables, and created a surplus of 10 percent above self-sufficiency in olive oil. In addition, with more than double the EC average per capita consumption of fish, and the largest fishing fleet in Europe (the third biggest in the world), which provided 20 percent of all employment in Spain, imposition of EC quota rules was inevitably going to create severe difficulties (see also fisheries). Spain's entry in 1986 was therefore agreed on somewhat unusual terms. The government was required to press ahead with the programme of reconversión industrial, and the Spanish motor manufacturing industry was given the protection of import tariffs for three further years after accession. A seven to ten-year period was allowed for the adjustment of agricultural prices and industrial tariffs, and the full integration of the Spanish fishing fleet was postponed for ten years. The adaptation strategy followed by PSOE between 1985 and 1990 was economically successful in achieving growth and productivity, and reducing inflation. But there were social costs in the shape of high unemployment and reductions in spending on public services, leading to industrial unrest. In the period 1986–90, Spain had, second only to Greece, the highest EC rate of working days lost through strikes, five times as many as Britain. Also, the very speed of growth produced the renewed threat of inflation in the early 1990s. Increased energy costs and the slowing-down of industry internationally meant that by 1991, GDP per capita was still less than 80 percent of the EU average. In addition, the pressure to meet the Maastricht convergence criteria after 1992 (strict control of inflation, interest rates, exchange rates and budget deficits) reduced the government's freedom of action with regard to social expenditure and job creation. As against this, Spain is the highest net gainer from transfers of EU funds, receiving 7,500m ecus in 1995, more than twice as much as the next highest, Greece, and three times as much as Portugal. A major source of subsidies has been support for environmental projects, for which Spain received 30,200m pesetas in 1991 from the European Regional Fund. The "cohesion fund" set up under the Maastricht treaty yielded, in 1994, nearly 19m ecus to support 162 environmental projects in Spain.
   Despite the political costs incurred by increased industrial tension, EU membership has also brought political benefits. Not the least of the reasons why the armed forces are unlikely to intervene again in politics is that any future military coup would lead to Spain's expulsion from the EU, with serious economic and social consequences. The opportunities for increased cooperation with other European police forces has been an important factor in reducing terrorism in Spain. The reluctance of some EU partner countries to extradite members of ETA prompted the Prime Minister, José María Aznar, to propose at a summit in Dublin in October 1996 that the EU should become a single jurisdictional area, with free movement of police officers, the development of Europol into a federal force comparable to the FBI, and the removal from EU citizens of the right of asylum in member states. Not everyone in Spain would go so far as Aznar in advocating this level of integration, in view of economic and social consequences such as the hardship suffered by fishing communities in Galicia and the Basque country. It is also true that in common with other member states, Spain has less control over her own economic policy than before EU accession. In 1995, for example, the European Commission threatened to exclude Spain from participation in a new round of cohesion funds unless the government reduced public spending and employment in the public sector, and pressed ahead with privatization programmes.
   Nevertheless Spain's general commitment to the consolidation of the EU, shared by successive governments, business and the populace at large, cannot be in doubt. It is reflected in the wide support, particularly in Catalonia, for the concept of "Europe of the regions". The Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, is chair of the Assembly of European Regions, to which all Spain's autonomous communities belong, except for Navarre and Castilla-La Mancha. Pasqual Maragall, the socialist mayor of Barcelona, founded in 1989 the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, which brings together representatives of major European cities.
   See also: economy; foreign policy; NATO
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (chapter 12 is an admirably lucid account of the effects of EU membership).
   - Newton, M.T. with Donaghy, P.J. (1997) Institutions of Modern Spain: A Political and Economic Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (chapter 15 is an indispensable overview of the relations between Spain and the EU).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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