Printer Friendly

Spain, Western Europe and the European Community.

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.


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. it is la francesada, a term pregnant with emotion. Nor did the behaviour of France in the Civil War and after do much to improve matters.

In his book Les Espagnols, Thierry Maliniak, looking at things from the Spanish point of view, speaks of les Francais, si proches et si lointains. Indeed. Relations between France and Spain have always been difficult, not to say rasping, |jagged like the teeth of a saw', to use an image from Ortega y Gasset, taken up by Ramon-Luis Acuna, who, in his book Como los dientes de una sierra, characterises the two countries thus: |One a European crossroads, the other looking out towards the Americas; France a European nerve-centre, open to the whole continent, Spain in a corner of Europe, and self-preoccupied; France maintaining her position as a great power for centuries, Spain a power in decline after centuries of glory'.

There have, nevertheless, been meetings of French and Spanish minds. In the summer of 1970 a retired General de Gaulle and an ageing General Franco met for lunch at El Pardo and hit it off. |After all,' says Edouard de Blaye, in Franco ou la monarchie sans roi, |they had a good many points in common. Both were soldiers in the old style. Both were animated by an uncompromising patriotism. Both possessed the same taste for grandeur. Both professed the same scorn for politics and |questions of supply'. Both were familiar with the myth of the man marked out by Providence. Both believed in a strong State, and doubted the capacities of their respective peoples to govern themselves'.

In EC times, de Gaulle and other Frenchmen have looked on Spain as good potential Latin weighting against an Anglo-Saxon and Germanic predominance, although Giscard d'Estaing certainly put a brake on the negotiations for Spain's entry into the European Club: la pause/el paron de Giscard. But, in 1985, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia visited France, and, eventually, Felipe Gonzalez and Francois Mitterand managed to see more or less eye to eye, rather than eye-ball to eye-ball, both on ETA and on entry into the Community.

The United Kingdom

The historical connexion with Great Britain has been long and not easy: the names and events span the centuries -- Catherine of Aragon, Queen Elizabeth, Drake, the Singeing Of the King of Spain's Beard, the Armada, and, in modern times, the Civil War, and the Axis Connexion in World War II, but, above all, perhaps el Penon/The Rock, aptly dubbed by George Hills |Rock of Contention'-- la gran asignatura pendiente de la retorica de la politica exterior espanola/|the great subject in the rhetoric of Spanish foreign policy that is still to be settled'.

For the present Spanish Government the fact that the country's southernmost extremity should continue to be a colonial enclave constitutes a flagrant |political anachronism', in the words of Francisco Fernandez Ordonez |a situation that is incredible, belonging to the past'. What we have here, he says, with righteous indignation, is |a mini-Panama', |a platform for smuggling', |a centre for laundering money generated by the drugs trade'-- an ever-greater source of humiliation for a nation that now looks upon itself as quite as European as any other, and, indeed, as decidedly more European than the Colonial Power in question. This |geological excrescence' or |colonial wart' was, for General Franco, una espina clavada en el corazon de todos los espanoles/|a thorn in the heart of every Spaniard', and is, for Felipe Gonzalez, como una piedra metida en el zapato/|like a stone in one of our shoes'. It may be true to say that the average Spaniard does not generally find these rhetorical foreign bodies unduly vexatious, but equally true is it that, for the Spanish body politic, the decolonization issue is one of great psychological importance, both as regards national satisfaction and from the point of view of the image projected on the international screen. Nor has the opposition leader, Jose Maria Aznar, failed to coin a phrase to add to the national collection: para los espanoles, la cuestion de Gibraltar es como un constante dolor de muelas/|For Spaniards the Gibraltar issue is like a continual tooth-ache'. As regards the psychology behind the British approach, the case of Mrs. Thatcher is of some interest. After her meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Fernando Moran, in 1983, she is reported to have said |Until now I had not realised the depth of Spanish feeling on Gibraltar. We must show respect for this feeling and make our position more flexible'.

In negotiations with Spain, Britain's diplomats stress and stress again that their hands are tied -- the wishes of the Gibraltarians are paramount, and, significantly, a recent history, by ex-Govenor Sir William Jackson, is entitled The Rock of the Gibraltarians. The trouble is that the wishes of the Gibraltarians are that the Rock should continue to be a British colony, or, if necessary, should eventually become independent. Their faces are firmly set against union with Spain, and, therefore, against anything that could allow Spain to get her foot in the door, such as the scheme for joint use of the airport, agreed by London and Madrid, but doggedly opposed by Joe Bossano.

From the Spanish point of view, in the final analysis, the situation boils down to a typical piece of infuriating canniness on the part of Perfidious Albion: you take over a piece of territory, more or less uninbabited, you bring in a population suitable for your own requirements, you create the sacrosanct |Doctrine of the Paramountcy of the Wishes of the Inhabitants', and you then say, in a most reasonable and courteous manner, |If it were merely a question of disputed territory, we should be only too pleased to come to an accommodation, but, of course, the wishes of the inhabitants must take pride of place. It is most regrettable. Now, if you can only make yourselves more acceptable to the said inhabitants, then, perhaps...'. The Lisbon Agreement of 1980, the Brussels Declaration of 1984 and the eventual opening of La Verja in 1985, while they have brought no solution, have certainly improved the atmosphere between Madrid and London.

Despite the Gibraltar problem, and other problems, such as the Falklands/Malvinas issue, there was strong British support for Spain's entry into the EC -- the two countries were and are partners in substantial trade, investment and tourism, Britain saw Spain as a useful counterbalance to excessive French influence, and, above all, there was the need to give the accolade to Spanish Democracy, for the good of European stability.

Gibraltar and donkeys' rights aside, Anglo-Spanish relations are good.


Germany occupies a special place in Spain's external relations. Charles V of Germany became Charles I of Spain. Spain's most famous philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, trained in Germany and owed a great deal to German thought. Franco's Civil War debt to Germany was large, and the Regime maintained a long pro-German stance in World War Il. A strong current of admiration for many things German has been a feature of modern Spanish history.

German investment and tourism were to become an important element in Spain's economic miracle, and Jose Maria de Areilza, recalling in Diario de un Ministro de la Monarquia his 1975-76 pilgrimage round the nations of Western Europe in search of support for Spain's nascent democracy, has this to say: |Germany was the country that gave us the warmest welcome. I met Genscher, Kohl, Schell...I came to the conclusion that we could rely on solid backing from the Germans for our whole programme for a democratic system in Spain.'

And the post-1975/76 story has been one of continuing investment plus strong SPD support for the Spanish Socialist Party, support which may have been decisive in the campaign that brought the PSOE to power in 1982. The warm relations between Felipe Gonzalez and influential figures in German political life are well known. It is significant that probably in no European capital is there less disquiet to-day about a re-united Germany than in Madrid.


On 25th May 1981 Juan Tomas de Salas, writing in Cambio 16, stated the following: |Spain is a country situated to her disadvantage and misfortune to the south of Richelieu's and Giscard d'Estaing's France, and, to her advantage and good fortune, east of Portugal'.

Because of a difficult historical relationship and hard-won independence, Portugal has always tended to be wary of her big, rather over-bearing neighbour. And, indeed, Franco is said to have toyed in the 40s with the idea of annexation. Happily, he opted, in the event, for the peace of mind afforded by the letter of the Iberian Pact and by the spirit of a favourably disposed Salazar, instead of a Portugal subjugated and therefore smouldering with bitterness and hatred. Under Adolfo Suarez the Iberian Pact was replaced by a Treaty of Friendship, and Portugal has certainly given Spain little cause for anxiety. Even the Revolution of 1974, because the only blood-red element were the carnations, was to prove no threat, but rather a propitious omen for Spain's Transition.

Now that Portugal and Spain are sister democracies and fellow members of the European Community, the traditional tendency of the Portuguese to exaggerate the differences between the two nations and to cut themselves off behind a barrier of impenetrable phonetics has eased, and relations are becoming much more cordial. On a recent occasion, the President of the Portuguese Republic, Mario Soares, linked the two countries in a decidedly positive way when he said, referring to the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking world as one, that the universal dimension of Spain and Portugal would be a decisive factor in the future of Europe.

Anthony Gooch is Director of Spanish Studies at the London School of Economics. In 1986 King Juan Carlos conferred on him La Encomienda de la Orden del Mdrito Civil.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Contemporary Review Company Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:The Foreign Relations and Foreign Policy of Spain: A Survey for 1992, part 4
Author:Gooch, Anthony
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Wilderness Condition: Essays on Environment and Civilization.
Next Article:Conflicts in the Middle East: the Kurdish national question.

Related Articles
Spain, the United States and NATO.
Spain, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and conclusion.
Talking English.
"Overruled and Worn Down": Truman Sends an Ambassador to Spain.
USA: African-Americans give Bush thumbs down.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters