order to help you understand Spain's rather stunning recent
integration into the European community of nations, I'd like
to jump back a few centuries and begin with a story. One of
the most irritating questions ever posed about Spanish identity
and sovereignty, appeared in the French Encyclopedia in 1782.
In an article on geography, in which a guy asked rather famously, "What
do we owe Spain?" After two centuries, after four, after
ten, "What has Spain ever done for Europe?" Spain
for the generation of Europeans who believed the worse of the
black legend, was the "other". That is, it was part
of Africa. After all, the Pyrenees formed a boundary between
Spain and the rest of Europe. And the country itself had been
colonized by the Arabs from 711 to 1492. Nearly eight centuries.
Anyone who has ever been to Spain and has seen the Alhambra
in Grenada, the great Mosque at Córdoba, Arabic presence
and influence was and is all over Spain. The cultural residue
of that domination was clearly in evidence throughout the country.
The general thinking was the Europe began North of the Pyrenees,
for it was in Europe, that is Great Britain, France, the
Austro-Hungarian Empire where all of the notable scientific
and cultural advances took place. For those who hated Spain,
Spain was a place overrun by foreigners. It was stifled by
the horrifying inquisition, plagued by bad monarchs, bad
roads, and bad food, and ignorant of all the most advanced
of the western world. For Edman Bourke, Spain was and I quote, "A
whale beached on the shores of Europe." This is the image
of Spain that entered the twentieth century propagated by many
historians. Spain lost the last of her overseas possessions
in the stupid Spanish-American War of 1898, which precipitated
a crisis of identity that lasted for decades. Her neutrality
in the First World War left her out of the negotiations concerning
the restructuring of Europe.
The brutal Civil War of 1936-1939 provoked international
outrage when the winner of that battle Francisco Franco
nose at the allied powers and seemed to throw his lot towards
fascism. In March of 1946, the United States, Great Britain,
and France unanimously condemned Franco's policies and regime
and voted to exclude Spain from the U.N. General Assembly,
which recommended further that Spain be banned from all international
organizations. In 1947, Spain was excluded from the Marshall
Plan. I urge you to watch the wonderful movie, have you ever
seen the movie Bienvenido Mr. Marshall (Welcome Mr. Marshall)?
It's a great satire about how America is going to provide
toys and gifts and machinery to save Spain.
In 1949, Spain was excluded from NATO. Franco was seen as
a pariah on the international scene. But in some ways,
War saved Spain. As the fear of communism spread throughout
the West, Europe and the U.S. suddenly found themselves in
need of staunch anti-communist allies in Southern Europe.
And Spain, strategically situated at the mouth of the
fit the bill. Policymakers managed to hold their noses at
Franco's politics in an effort to recruit this ferocious “commutatator” to
our side. Loans were extended to Spain starting in 1949. Ambassadors
were exchanged in 1950. U.S. military bases created outposts
on Spanish soil in 1953 in exchange for a loan of two hundred
and twenty-six million dollars. And full recognition by the
Vatican capped what Franco believed to be a movement toward
Still, Europe itself resisted Spain's advances. Sure, Spain
had given the world a few dazzling artists in the twentieth
century - Picasso, Dali, Lorca - but she had also given
us Franco. As what was then referred to as the European
developed in earnest in the late 1940s and 1950s with its
common economic alliances in industries such as coal, steel,
Spain found itself once again out of the loop. Sitting
on the margins of Western economic development. It was
creation of the European agricultural community, that was
called the Green Pool at the time, that Spain was invited
in pan-European discussions about agricultural issues.
Spain, which possessed a rich agricultural base and a potential
market for European goods marked its first steps towards
European integration in the area of agriculture. It's
a country rich
in oranges, olives, olive oil, cork, wood, leather, and dairy
products. Spain was at the time, it must be remembered, predominantly
agricultural and possessed a large land mass. Spain's six
hundred and twenty-mile width is the same distance as
from London to
Prague excluding the Canary Islands. It is the second largest
European union country by area and the fifth largest by population.
In fact, as late as 1975, one fifth of all Spanish workers
were still on the land. That's changed dramatically as we'll
see in a moment. Still, since the creation of the European
economic community in 1957, which stipulated that only democracies
could aspire to membership, Spain was kept at arms length.
Franco initially exploited Europe's hostility to its regime
by demonizing Europe as the source of all modern evil. As
early as 1937 at the height of his struggle for dominance
civil war, he referred to liberal democracies as bastarded,
Frenchified, and Europeanizing. That is, as Franco coded
it, Europe was seen as liberal, communist, and bad.
Franco built a career on a political policy on distancing
himself from the corruptions of modern Europe while at
the same time,
moving toward the integration even he knew would be essential
if Spain was to become a modern country. He played a cat
and mouse game with Europe, shunning its supposed excesses
recognizing however grudgingly how necessary a European identification
was to Spain venture. As Julio Crespo writes and I quote, "The
Franco regime was well aware that the process of European integration
would inexorably affect the country, but Europe kept its distance
or rather held its nose as it allowed Spain to play on the
periphery of the European community. By 1958, Spain entered
an organization called the Organization of European Economic
Cooperation, the OEEC, which set the stage for the slow integration
of the Spanish economy into the developing European model,
but that change would be slow and coming.
Spain formally applied for membership in the EEC, the European
Economic Community in 1962, there was outrage and
condemnation all over Europe. As a result, Admiral Juan
Carrero Blanco, later spectacularly blown up by separatists,
that the common market was a “thiefdom” of masons,
liberals, and Christian democrats. Still both Franco and the
heads of state of Europe recognized the efficiency of separating
ideology from economics. Europe condemned the former, that
is Franco's policies, while opening up contacts in the latter
sphere. From an impoverished and ruined economy in the 1940s,
Spain was so poor during these so-called hunger years, los
años de hambre, that one could buy individual
cigarettes, on the street, used toothbrushes, and ballpoint
installment purchases. Anyway, the country gradually
moved into what has
become the economic miracle of the 1960s. When Spain
had the second highest economic growth rate in the world
Japan. Its gross domestic product increased seven point
five percent annually between 1961 and 1973 and it became
industrial power in the world run by what was a growing
and soon to be solid urban middle class.
the early 1970s, Spain was awarded preferential status by the
European community. Foreign minister Gregorio López
Bravo declared, "My country belongs to Europe." The
comment seen as a step forward toward full integration and
respectability. Remind you Franco is still alive. But European
minister stressed this is still purely economic agreement,
that is it held no political implications whatsoever. They
were wrong of course, but they didn't know what to do with
Franco's anti-democratic stance, which was still a thorn in
the side of Western democracies. ABC, the franquist newspaper,
proclaimed that Spain was finally fully European. Nonetheless,
Franco's political policies seemed to harden during the last
years of his dictatorship. Censorship, the unrest and political
dissonance, banned meetings, and canceled passports, and several
controversial executions set off waves of protest all over
Europe in the early 1970s.
a defiant display of power in December of 1973, the terrorist
ban ETA assassinated Franco's by now Prime Minister Juan
Carrero Blanco. A man committed to maintaining Franco's policies
his death. Carrero Blanco's death marked for some, the first
moment of what was to be called the Transition. For it became
clear to everyone that more of the same. More of Franco's
policies, more of the Franco dictatorship were difficult to
once Franco died. And even Franco couldn't live forever.
After a grotesque period in which doctors did everything to
him alive, he finally died on November 20, 1975 and as Saturday
Night live kept telling us for months thereafter, “Franco
is still dead.” He's buried at the Valley of the Fallen, el valle del caídos,
a monument despised by the left as a symbol of fascist oppression.
Not one head of state of a democratic country anywhere in the
world attended his funeral. The shadow of Franco weighed heavily
over Spain in November 1975. What now?
Franco had been cultivating the young Prince Juan Carlos,
educating him in Spain as a successor to his own policies.
But when Franco
died, something went terribly wrong with that plan. Juan
Carlos refused to follow into the mold of a fascist dictatorship
instead lead the country through a series of brilliant political
moves, which have come to be known as the Transition. Spain's
transition to democracy was so rapid, so depthly handled
and so complete that it is odd to think back to those
with anything, but slight amusement.
Through a series of smart, tactical maneuvers and open elections,
Spain transformed itself between 1975 and 1982 from a repressive
dictatorship into a modern socialist democracy, figure-headed
by King Juan Carlos de Borbón. Juan Carlos formally
declared King on November 22, 1975, swore to uphold justice,
freedom, and democracy. Juan Carlos was thirty-seven years
old when he assumed the throne of a troubled and deeply conflicted
country. In the first three months of 1976 alone, Spain experienced
more than seventeen thousand strikes compared to just two thousand
during the entire year of 1974 and practically none during
the real hardcore Franco years when they were simply banned.
the King moved quickly to ensure that his promise of justice,
freedom, and democracy would become a reality. In July he forced
the resignation of his Franco’s minister, Carlos Arias
Navarro and replaced him with a guy named Adolfo Suárez.
A little known functionary, who truth be told, promised little.
But Suárez moved quickly to create an agenda for political
reform. He opened a dialogue with opposition parties, many
of which had been banned in Franco Spain. The two dominant
parties were the PSOE, the Socialist Workers Party led by a
young lawyer named Felipe Gonzalez and the PCE, the Spanish
Communist Party, led by General Secretary Santiago Carrillo
who had lived in exile in Moscow since 1939.
In November 1976, just one year after Franco's death, the Parliament
voted an important law of political reform, which opened the
way for rapid changes about to take place. Briefly, those changes
were the following.
In January 1977, Prince Felipe, the son of Juan Carlos was
officially designated Prince of Asturias, that is the equivalent
to the Prince of Wales, the heir to the Spanish throne. This
meant that Spain would have, theoretically at least, a legal
successor to the throne should anything happen to Juan Carlos.
Second thing, in February 1977, the Socialist Party, which
had been banned during the entire Franco years, was legalized
along with twenty-four other political parties. The Communist
Party, which is the main representative of the extreme left
was still considered too threatening and was left out of
that process. It was still banned.
Third thing, in March of 1977, Spain established diplomatic
relationship with Mexico, which it had broken off in 1939.
Juan Carlos' father Don Juan de Borbon, the guy on the left,
who still held claim to the Spanish monarchy, officially
relinquished his right in favor of his son.
Fourth, in April 1977, so you see these are absolutely coming
fast and furious, and these were very exciting and really
very nerve-wrecking days in Spain. That these things
out once a month. In a bold and really dangerous move Suárez,
de la noche a la mañana, as we say from the Night to
the Morning, overnight, legalized this Spanish Communist Party.
Said, "It's now legal. Get over it and march on." Everybody
kind of went “Okay” and marched on. In July of
1977, the first open and free election in Spain in forty-one
years took place. More than one hundred and fifty political
groups were represented in these elections, but the winners
turned out to be Centrist Party and Felipe Gonzalez's socialist
party, the PSOE. Suárez holding the majority was re-elected
President of the government.
The most important task now facing this new government was
the drafting and ratification of a new Constitution, which
in fact it did and became a reality; ninety one percent of
the Spaniards supported it. They supported it in the ratification
of December 1978. In just three years, 1975 to the legitimizing
of the Constitution in 1978, Spain had transformed itself
officially, spectacularly, and surprisingly into a modern
democracy. But challenges still remained.
struggled with the management of the democratic process and
tensions arose between the old Spain and the new Spain.
Suárez who had been viewed just five years before as
a visionary, was by 1981, thought of already as too old-fashioned.
The country had just moved beyond him. Not right to lead Spain's
leap into the modern world, he resigned and a new President,
a guy named Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo immediately confronted one
of the greatest challenges to democratic stability Spain has
ever faced and that's this: dramatically with the t.v. cameras
and radio stations open to the public, a disgruntled and armed
ban of civil guard conspirators headed by a mustache buffoon
named Antonio Tejero stormed into the Parliament in full session
and took everyone and this included all leaders of government.
It is the equivalent of when the President is giving a State
of the Union Address and everybody is there, the Army doing
a coup d'etat and marching in and taking over the entire government.
They took the entire government hostage. February 23, 1981,
known famously and simply in Spain as veintitrés F,
23F, like 9/11 is in our vocabulary.
Threaten Spain’s move to modernity, but the King in what
has become his most breathtaking moment, refused to go along
with the coups’ leaders. They were counting on his support.
He was the head of the military. They just assumed that he
was going to help them overthrow this liberal democracy and
Decked out in his full military regalia, went on television
at one thirty in the morning, two o' clock in the morning
to address the nation with a message of support for democracy.
The coup imploded and the conspirators surrendered. For days
later, one million Spaniards marched through the streets
Madrid in an unprecedented outpouring of support for the
King and for their democratic institutions.
In October 1982, Felipe González led his party to a
victory in the national elections. Spain became officially
a democratic Socialist state. Felipe, for many represented
this new Spain. He was modern. He was youthful. He was charismatic.
He was intelligent. This was the future and Spain's lot would
be thrown in with Europe’s. Spain had managed to do what
nobody thought it was capable of doing. It had transformed
itself from a fascist dictatorship into a stable modern democracy.
The world breathed a sigh of relief, applauded and invested
heavily in Spain's future.
Spain in the 1980s was the coolest place on earth. Money
flowed freely. Clothes were shed and all the rules of
past seemed to disappear. The new business and political
leaders exemplified the best of new economy as well as
its worse excesses.
A hundred and fifty dollar lunches at Spain's first three
star restaurant became standard as well as did designer
first class travel, and flashy living. Spanish nightlife,
always the envy of the rest of Europe went on into the
wee hours of
the morning and traffic jams at 2 AM were not uncommon on
Spain's central boulevards. And the partiers had to dodge
Mercedes, and other yuppie cars. Spaniards took weekend shopping
expeditions to New York where clothes and gismos were actually
cheaper than they were at home.
Once blocked from membership in NATO, Spain entered the alliance
in 1982 and the country ratified membership in 1985 although
not without some fears. In 1986, it was admitted as a full
member in the European Economic Community. And in January
1989, Spain assumed the presidency of the EEC. So if
what I told you about what had happened to them thirty years
before, forty years before, these are rather dramatic turnarounds.
Felipe González seemed to be at the top of his game.
became an aggressively, even arrogantly, modern nation. In
the old clichéd images of flamenco dancers and bullfights
had been relegated to tourist spectacles or subjects for magazine
photographers. It was western Europe’s fastest growing
economy and it boasted of industries, which had been modernized.
Corporate and banking profits doubled, then tripled. As William
Finngen wrote in the New Yorker in 1992 and I quote, “For
all the medieval images that still cling to this country, the
real Spain is a thoroughly modern land, increasingly sexy and
shock-proof and rich.”
By the late 1980s, the Socialists began to blunder and as
a collective whole, they were blamed for a number of serious
corruption scandals, which would end up bringing their
government down by 1996. The scandals and the national
paralyzed the Spanish government for a number of years.
As we in this country did during Watergate, Spain really
morning waited for these new scandals to emerge. “Everyone
off to jail” said one of the headlines in one of the
country’s most enterprising magazines. Graffiti appeared,
which turned Felipe’s PSOE into “corrupsoe”.
Rosa Montero, Spain’s prime journalist, major novelist,
and former U.Va. visiting professor said that Spain was living
a political nightmare and that her country were, as she delicately
put it, “Just pissed off.”
González himself was never accused of any direct
wrongdoing, but he allowed himself to be surrounded by men
and women who got confused about what is right and what is
wrong. Who mixed social with personal gain and who got plainly
greedy as they demanded their share of the new wealth. And
so it was to the surprise of few that in the elections of 1996,
Felipe and the Socialist Party were voted out of office. Their
replacement, the more conservative Partido Popular, led by
José María Aznar worried some observers and some
participants in the beginning since his policies seemed to
echo the old views of the most conservative segments of society,
but Aznar has in fact, or did conduct himself with restraint.
Spain aspires to be one of the big five in the European Union,
echoing something that the King himself said in his inaugural
address in 1975. And I quote, “The idea of Europe would
not be complete without a reference of the presence of Spain.
Europe must identify itself with Spain. We Spaniards are European.” I
might conclude this talk then with a return to the question
I posed at the beginning. The insulting, “What has Spain
ever done for Europe?” Now I think, he would have a very
different response. Now he might be forced to say, “What
has Spain ever done for Europe. Plenty. And there is more to