With the accession of Spain and Portugal on January 1st, 1986, the European Community grew to 12 members. With this step, the EU continued its opening to the south, which had started five years earlier with the accession of Greece. For the new member states, which until then had only played a marginal role in EU politics and economy, accession quickly led to political stability and unprecedented economic growth. In short, a European success.
Twenty years after the accession of Spain and Portugal to the EU (which at that time was still called the European Economic Community), a Portuguese is the chairman of the European Commission and a Spaniard is the chairman of the European Parliament. The current President of Parliament, Josep Borrell from the Socialist Group, is the third Spaniard to be entrusted with this position, after the Social Democrat Enrique Barón Crespo (1989-1992) and the Christian Democrat José María Gil-Robles (1997-1999).
Both countries took on leading roles in the further development of the European project from the start. Since joining the EU, Spain has held the Council Presidency three times and Portugal twice. These presidencies left their mark on the history of European integration. At the Madrid summit in December 1995, the introduction of the euro and a time frame for the conversion of the respective national currency to the European single currency were decided. Five years later, the strategy named after the Portuguese capital was initiated at a special summit of the EU heads of state and government in Lisbon. Do we have to wait for a new Portuguese presidency to revive the Lisbon goal of making Europe the most competitive economy in the world based on innovation, knowledge and social stability?
Both countries are among the main recipients of grants from the Structural and Cohesion Funds, which have contributed significantly to their rapid economic growth. The third EU enlargement brought significant benefits to Spain and Portugal, but also to the entire EU, especially when you consider that these two countries were dictatorships shortly before their application to join the EEC in 1977. The death of the Spanish general Franco in 1975 and the so-called “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal in 1974 (which led to the end of the Salazar regime) paved the way for democracy and accession negotiations.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the accession of Spain and Portugal to the EU, MEPs from both countries gave a review of what had been achieved. "No other country has changed as much as Spain. This applies not only to the clearly visible infrastructure, but also to the spirit of the country, which is adapting to modernity and progress, changing attitudes and attitudes, opening up to the world and now looks proud of his successes and has a much greater political influence on Europe than some suspect, "said Josep Borrell, Spanish President of the European Parliament.
Also for Manuel António dos Santos (PES), Portuguese Vice-President of the European Parliament, there is no doubt that EU accession had "very positive" effects on his country. Economically and socially, it was possible thanks to EU aid to modernize the country and the economy, eliminate social inequalities and reduce economic and social differences compared to other member states. "From a political point of view," the accession of Portugal was an important factor in strengthening democracy and its institutions. " the accession of Portugal, however, "to break with the tradition striving for sovereignty and isolation, which has hindered the country in its development".
Click on any of the links below to read more opinions (in Spanish and Portuguese) from MEPs from both countries.