French-Spanish ties strained

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

French Prime Minister Raymond Barre's recent visit to Spain comes at a time when relations between the two countries are more strained than they have ever been in the three years of the Spanish democracy.

Mr. Barre was accompanied by the French agriculture, industry, and trade ministers. Yet in view of frequent Spanish calls for greater French cooperation in the suppression of Basque terrorism, it was significant that the delegation did not include France's interior minister. In this way France was evidently trying to avoid discussion of the Basques, even though Spain sees this as a priority issue.

The Basque separatist guerrilla organization, Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna (ETA), recently exploded six bombs in holiday resorts in southern Spain. The ETA hopes to force the Spanish government to submit to a series of demands, including the immediate release of 19 Basque prisoners. The ETA campaign, has been strongly condemned by politicians in the Basque country and Madrid. But Spanish officials are still waiting for French government support following Spanish allegations that members of the ETA are continuing to operate with impunity in France's Basque provinces.

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The biggest dispute surrounds French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's call last month for a pause in negotiations over Spain's entry into the European Community (EC). The French move was interpreted by Spanish officials as a de facto veto on Spain's EC membership. The border dispute between the two coun tries over the influx of cheap Spanish goods into France added to the strain in Franco-Spanish relations.

In these circumstances Mr. Barre has attempted to prevent the French position in the context of a general preoccupation in Brussels over the future of the EC rather than as being specifically related to disagreements between France and Spain.

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