Spain lays political and economic groundwork for EC membership

Spain is still eager to join the European Community (ED) -- and as fast as possible. Its motivation is as much political as economic. In particular, it has wanted to prove itself a Western democracy in good standing following the end of the Frnaco era in 1976. It has welcomed the EC's explicit desire to strengthen Spanish democracy, and it would like to formalize this tie.

Spain's interest in EC membership is thus "total and overwhelming," European Ministry Chef de Cabinet Carlos Westendrop y Cabeza told the Monitor in an interview here. "You cannot separate [the political and the economic reasons]. It is important from a political point of view that Spain belongs to Western civilization and Europe and the democratic system. That needs to be supported and consolidated.

"But it is also true from an economic point of view that Spain has to be integrated into its natural commercial area. Fifty percent of our trade is with the EC."

Economically, Spain seeks expanded access to both agricultural and industrial markets in Europe. It looks forward as well to participating in European decisionmaking from the inside; to the free movement of Spanish labor in Europe; and to access to the EC regional development fund, a rather dormant fund so far that is expected to become more active with the projected restructuring of EC finances next summer. At present Spain exports 65 percent of its total agricultural exports to the EC; looked at from the other end the EC imports 23 percent of its fruit from Spain, including 98 percent of its apricots.

The difficulties are legion. French-Spanish agricultrual rivalry reached such a pitch last summer that southern French farmers were burning Spanish trucks trasporting cheaper Spanish produce to northern markets. The new set of olive oil and other farm surpluses of the Mediterranean agricultures of Greece (an EC member as of Jan. 1, 1981), Portugal (a projected member as of 1983), and Spain could strain the EC budget at a time of tight finances. Spain alone accounts for more than two-thirds of the three southern countries' total exports and will swell EC agriculture by one-third, measured in land and workers.

Politically, Spain will have to accommodate its special relationship with the Arab world (symbolized by te absence of Spanish- Israeli diplomatic relations) to common EC foreign policy. Industrially, heavily subsidized and protested Spanish business will have to learn how to survive in the prisker competition of the EC. Moreover, it will have to do so at a time of recession, with Spain's unemployment of 12 percent of the work force the highest in Europe -- and with rapidly rising wages already giving a Spanish steelworker more pay than his Italian counterpart.

Spain thinks all the problems are soluble.* In foreign policy Mr. Westendorp acknowledged that "these two questions, Spanish admission to the EC and political cooperation, must go together or parallel." But he argued that recognition of Israel was not a prerequisite for admission to the EC. Spain might one day decide to recognize Israel, but that would be Spain's decision and not an Ec requirement.

Madrid has finally accepted that there will have to be a year's postponement of the original target date of January 1983 because of French opposition to an earlier Spanish entry -- and because of the need to restructure the EC's burdensome farm subsidies before Spain's agriculture can be integrated into the community. But it hopes to settle on the industrial terms of its accession fairly quickly and thus be ready to proceed with serious agricultural negotiations as soon as the EC's own house is in order.

The issue of the length of the cushioned transitional period -- which Spain now hopes will be an equal five to 10 years for both industry and agriculture -- would be left as the last point to negotiate, but should be settled in time for a signed agreement by the end of 1982.With a year for ratification, Spain could be an EC member by early 1984.

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