All the European leaders agreed they were living a historic moment last Friday, when Spain and Portugal were admitted into the European Community after more than six years of negotiations. ``Entry into Europe will decisively influence the future of Spain and will change the daily lives, expectations and horizons of Spaniards over both the short-term and long-term,'' editorialized El P'ais, Madrid's leading daily. A former top Spanish negotiator in the talks called the agreement the most important event since 1492 -- the year Columbus discovered the New World.
Portuguese Prime Minister M'ario Soaresv remarked in Lisbon that ``Everything will change.''
In Brussels, however, the summit meeting of the 10 current leaders of the community was having trouble celebrating the fact that the EC would expand to 12 next January 1, that its land mass would increase by one third, and its population from 280 million to 320 million.
The leaders were grappling with Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou's threat to veto the entire epoch-making development unless he received financial compensation for Greek farmers who face competition from Spanish farmers.
Much of the meeting was therefore spent on haggling over aid for Greece, Italy, and France, the countries most directly affected by the EC enlargement. Finally, after several rounds of bargaining, Greece agreed on a sum, clearing the way for Spain and Portugal to end decades of isolation and join most of the other democracies of Europe in an economic, and increasingly political, community.
The seemingly endless discussions over the terms of entry for the two states underlined the difficult problems associated with enlargement which the EC now faces.
Spanish and Portuguese incomes and economic activity are considerably below the average for the rest of the EC. This implies an adjustment for existing members who will not only have to inject massive financial aid to the new members to raise the standard of their lagging economies, but will also face competition from the cheaper goods and labor of the new members.
On the other hand, the emerging industries of the new countries will have to face competition from more advanced rivals in the north. All of these adjustments will have to take place in a difficult economic climate, with most of Europe barely emerging from a recent recession.
Most participants agreed that the move was necessary politically and economically and perhaps marked the start of a new and more dynamic phase for the trouble-plagued European Community.
French President Franois Mitterand remarked that ``Europe at twelve will have to be more solid, coherent and homogeneous.'' West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl added: ``We are entering an important and historic stage essential to the personality of Europe.''
All agreed that the frequently quarreling EC would have to change its image and machinery to cope with enlargement and economic modernization.
The Brussels summit began discussion on a series of reports and recommendations to reform EC institutions and decision-making, one of which seeks to limit the use of unanimous voting and the veto which has paralyzed the EC in the past. Other recommendations aim at possible new treaties that would strengthen the political influence and unity of Europe.
Several European leaders have argued that Europe must not only struggle to retain a status as an economic superpower, but strive to become a political superpower as well. Despite considerable hesitation from smaller or more neutral countries, such as Ireland, Denmark, and Greece, many feel the Brussels summit was a step in this direction.