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Some Lessons from the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Accession of Portugal and Spain to the European Union

In the not-too-distant past, an apocryphal adage claimed that Europe ended at the Pyrenees Mountain Range, at the south-west corner of France. This saying suggested that the nations of the Iberian peninsular existed somewhere outside of the European consciousness. As is the case with such adages, it was based on certain truths: for many years Portugal and Spain were undeniably more focused on the politics of their respective colonial empires than they were on relations with their European neighbours. Further, Portuguese dictator Antonio de Salazar and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco were not interested in developing relationships with democratic Europe in the post-war period. As a consequence of this pattern of historical development, these two Iberian nations were indeed isolated from Europe for a long period of time. This political reality started to change with the democratic transitions in both countries in the 1970s. These new Iberian democratic governments were anxious to emulate the political stability and economic prosperity of their European neighbours. After years of difficult negotiations, Portugal and Spain both joined the European Union on 1 January 1986, starting a new phase of Iberian, and European, history.