13 Pages

Shaping, not Making, Democracy: The European Union and the Post-Authoritarian Political Transformations of Spain and Portugal

In the long quarter of a century elapsed since the transitions to democracy in Spain and Portugal, the two Iberian neighbours have undergone fundamentally important political transformations that have thoroughly redefined the countries’ regimes and the structure of their states.1 The democratic regimes installed in the 1970s have lasted far longer and attained a vastly greater degree of stability than earlier democratic episodes in those countries, but the implications of this success extend well beyond the national borders and histories of the two Iberian cases. In the post-authoritarian period, both Iberian states have experienced thorough external transformations: for Spain, its full incorporation into the major international structures of Europe and the West-not only the European Union but also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—thus breaking with the country’s prior relative autonomy from such structures as reflected in its neutrality in both world wars; and for Portugal, the rapid-if historically late-end of its colonial empire and its full incorporation into Europe. The Spanish state has also experienced a massive internal transformation: the thoroughgoing, if asymmetric, process of devolution that has turned a highly centralized political and administrative system into the multilingual and (for a minority) multinational State of Autonomies. In Portugal the most fundamental internal transformation of the state occurred quickly after the demise of authoritarianism with the rather wide-ranging purge of the state apparatus,2 an experience with no parallel in the larger Iberian case. Similarly, the Spanish experience of thoroughgoing devolution holds no equivalent in Portugal, where regionalization was defeated in referendum (Gallagher 1999; Rodrigues Lopes 2001). The democratic regimes that have emerged in both countries are substantially different as well.