Tunisians and friends of Tunisia sometimes advanced a cultural explanation for the country's stability. They described Tunisians as the most cosmopolitan people in the Maghreb, creators of a culture marked by a gentle sophistication that breeds distaste for extremism and violence and a strong preference for stability. Tunisia's political history between independence and revolution falls into three reasonably clear time periods. Tunisian authorities also worried that Spain and Portugal's entry into the European Economic Community in the near future would further challenge Tunisia's vital citrus and olive oil exports. The first period corresponds to the first decade after independence. Between 1956 and the late 1960s, politics was dominated by the Neo-Destour's evolution from a mass-based nationalist movement into an authoritarian ruling party. Just as Bourguiba and the Neo-Destour had stepped into the governing institutions established under the French Protectorate, Ben Ali could make use of the same institutions that had developed over the previous three decades.