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January 1986: Iberian communities joined Europe

Jon Gangoiti
Communautes europeennes 1986

Thirty-five years ago, the Spanish and Portuguese states joined what was then called the European Economic Community, which became the European Union after the Treaty of Maastricht.

In January 1986, I joined the European Parliament as a member of the EAJ-PNV, in the new Europe of the 12.

It was a moment of great joy after the long night of Franco's regime and, above all, it would make a military coup attempt like the one that took place on 23 February 1981 impossible.

From the very beginning of the negotiations, I thought that adherence to the European project, the old dream of the Party since the time of the Spanish Republic, from 1931 to 1936, had been realised.

However, I had my doubts and fears about the economic repercussions of accession, after 50 years of quasi-autarky, with incorporation into an open market, with countries that historically were already operating in productive and competitive fields. Our attempt to join the European club could have ended in disaster, because of the degree of economic isolationism we had suffered. But above all it was a great opportunity to learn how to be competitive, to modernise our industrial infrastructure, in short, to develop in the world's most developed bloc with the United States.

In the Basque Country, thanks to the effort and capacity of our economic sector and its workers, as well as our institutions, we have been able to rise to the challenge, and today we find ourselves in the second region of the Spanish State in terms of gross domestic product per capita, just behind Madrid, as well as in the vanguard in terms of social equality.

Today, the Basque Country is known and recognised in the EU as one of the "regions" that has access to a greater number of projects thanks to the work and training of our citizens, social network and institutions.

My doubts and fears have been dispelled. The balance sheet of these 35 years of membership has been very positive. If we had remained outside the Union, our democracy would have been threatened and our levels of welfare and social equality would have deteriorated sharply.

Currently, within the framework of the management of post-pandemic funds for reindustrialisation, I believe that if it were Brussels that assessed the viability of these resources, in accordance with the modernisation requirements demanded by the European Commission, a new opportunity would open up for us to place and consolidate the Basque Country at the forefront of future economic sectors.

After the positive experience of these 35 years, we look to the future with hope based on the progress of a science that is helping us to overcome this pandemic and on the individual and collective lessons that have been learned in order to move forward in greater cooperation at all levels and in sustainable human development that places the individual at the centre of its objectives.

Jon Gangoiti
EAJ/PNV MEP (1986-1987) (1989-1994)