Spain, Portugal celebrate 25 years in European community

13th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Twenty-five years after they joined what was then the European Economic Community, Spain and Portugal Saturday called for more economic coordination to pull the EU out of a crisis in which they are both deeply embroiled.

"In the crucial challenge now facing the (European) monetary union ... economic coordination and joint efforts will lead to an opening of the way," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"And in this, as on previous occasions when Europe has felt dizzy faced with a new step, Spain will help the Union ... to move forward."

Zapatero was speaking at a ceremony in Madrid's Royal Palace to mark the signing on June 12, 1985 of Spain and Portugal's accession to the European Economic Community, now the European Union.

Both countries were then fresh from dictatorships and economically far behind their northern neighbours.

But despite a massive influx of European funds, rapid modernisation and a period of economic stability, both are now seen as weak links among the 16 nations that share the euro single currency.

Lisbon and Madrid have been forced to pass tough austerity measures to ease fears they could join Greece in a debt crisis.

Zapatero emphasized that "only with our EU partners can we offer the best answers to the problems of our citizens and the challenges of our societies."

He noted that at the start of Spain's six-month term as EU president in January "some questioned the desirability of greater and more rigorous economic policy coordination.

But "now the force of events has led to joint actions of a scope unimaginable a short time ago," said Zapatero, referring to the EU's 750-billion-euro rescue package agreed last month with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up weak eurozone economies.

Portugal's European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, were among those who also addressed the gathering.

All also spoke at a similar ceremony earlier in the day at Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery, where Portugal signed the accession treaty on the same date 25 years ago.

Socrates, in Lisbon, called for "a European response based on solidarity and cohesion between states and European peoples."

Barroso appealed for "leadership and political courage" to face the crisis.

"The resurgence of national egos and of unilateral solutions are temptations which will not resolve the structural problems," he told the Lisbon ceremony.

It is important that the "member states see the European Union as the common project and focus on principles of cooperation, solidarity and responsibility."

© 2010 AFP

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