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Spain and Portugal Join European Community

January 02, 1986|From Times Wire Services

BRUSSELS — Spain and Portugal entered the European Community Wednesday to expand the membership of the world's largest trading bloc to 12 nations with a total population of 320 million.

No ceremony marked the event other than the hoisting of the Spanish and Portuguese flags at the community headquarters here beside those of founder members Italy, West Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and more recent arrivals Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Greece.

Sixty Spanish and 24 Portuguese members joined the European Parliament from Wednesday, raising its membership to 518. Three new commissioners, two Spanish and one Portuguese, will be given their portfolios in an expanded 17-man European Commission on Friday.

Government and opposition leaders in Spain and Portugal, which cast off right-wing dictatorships in the 1970s, hailed the accession as an opportunity to modernize their economies and social systems.

Experts say that despite long transition periods negotiated to soften the impact of enlargement, both countries may suffer higher unemployment in the early years because of competition from more efficient northern industries.

Spain, Portugal Jobless Rates

Spain already has the bloc's highest jobless rate of 22.2% and Portugal's official unemployment figure of 10.5% is regarded by experts as an understatement.

Both countries are major producers of fruit, vegetables, wine and olive oil. Experts fear their entry will put new strain on the community's controversial farm support system, already producing unmanageable surpluses of grain, butter, meat and wine.

Agricultural spending took a record 80% of the community budget in 1984, leaving little for social and regional spending to narrow wide inequalities in the community.

Portugal replaces Greece as the poorest country in the bloc. Its per capita gross national product is less than one-fifth that of Denmark, the richest member state just ahead of West Germany.

Doubled in Size

The community has doubled in size since its six founding members signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and has moved increasingly to speak with one voice in world affairs. The community has led to closer European trade links and passage between nations with no passports but has not broken down national rivalries or led to its founders' dreams of a "United States of Europe."

But a European Commission official said: "Whatever pessimists may say about the decline of Europe, the entry of two new members demonstrates that there are still people enthusiastic and patient enough to want to join the community."

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