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External Influences on the Transitions to Democracy in the Iberian Peninsula. The role of West Germany (1970-1980)

22 May 2015
San Francesco - Via della Quarquonia 1 (Classroom 1 )
Contrary to the traditional interpretation, historiography has in the last years demonstrated that neither the Portuguese nor the Spanish dictatorships suffered external pressure to force democratization. If it were not pressure and isolation, which were then the essential features of the European policy towards Portugal and Spain in the last period of the dictatorships? To address this question, the Federal Republic of Germany offers an excellent perspective. In my presentation I will defend the hypothesis, which I understand is original, that the influential social-democratic Government of Willy Brandt implemented a political strategy towards the Iberian dictatorships that did not differ, in essence, to his Ostpolitik towards communist regimes. In the eyes of the German leaders increasing economic and political relations with Portugal and Spain did not strengthen these regimes but was precisely the touchstone of their progressive liberalization and democratization. In this context support to the democratic movement was not considered relevant. But the political change in Iberia, especially in Portugal where the regime collapsed, came to be very different from that predicted and wanted by the German and other European governments. The fear to a communist takeover in Portugal and the eventual contagion on Spain led the Western powers to search for emergency solutions in order to “stabilize” the Iberian Peninsula. One of the main instruments of this policy of peaceful intervention was the strengthening of the socialist parties able to counterbalance the powerful communist parties. The second part of my presentation will focus on the massive engagement of the German social-democracy in Portugal and Spain after 1974 in other to support the socialist parties of Mario Soares and Felipe González. I will analyse the political, economic and logistical dimensions of this aid undertaken by the German government, the SPD, the Trade Unions and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Muñoz Sánchez, Antonio