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94 Working Paper

Reconsidering Economic Relations and Political Citizenship in the New Iberia of the New Europe: Some Lessons from the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Accession of Portugal and Spain to the European Union


The purpose of this paper is to use the fifteenth anniversary of the accession of Portugal and Spain to the European Union as an opportunity to reflect on what has happened to both countries since 1986. It examines the integration process and how it has affected political, economic and social developments in Portugal and in Spain over the last fifteen years. In our view, and on balance, Spain and Portugal have benefited from accession. Since the last century, the obsession of Spanish and Portuguese reformists has been to make up the lost ground with modernized Europe. EU membership has been a critical step in this direction. The record of the past fifteen years is that this dream is becoming an economic reality. Despite impressive achievements, however, namely, since 1986, Portugal’s average per capita income has grown from 56 percent of the EU average to about 74 percent, whereas Spain’s has grown to 83 percent—both Iberian countries still have a long way to go to reach the EU average wealth. In addition, the question of Iberian and/or European citizenship, and its impact on the Portuguese and Spanish, remains open.