Even if the Spanish transition to democracy has been considered a successful example of a peaceful and consensual road towards a democratic regime for a long time, its actual development is somehow proof that there is still a lot of work to be done. In Madrid in 1975, the elites in power agreed to make the necessary steps forward towards democratisation after the dictator’s death. The process was conditioned to a high degree of tolerance towards fascist institutions, administration structure, the State and amnesty for those ruling Franco’s regime.
This led to a situation in which a liberal democracy started running but the conceptual set up inherited from the former regime remained (those persons in power during the regime kept key positions during the transition. Moreover deeper reforms had to be postponed under threat of another coup d’etat).
The beginning of 2010 was the most recent example of how the 1970s transition period still shapes and conditions current Spanish political culture. The media turned their attention towards Brussels and the European Parliament (EP) when a copy of the original Spanish Constitution containing some fascist symbols – official during the transitional period – was sent by Spanish authorities to represent Spain in a permanent exhibition of pieces meant to represent each of the 27 EU member states.
When complaints arose from Catalan Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Zapatero’s vice president and cabinet spokeswoman reacted, denying any knowledge of the reported event. Further criticism raised by German and Italian MEPs forced the Spanish Government to agree to provide the EP with a less controversial piece. Long after the end of the parliamentary summer break, the person responsible for the exhibition was confronted with an actual lack of response by the Spanish Government and decided to end the awkward serial by turning the page.
It is hard to say if this final decision could mean a step further towards a more democratic political culture. Surely it was another “minus point” for the already-finished Spanish Presidency of the European Union, which was unable to react.
Member of the Horitzó Europa Association and Coordinator of the Centre Maurits Coppieters