Italy, West Germany, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain in Western Europe: An Overview of Economic and Political Change during the 1970s and 1980s
This article provides an overview of the economic and political changes that took place in Western Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. It features Italy’s national debt, the growth of the economy, and regional disparity between the north and south. The article also addresses French inflation, the rise of the Green Party, as well as the appointment of Raymond Barre as Prime Minister. It covers Greece’s political upheaval, Portugal’s Salazar regime, and Spain’s collapse of authoritarian regimes. The piece explains how democracy eventually triumphed in these countries despite numerous setbacks.
Table of Contents
- Italy’s National Debt and Regional Disparity
- West Germany and France during Economic Crisis
- France’s Inflation and the Rise of the Green Party
- Raymond Barre as Prime Minister
- Greece’s Political Upheaval
- Portugal’s Salazar Regime and Discontent Among Young Officers
- Spain’s Collapse of Authoritarian Regimes
- Democracy Triumphs in Western Europe
Italy’s National Debt and Regional Disparity
Q: What were some of the economic challenges faced by Italy during the 1970s and 1980s?
A: Italy’s national debt was very high, and there was a significant economic disparity between the north and south. The southern regions lagged behind in development and did not benefit from the growing economy, unlike the northern regions, which were more prosperous.
Q: Were there any attempts made to address this economic regional disparity in Italy?
A: Yes, there were attempts to address the regional economic disparity. They included investments in infrastructure, like transportation, and industrial development.
West Germany and France during Economic Crisis
Q: How did West Germany and France handle the economic challenges posed by the rising energy prices?
A: West Germany and France handled the crisis better than Italy and Britain did due to their strong economies and competent management. West Germany’s economy continued to grow, but old industries such as coal mining and steel became less competitive internationally, leading to large-scale redundancies and protests.
Q: How did the labour market change with modern technologies in Western Europe?
A: Modern technologies resulted in a high demand for expertise, disadvantaging unskilled workers in the labour market.
France’s Inflation and the Rise of the Green Party
Q: How did France’s economy fare during the 1970s and 1980s?
A: French inflation rose to over 15 per cent, unemployment doubled to a million, and growth plummeted after the first oil crisis in 1974.
Q: Did the political scene in France change during the economic crisis?
A: Yes, the first major new political movement emerged, the creation of the Green Party in response to the economic crisis.
Raymond Barre as Prime Minister
Q: Who is Raymond Barre, and what was his impact on the French economy?
A: Raymond Barre was appointed Prime Minister in 1976 by President Giscard d’Estaing. Barre’s reforms stabilized the economy and increased business profitability, but the strong franc obstructed exports, and the second oil crisis of 1979 worsened inflation and unemployment.
Q: What was the reaction to Barre’s economic reforms?
A: Barre’s reforms faced opposition from both left and right political factions in France.
Greece’s Political Upheaval
Q: What events led to the dictatorship in Greece, and what was life like under its rule?
A: The military staged a coup in Greece to prevent a left-leaning government from reducing military expenditure and terminating the American presence in Greece, and the ‘rule of the colonels’ saw political parties dissolved, civil rights suspended, and censorship of the media imposed. The regime was assisted by the United States and NATO.
Q: Did the colonels’ rule face any opposition in Greece?
A: Yes, the colonels’ rule in Greece faced opposition, which eventually led to the military overthrow of democracy in 1967. However, attempts to impose a neo-fascist regime were met with internal and external opposition.
Portugal’s Salazar Regime and Discontent Among Young Officers
Q: What led to the end of Portugal’s Salazar regime?
A: Disaffection among young officers who were negatively impacted by the colonial wars led to the coup d’état in April 1974, led by General Spínola, beginning a period of instability marked by provisional governments, coups, and unrest.
Q: What was life like in Portugal following the Salazar regime?
A: Although the Socialist Party emerged as the strongest political force, the country remained deeply divided. The winding up of Portugal’s colonial empire during the year after the ‘carnation revolution’ was bloody and marked by civil wars, creating ongoing problems for the newly democratic democracy.
Spain’s Collapse of Authoritarian Regimes
Q: What events led to the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Spain?
A: Spain, like Greece and Portugal, also saw the collapse of authoritarian regimes. Internal problems (poverty, corruption) coupled with external pressure led to the reinstatement of democracy through the withdrawal of support from the Junta by a faction of officers, the return of former Prime Minister Karamanlis from exile, and the restoration of the constitution of 1952.
Q: What was the outcome of the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Spain?
A: With democracy restored, Spain became a constitutional monarchy with King Juan Carlos as the head of state.
The 1970s and 1980s were a period of significant change in Western Europe. It was a time of economic challenges, and political upheaval led to the triumph of democracy in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain. France and Italy faced their challenges with inflation, rising energy prices, and economic regional disparities. West Germany handled their economic struggles comparatively well but faced challenges transforming their economy with the decline of old industries. Overall, these changes during the period paved the way for a new political era for Western Europe.