The Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy in Southern Europe
Southern Europe underwent a gradual transition from authoritarian regimes to democracies in the 1970s and 1980s. The politics of Portugal, Spain, and Greece were shaped by social and cultural pressures coinciding with the evident weakness of the regimes. The path of Portugal into democracy was considerably different from that of Greece and Spain. The beaches of the Costa Brava attracted millions of tourists, exposing Spaniards to external cultural influences and eroding the traditional values of Catholic Spain. Although the collapse of authoritarian regimes was due to increasing internationalism, libertarianism, and anti-militarism, democracy proved to be the best path to prosperity and liberalization for Spain.
Table of Contents
- The Transition of Portugal
- The Transition of Spain
- The Transition of Greece
- The Economies of Southern Europe
- Nuclear Arms Race
Southern Europe underwent a gradual transition from authoritarian regimes to democracies in the 1970s and 1980s. Portugal, Spain, and Greece were all under dictatorships for an extended period before democracy was restored. The collapse of authoritarian regimes was due to increasing internationalism, libertarianism, and anti-militarism, as well as cultural and economic transformations that made dictatorship an outdated and dysfunctional form of government.
The Transition of Portugal
After the ‘carnation revolution,’ Portugal went through land reforms and the end of inefficient collective farms. However, high unemployment and the country’s economic struggles led Portugal to seek financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, which came with austerity measures and governmental instability. Negotiations for Portugal’s entry into the European Community were initiated in 1977 and took until 1986 to realize.
The Transition of Spain
Much-needed reforms had brought about growth, but also demands for higher wages and better working conditions in Spain. The regime’s violent reaction, including torture and the use of the death penalty, further alienated the population. The regime faced the problem of who or what would follow Franco and turned back to the vacant monarchy, appointing Prince Juan Carlos as the heir in 1969. Franco’s death in 1975 marked the beginning of a new era, but also raised questions about the future of Spain. The king’s coronation symbolized the beginning of a new era, but no one knew how that would turn out, and there were fears about the future.
Adolfo Suárez, a former Falangist who had seen the necessity of democracy for Spain’s future, played a vital role in the country’s transition to democracy. Suárez worked quickly to create a referendum and elections, and skillfully courted the Socialists to gain political support. Despite Basque and Catalan demands for autonomy and acts of terrorism carried out by ETA, democracy was maintained, and the Socialist Party came to power in 1982, ruling for the next fourteen years.
The Transition of Greece
The process of ending authoritarian rule in Greece took place after the collapse of the military junta and its replacement by a civilian government in July 1974. The country held a referendum in December 1974, and the people voted to establish a parliamentary republic. A new constitution, which has remained in place to this day, was drawn up in 1975. This constitution establishes Greece as a parliamentary democracy and guarantees freedom of speech, equality before the law, and the right to strike, among other things.
The Economies of Southern Europe
Portugal, Spain, and Greece had all been struggling with economic issues for quite some time before their transition to democracies. The beaches of the Costa Brava attracted millions of tourists, exposing Spaniards to external cultural influences and eroding the traditional values of Catholic Spain.
In Greece, the country had little success at modernization or industrialization, was heavily dependent on agriculture, and was losing its young people to emigration. The economy was further hit by a drastic drop in tourism, and there were severe shortages of goods and essential services. The country was in desperate need of an economic overhaul.
Portugal, on the other hand, had financial instability due to high unemployment and the country’s economic struggles. The country sought aid from the International Monetary Fund, which came with austerity measures and governmental instability.
Nuclear Arms Race
The 1970s saw a reduction in international tension through international agreements, such as the Helsinki Accords, to decrease the escalation in nuclear weapons between the US and the Soviet Union. However, detente was never more than partial. This provided a fig leaf for the military of each superpower and masked a continued nuclear arms race. The United States responded to threats posed by new intermediate-range SS-20 nuclear missiles in East Germany by stationing American intermediate-range missiles in Western Europe.
Southern Europe underwent gradual transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracies in the late 20th century. Although each country faced unique challenges, such as Greece’s economy and Spain’s transition of power, they shared similar cultural and economic transformations. Democracy proved to be the best path to prosperity and liberalization for these countries, despite initial instability and challenges. The socio-political and economic changes, along with increasing internationalism, libertarianism, and anti-militarism, helped bring about the end of dictatorship and a transition to democracy.