Hero or villain. The European statesman who led Spain to its integration into Europe or the foreign leader who tried to protect the transition according to the interests of his country. The figure of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing continues to lack an objective vision in the recent history of Spain. Beyond the debate, there is one fact that is beyond doubt: in June 1978 he became the first French president to visit Spain on an official trip since Émile Loubet did in 1905.
A year later, the French presidency was represented both at the Algeciras Conference that resolved the colonial status of North Africa and at the wedding of Alfonso XIII with Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg in Madrid, although not directly by his head of state. Since then, a gap of three-quarters of a century has only been broken by the controversial visit of Charles de Gaulle in 1970, barely a year after leaving the Elysée.
Giscard d’Estaing’s visit was at the highest level, from head of state to head of state, as a return to the one that Juan Carlos I had made to France in 1976 in his first round of international official meetings after his proclamation, initiating the which ended up becoming a notorious disagreement with the Prime Minister, Adolfo Suárez.
It had a clear declaration of intent: France’s support for Spain’s entry into the European Economic Community, which would not end up taking place until 1986, largely due to the obstacles that the French Executive itself ended up placing, both due to pressure from its own sector primary as well as community dynamics.
In fact, Giscard himself pronounced in 1980 the phrase that became known as the giscardazo: “It is convenient for the Community to dedicate itself completely, as a priority, to the successful completion of the first enlargement, before being in a position to undertake a second one”. In other words: trying to fit in with Margaret Thatcher’s UK.
Its must also include France’s refusal to collaborate with Spain in its fight against ETA in the years of lead, when France became a sanctuary for the terrorist gang. The doubts about the guarantees of those extradited that the young Spanish democracy aroused for the French Government ended up clouding bilateral relations.
In any case, the visit of the President of the French Republic did not cease to be an endorsement of Spanish democracy and a first recognition of the generations of Spanish immigrants in France before Jacques Chirac recognized the Republican exile and its contribution to French liberation. years later.
”The happiness that Mrs. Giscard d’Estaing and I feel at being your guests this afternoon expresses the importance that I attach to relations between Spain and France. Allow me to express a personal conviction: this visit by the President of the French Republic, the first to Spain in seventy-two years, ends with a kind of historical gap.
”I know perfectly well that Europe, and in a concrete way our countries, have suffered difficult moments since 1906, but these cannot fully justify this distance for three quarters of a century.
”Through its people our two countries have recently learned to know each other better. For their part, it is the Spanish workers who have come to show us their good work, their seriousness and their ability to work. Respecting with perfect correction the laws of the country that welcomes them. They have shown all the French the best image of Spain.
Difficult times cannot justify this departure of three quarters of a century
”For our part, millions of French tourists have come to visit their country. Attracted by its sun, they have learned to know its way of life and its culture. They have provided living testimonies of the progress of Spain every year. When receiving her Majesty in Paris less than two years ago, I mentioned the sentiments of friendship, confidence and hope with which France viewed Spain. The friendship remains. Trust is strong.
”Your invitation and my own visit acquire their true meaning if we observe the immensity of the work that is being carried out in Spain, the prospects for the future open to two countries and the possibilities of cooperation that history offers us.
”Great peoples at decisive moments in their history must know how to renew themselves internally, while at the same time affirming externally the role played by their civilization. This is what Spain is currently achieving.
Spanish workers have shown all the French the best image of Spain
“Look to the future, without in any way abandoning the greatness of the past, carry out a transformation without jeopardizing the balance of the country, combine the strength of democratic debate and the permanence of national cohesion, guarantee freedoms while maintaining the stability of the institutions, finally uniting in the leaders, both from the government and from the opposition, the audacity of youth and the wisdom of responsible men… these are some of the characteristics that reveal the renewal of Spain and put demonstrate the achievements.
“The merit, in an essential way, belongs to your highness, for the line advocated and followed by yourself. The success achieved, however, would not have been so complete if His Majesty had not been able to count on the competence of his government, the awareness of the national interest that members of the majority and the opposition have, as well as the political good sense that the entire Spanish people have just demonstrated so manifestly.
Spain is combining the strength of the democratic debate and the permanence of national cohesion
”Our two countries embody, each with its own character, the values of Christian and European humanism. They have the same vocation, consisting of carrying out all the necessary efforts and assuming the responsibility that belongs to them in the construction of the union of Europe.
“This is Spain’s wish, but I want you to know that it is also France’s. Both of us recognize, of course, that this realization will pose serious and specific problems, both for France and for Spain and for the European community.
“To remove any doubt that might arise, I want to repeat here, on my own behalf and on behalf of the French Government, in one of whose deliberations I dealt with this issue, that Spain’s entry into the European Economic Community does not correspond only to an aspiration legitimate, but is in accordance with logic and with the very interest of Europe.
Its success is due to the awareness of the national interest that the Government and opposition have
”We must draw the practical consequences of this solidarity in the face of the great problems of our time. Since we are called to defend the same causes and pursue the same objectives, it is important that we unite our attitudes and, when necessary, unite our efforts.
”This is the path that our two countries have taken. They are already premier business partners for each other. They are also partners in joint projects, in fields as important as nuclear energy or aeronautics. At all levels, my wish is that contacts become closer.
”Our companies must learn to work more together, particularly in the framework of joint actions towards Latin America or Africa. On all issues of common interest, I think in particular, like you, in Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa. And it seems necessary to me that our meetings can be as regular as they are trustworthy.
The entry of Spain into the European Economic Community is in the very interest of Europe
“I hope that my visit, and that of the ministers accompanying me, is at the service of this great objective: founding an agreement between Spain and France on their meeting in the past and the promises of a brilliant future.”
Faced with the great problems of our time, we must consider the practical consequences of this solidarity.
“Allow me, Your Highness, to address Your Majesty personally before concluding:
His Majesty will occupy, for the services rendered, a prominent place in the history of this noble Spain
“We belong to generations quite close to each other. We know the weight of responsibilities in countries rooted in history, beliefs and cultures, and that have to adapt to the whirlwind of ideas, behaviors and problems and try to renew the world.
”I have followed the political management carried out by you beyond the Pyrenees. I would not allow myself to judge her and I know that Her Majesty does not want to hear words of praise for what she has done, but I can affirm that Her Majesty, among all those who currently have the mission of leading their respective countries, will occupy, for the services rendered, a prominent place in the history of yours, in the history of this noble Spain.”
This piece corresponds to a series of contents published by The vanguard which compiles some of the most relevant speeches of the 20th century from a historical perspective and with an informative spirit.