MADRID – The representative of the European Commission in Madrid praised Spain on Friday for finally taking steps to tackle the divisive legacy of its dictatorial past through democratic means in an exclusive interview with EFE.
Francisco Fonseca was referring to the bill passed in the lower house of the Spanish Parliament on Thursday that allows for the exhumation of the body of former military dictator Gen. Francisco Franco from a vast mausoleum complex located just north of Madrid.
“If the European Union has taught us anything, especially since the entry of countries belonging to the former Communist bloc in 2004, it’s the need to better understand how each and every one of our societies has democratically organized the debate on reconciliation and settling scores with the past,” Fonseca said.
“This is something all member states have in common,” the senior EU diplomat added.
He underscored how some countries had to account for their Communist past; others, such as Malta or Cyprus, have had to face their neo-colonial situations, or domestic terrorism threatening to tear their societies apart (the United Kingdom and the Ulster issue, for example) and others, such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, with their pre-democratic right-wing regimes.
“France has confronted its Vichy period not so long ago,” Fonseca added, alluding to the pro-Nazi client state established in 1940 in most of the French territory after the armistice with Germany, which lasted until the 1944 Allied invasion.
“What have we done in Europe?” Fonseca asked. “Promote this democratic debate in which institutions publicly decide what their national reconciliation policy is going to be,” he responded.
According to the EC representative, “Spain is doing this where it should be done: in Parliament, with a public debate that is subject to criticism or applause.”
In August, the Spanish government launched the process to modify the Historic Memory Law, paving the way for Franco’s exhumation from the triumphalist Valley of the Fallen monument, more than 40 year’s after the brutal dictator’s death.