Dialogue with Mr. Javier Rupérez Rubio on the Transition from abroad

Photo courtesy of the CEU Cardenal Herrera University

What was Spain’s starting point in terms of foreign policy at the beginning of the transition and what were the expectations regarding the future opening of relations under democracy?

How did Europe view us at the beginning of the transition, after 38 years of dictatorship south of the Pyrenees?

How was entry into what was then known as the common market conceived?

How did Spain’s first ambassador to NATO manage to temper tempers with certain political parties, recently legalised, that were against Spain’s entry into the Atlantic Alliance?

What was our participation in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe like and how strategic was it for Spain to participate in the Helsinki process during the transition?

Was there rejection of the maintenance of the US military bases that had been established in Spain since 1953?

As head of the foreign minister’s cabinet in the first stage of the transition, what were the priorities of our international strategy, so that it would be coherent and Spain would be a credible partner both in Europe and in the United Nations?

And why are attempts now being made to discredit and delegitimise this period of our recent history, which is recognised as a success story and a model of peaceful national reconciliation in the rest of the world?

These are some of the questions asked on 6 May 2024 by Ms. Susana Sanz, director of the research project on the crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union, to Mr. Javier Rupérez Rubio, former Member of Parliament and ambassador, guest at the Conference on the Memory and Legacy of the Transition, organised by Cardenal Herrera CEU University at the Bancaja Foundation centre in Valencia from 6 to 8 May.

The moderator highlighted the brilliant and extensive diplomatic and political CV of Mr. Javier Rupérez, who carried out a large part of his professional activity during the transition period.

Mr. Javier was a senator, deputy, chief of staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 76 to 77, ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe from 79 to 82, first ambassador to NATO from 82 to 83, ambassador to the United States from 2000 to 2004, he was undersecretary general of the United Nations and executive director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council from 2004 to 2007.

During his professional career, he ensured that Spain complied with its international obligations by ratifying the United Nations human rights conventions, updated Spain’s relations with the Holy See by reforming the concordat, normalized relations with Mexico, which had been broken since the Second Republic, established diplomatic relations with the countries of the then Eastern Europe, and improved relations with many other Latin American countries.

Photo courtesy of CEU Cardenal Herrera University

Mr. Javier dealt with the ins and outs of diplomatic work at a time when there was no manual or plan in place, since Spain’s foreign relations were starting from scratch after almost 40 years of international isolation. The guest explained the relations with the United Kingdom at that time over Gibraltar, and with Morocco over the Sahara, a territory classified by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory, whose future should be decided by the Saharawi people. He also recounted how Spain’s rapprochement was sought with all the international institutions which at the time, in the midst of the Cold War, were considered to be Western in nature and which defended democratic values, such as the Council of Europe, the CCEE, NATO and the CSCE. He also reflected on the constructive debates that took place between the different political parties, recently legalized, present in the new Spanish parliamentary arc at the beginning of democracy.

The conversation between Mr. Javier Rupérez and Ms. Susana Sanz ended with a tribute to the Spanish transition, hoping that the spirit of concord and consensus shown by all political parties, as well as the maturity and the high mindedness shown by the Spanish society in that period so close to our history, will return to the current public scenario.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here