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3. Spain and the European Union

Spain became a full member of the European Economic Community in 1986. In this connection and according to figures published by the European Commission, Spain fully complies with the objectives established by the European Council.

A major impact of European Union membership for Spain, and for the other Member States, came in the mid-nineties with the advent of the European Single Market and the European Economic Area, which created a genuine barrier-free trading space.

Since then, the EU has advanced significantly in the process of unification by strengthening the political and social ties among its citizens. Spain, throughout this process, has always stood out as one of the leaders in the implementation of liberalization measures.

On July 1, 2013, with the addition of Croatia, the number of countries in the European Union was increased to 28 Member States9. Nonetheless, the referendum on whether the United Kingdom and Gibraltar should remain in the European Union was held on June 23, 2016, the result being in favor of their exiting the Union. Thus, on January 31, 2020 the United Kingdom left the European Union upon the entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, thus reducing the number of Member States to 27.

With the aim of strengthening democracy, efficiency and transparency within the EU and, in turn, its ability to meet global challenges such as climate change, security, and sustainable development, on December 13, 2007, the then 27 EU Member States signed the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force – subject to prior ratification by each of the 27 Member States – on December 1, 2009. The European Parliament elections took place between June 4 and 7 of that year10.

Spain holds significant responsibilities within the EU, evidenced by the fact that it is, along with Poland, the fifth country in terms of voting power on the Council of Ministers. In 2010, Spain assumed the Council Presidency of the European Union for the fourth time, for the period from January to June.

The introduction of the Euro (on January 1, 2002) heralded the start of the third Spanish presidency of the European Council and represented the culmination of a long process and the creation of a veritable array of opportunities for growth for Spanish and European markets. Since January 1, 2015, with the addition of Lithuania, Eurozone membership now stands at nineteen.

The euro has led to the creation of a single currency area within the EU that makes up the world’s largest business area, bringing about the integration of the financial markets and economic policies of the area’s member states, strengthening ties between the member states’ tax systems and bolstering the stability of the European Union.

Furthermore, the adoption of a single European currency has had a clear impact at an international level, raising the profile of the Eurozone at both international and financial gatherings (G-7 meetings) and within multilateral organizations. The economic and business stability offered by the euro have contributed to the growth of the Spanish economy, as well as its international political standing. In addition, measures are being implemented to strengthen the European economy; for example, the Euro-Plus Pact designed to consolidate the coordination of the economic policy in the Economic and Monetary Union, and an EU multiannual spending plan (2014-2020) to stimulate growth. The new multiannual financial framework (2021-2017), which will be a key instrument in supporting a lasting recovery and a fully operative and modernized single market, is currently being negotiated. Spain remains committed to structural reforms under the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Compact for Growth and Jobs, which has boosted economic growth, investment and employment, based on a more competitive European Union.

Spain has traditionally benefitted from EU funding from the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund and is the third largest recipient of such Funds. It is estimated that between 2014 and 2020 European funding from the ERDF and financing for Trans-European Transport Networks (through the Connecting Europe Facility) will make a positive contribution of an estimated €2.5 billion to certain regions and priority areas.

European institutions are tasked with encouraging and supporting technological research and development. On May 2, 2020 the European Commission submitted its budget proposal for the 2021-2027 period, including €97,600 million for the future EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, which it has called “Horizon Europe” and which will succeed the current budget called “Horizon 2020”. Horizon Europe will be supported on three pillars:

  1. Open Science.
  2. Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness.
  3. Open Innovation.

In this way it will help to boost industrial leadership in Europe and strengthen the excellence of its science base, which is essential to the sustainability, prosperity and wellbeing of Europe in the long term.

In this respect, the 2011 Science Law, in keeping with the Europe 2020 Strategy, contributed measures to the current framework (e.g., implementation in the autonomous communities, increasing European dimension, qualitative and quantitative increase in public resources, consolidation of a professionalized and competitive scientific and technical, community open to the world, and transition towards an economy based on knowledge and innovation).

The promotion and fostering of excellence and the strengthening of scientific research institutes constitutes one of the cornerstones of the actions of, and definition of scientific policy by, the Ministry of Science and Innovation, as reflected in the 2013-2020 Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and the 2017-2020 State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation.

The State Plan has a clearly international focus, given its structure and strict alignment with the R&D&i targets established in Horizon 2020.

Lastly, in late 2015, the Government approved the creation of the State Research Agency in order to provide the Spanish science, technology and innovation model with a swifter, more flexible and independent management system. This new body, which is responsible for financing, assessing and allocating R&D funds, acts in conjunction with the Center for Industrial and Technological Development (CDTI), the other major R&D&i funding body focusing specifically on business. Both entities steadily promote transnational and bilateral research and cooperation projects.