STAFF REPORTER PALMA

OVER the past 25 years, the Balearic Islands has received 1'000 million euros in funding from the European Union, just 0.7 percent of the 130'000 million euros which has been allocated to Spain as a whole, regional President Francesc Antich said yesterday.

Speaking in the Balearic Parliament at a celebration of a quarter of a century of belonging to the European Union, Antich said that the majority of the money which the Islands had been given was spent on Palma airport, on the sewage treatment plant network, and on the acquisition of the country property containing the natural springs of Ses Ufanes and of the lands which go to make up Majorca's Llevant nature reserve.

The President pointed out that the 130'000 million given to Spain is the largest amount afforded by the European Union to any single member state. “It is the most important single act of solidarity that has been shown to Spain in its entire history,” highlighted Antich.

He emphasised that it has been support from the European Union which enabled Spain to move forward within a very short space of time from being a “developing country” to one of the richest countries in Europe. Antich claimed that this process proved to be ahead of the rest of the country in the Balearics because the Islands had always benefited from a certain cosmopolitan image. He said that the region had been favoured by its European neighbours as a holiday destination, thanks to the tourist market explosion in the 1960s.

The president said that the change in social custom and response to the outside world which tourism brought about signalled the real beginning of Spain's entry into what was known at the time as the “Common Market.” Antich furthered that much of the wealth which has come to the Balearics since the onset of mass tourism and entry into the EU has come through foreign currency exchange. He said that time has now brought about new shifts in European Union expenditure. Money which once came to Spain from the EU because it was a “developing country” is now going to more recently joined states from Eastern Europe, “some of whom have real difficulties with their economy and infrastructure”, Antich explained.

The President said that whilst the Balearics was engaged in celebrating 25 years of membership of the European Union, it was also important to think about the future. “We live in complicated times,” said Antich, “and the globalization of the market place has happened much more swiftly than the democratic control of the countries who are promoting it.” He suggestsed that more than ever, it was necessary for the smaller countries of Europe to band together under one flag and address the competition from what is still being described as “the developing world.” “We have to need to speak as one voice,” said Antich, reminding his audience that the EU was built on the premise of “creating wealth and social cohesion.” “But voracious markets can never take precedence over our much treasured sense of well-being and security,” he claimed.