Spain, which is only 10 miles from North Africa at the Strait of Gibraltar, seems to worry less about immigration from North Africa than France and Italy. One reason is that, for historical reason, Spain has far fewer its nationals living in the Maghreb countries than does either France or Italy.
Spain took over the EU Presidency on July 1, 1995, and is expected to follow France in shifting EU attention and aid to North Africa at an EU-Mediterranean conference in Barcelona in November. Some observers note that Spain spends less of its GDP on defense than any other EU nation--just over one percent--so that the country hopes for the best, but is ill-prepared for the worst.
Europe's southern members states are particularly concerned that further political destabilization in North Africa, compounded by economic collapse, could trigger an increase in the number of Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians seeking asylum in western Europe.
In Cannes at the end of June, government officials from France, Spain and Italy persuaded the EU to pledge $6.1 billion in assistance over five years to North African countries, arguing that economic instability in North Africa was as threatening to the EU as crime and illegal immigration from Eastern Europe threatened northern Europe.
A similar ad package of $8.7 billion was pledged for Eastern Europe.
"Spain Committed to Securing Free Movement for Citizens," Reuters, July 12, 1995. Shada Islam, "EU Pledges More Attention and More Money," Interpress Service, July 6, 1995; "EU looks to shore up its southern Europe," Reuters North American Wire, June 27, 1995.