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Spain Table of Contents



Throughout the Franco years, a relatively small financial elite of businessmen and bankers exercised a considerable amount of power through personal influence and connections rather than through support from organized interest groups. Moreover, the interests of the business community were generally compatible with those of the Franco dictatorship: both wanted stability and economic prosperity. In the later years of the regime, business leaders, influenced by their contacts with Western Europe, came to favor more economically liberal policies; many of these leaders became vigorous proponents of economic and political modernization.

Many members of the financial elite under Franco continued to hold positions of authority after his death. Constitutional and statutory provisions enacted under the new democratic regime provided more formalized structures to represent their interests and those of the wider business community. In the early days of democratic government, a large number of employers' organizations came into being. Some of these were based on regions; a larger number were organized according to the type of business activity involved. In 1977 these diverse organizations were brought together in the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organizations (Confederacion Espanola de Organizaciones Empresariales--CEOE). This group subsequently became one of the strongest supporters of the AP. A separate confederation, the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Firms (Confederacion Espanola de Pequenas y Medianas Empresas--CEPYME), was incorporated into the CEOE in 1980. It maintained a special status within the larger confederation, and when agreements were reached with the government and the unions, the CEPYME was a separate signatory.

The CEOE was a highly consolidated organization, representing almost all of Spain's companies, other than those that were owned or controlled by the government. Two other national associations endeavored, with little success, to become the representatives of smaller-scale businesses: the General Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Firms of Spain (Confederacion General de las Pequenas y Medianas Empresas del Estado Espanol--COPYME) and the Union of Small and Medium-Sized Firms (Union de la Pequena y Mediana Empresa--UNIPYME).

In addition to employers' organizations, chambers of commerce endeavored to further the economic interests of their members by providing a variety of services to the firms and the individuals they represented. They had an international role as well, and they assisted in export promotion and trade missions.

The greatest degree of political influence within Spain's business community was exercised by the country's large private banks. During the Franco regime, the banking sector provided crucial financial support for Franco, and he in turn enacted measures that were to its benefit. For example, he prohibited the founding of new banks from 1936 to 1962, thereby further concentrating the power of the larger banks. These banks controlled large sectors of industry, directly and indirectly, and they collaborated with government institutions in directing Spain's economic expansion (see Banking , ch. 3).

The traditionally powerful position of the banks was eroded somewhat during the economic recession of the 1970s and by increased government intervention in banking under the democratic regime. The inability of the leaders of the largest banks to transcend their mutual rivalries also attenuated the influence of this potentially formidable interest group. Nevertheless, they remained the single largest grouping of economic and financial interests in Spain, with close links to the government. Banks gained additional leverage by providing financial assistance to the frequently short-funded political parties.

Data as of December 1988