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“We want to put Latin America back at the center of the European agenda”

On the eve of the Ibero-American Summit to be held next Saturday in Santo Domingo, the Spanish foreign ministerJosé Manuel Albares (Madrid, 1972), received the Grupo de Diarios América (GDA)*, to which El Comercio belongs, to reflect on the priorities of this conclave, as well as of the Spanish presidency of the European Union (EU), which It starts on July 1.

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In fact, one of the first events organized by the Spanish Foreign Ministry will be the summit between the leaders of the EU and Latin America, which will take place on July 17 and 18 in Brussels. Albares, a career diplomat, took over from him in July 2021 with a mandate to end the diplomatic crisis with Morocco.

After achieving this goal, he now sets his sights on Latin America.

-What will be the message that Spain will bring to the Santo Domingo Summit?

-First, it is a message of community, of unity, of sharing values ​​in this Ibero-American community. It will be the first face-to-face summit since the Covid-19 pandemic and it has a special value. It is a very convulsed, very complex moment in the world.

-In what areas do you think more progress can be made at the summit?

-There is going to be a letter of Ibero-American digital rights at a time when regulation and protection in this digital field is increasingly necessary. We will also sign an environmental charter, taking into account that Latin America, along with the Amazon, has so much to contribute to the fight against climate change and the defense of biodiversity. And finally, food security will be at the center of the summit. We have to give an answer to this situation of scarcity of fertilizers, of increase in the price of grain. It is very important, especially for Central America. Therefore, it will be a rich, dense, symbolic summit, and for Spain what we want to be the year of Latin America in Europe is beginning. It will be a moment to talk with many of the Celac leaders, and will continue with the EU-Celac summit on July 17 and 18 in Brussels.

– Do you think that Nicolás Maduro should attend this summit in Brussels?

-The EU must decide who attends on its behalf and Celac who attends on theirs. This is how the EU has acted with other regions, such as Africa.

-How do you assess the political process underway in Venezuela?

-With hope. I have said it many times. We support the dialogue between Venezuelans. We hope that the path of democracy opens with force in Venezuela and that it be peaceful, from Venezuela. There has already been a first step, the humanitarian agreement. It is an important step, and we have welcomed it publicly. Now we have to take a new step, reach a political agreement.

-What opportunity does the Spanish presidency of the EU, which begins in July, represent for Latin America?

-Spain has always been the bridge and lawyer for Latin America in Europe, and what we want is to put Latin America back at the center of the European agenda. Europe has spent too long living with its back turned to Latin America. First of all, there will be that summit in July, a very important political event. More than 60 political leaders will attend. Latin America is by far the most Euro-compatible region on the planet, and nothing more normal than talking to each other. But we must also advance economically and commercially. For this reason, it is necessary to definitively advance in the commercial agreements with Mexico, Chile, Mercosur, and there must be a financial and work program that continues the results of that summit. It cannot be that Latin America is the center of Europe every time a Spaniard passes for the presidency of the EU. We want it to be something structural. And for this reason there will also be a business forum, one for civil society, and a meeting of Ministers of Economy and Finance.

“Spain has always been the bridge and lawyer for Latin America in Europe, and what we want is to put Latin America back at the center of the European agenda,” said Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares. (Pepe Mendez/)

-Precisely, you mentioned the agreement with Mercosur that has been stuck for years. Do you think there are real options to conclude it in the coming months?

-That will be the effort of the Spanish presidency, since it is mutually beneficial for two economies that are compatible. But, in addition, these agreements are not only commercial agreements, they are also a sign of political commitment.

-Europe is very focused on the war in Ukraine, are you afraid that Latin America will be relegated far from the priorities?

-It is not a concern, but it is a reflection that I do. What is happening in Ukraine is extremely serious for the entire world because the very Charter of the United Nations is at stake, the sovereign equality of States, the rejection of war as a way to resolve conflicts between States. But what is certain is that this interest, this support that we give to Ukraine cannot be done to the detriment of other regions and of Latin America. It doesn’t have to be done. And that is why in Spain we have increased our development aid funds.

-Speaking of Ukraine, most Latin American countries have adopted a position quite different from that of Europe. Will Spain also be Europe’s lawyer in Latin America? Will you try to convince them to export weapons to Ukraine?

-In the first place, most of the countries of Latin America reject this illegal war of aggression and it was demonstrated in the vote at the UN, where most of these countries joined the rejection of this war, and supported the resolution [de condena]. Secondly, it is not a European war, it is a war that concerns us all, and in Latin America it has been very well understood. This is a region of peace, there are usually no wars in Latin America, they believe in multilateralism. And regarding the shipment of arms, Spain has made its decision, and it is to help the legitimate defense of Ukraine to defend its territorial integrity. We do not tell other governments what they have to do, but we do talk about defending international legality.

-In Europe there seem to be two large camps in a situation of stagnation in the war, those who want to defeat Russia at all costs, and those who bet on a negotiated end. Where is Spain located?

-This is the war of a single country, and I would even say that of a single man: Vladimir Putin. The EU and Spain are not part of this war. Spain is among the countries that want Russian soldiers to return to their borders as soon as possible. We are in the group of countries that wants the UN Charter to be respected, that believes in Ukraine’s right to exist freely and sovereignly. If Russian aggression succeeds, the world will be more unstable and more insecure.

– Does that include that Ukraine must also recover the Crimean peninsula?

-That includes that it recovers the territory within its legally recognized international borders.

– Returning to Latin America, what measures should be adopted to stop the repression in Nicaragua?

-The position of Spain is very clear, and that of the EU as well. There has been a package of European sanctions for months for this infamous penalty of making political opponents stateless, and we granted Spanish nationality to all of them, and there are already more than 80 who have applied for it.

-And you don’t need a new package?

-The 27 of us should decide together [países de la UE].

-How do you assess the situation in Peru, where former President Pedro Castillo is under arrest?

-We want everything that happens in Peru to happen within peaceful, democratic and constitutional channels. It’s the only way out. Peru has a Constitution, democratically established and that offers certain channels. That is why we opposed Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Parliament.

-In Colombia, there is controversy regarding the intention of President Gustavo Petro to approve a law that grants prison benefits to armed groups that collaborate with justice, including drug traffickers. What is your position?

I don’t have an opinion regarding internal Colombian politics. What Spain did express to Colombia is that it is at its disposal for anything that may be useful for it to move towards a definitive peace. And Colombia has offered Spain to be an accompanying country in this peace process. And that is what we are going to do constructively with the rest of the countries. There have been too many years of violence and so many innocent deaths.

By: Ricard González / “La Nación”, from Argentina / GDA

*The Grupo de Diarios América (GDA), to which El Comercio belongs, is a leading media network founded in 1991, which promotes democratic values, the independent press and freedom of expression in Latin America through quality journalism for our hearings.

Source: Elcomercio

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