On Friday, 29.11.2019, at the premises of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Warsaw, a ‘Strategy Duologue’ meeting was held with The Warsaw Institute Review (WIR), the 10th in this series.
The Embassy was represented by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary H.E. Mr. Francisco Javier Sanabria Valderrama, First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Guillermo Escribano Manzano, the Defence, Military, Naval, and Air Attaché, Colonel José Alemañ Asensi, as well as the Counsellor for Trade Mr. Jaime Camps Almiñana.
The side of WIR was represented by WIR Editor-in-Chief Ms. Izabela Wojtyczka, Warsaw Institute (WI) Events Coordinator Ms. Julia Grzybowska, WIR Communications Specialist Mr. Łukasz Biernacki, as well as WIR Advisor Mr. Alexander Wielgos.
As per the character of the ‘Strategy Duologues on Geopolitics’ meetings between WIR and Embassies, this 4-on-4 meeting was orbital around discussing similarities and differences between the perspectives of an Embassy and think tank/quarterly, as well as between the perspectives of the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Poland. In this, WIR and the Embassy go over select geopolitical conundrums, bilateral relations, as well as potential future cooperation.
Opening the session, H.E. the Ambassador put forward certain elements about Spain, which although some of which may be well known to some, certainly merit introduction into the conversation. Geography and history are both traditional and decisive driving factors of most countries, if not all. In the case of Spain, its general position on the Iberian Peninsula and shape of its borders have remained rather constant since its inception.
With regard to history, however, it is worth noting that several conflicts in and around Europe have played pivotal roles and induced several key turning points, including since the invasion of the Moors from 711, and the subsequent ‘reconquistadors’ campaigns, as well as the notions of sovereignty and identity which inevitably came with such a feat. Moreover than such conflicts, or those of the Napoleonic Wars, however, there are chapters which entail internal conflicts, most particularly the Spanish Civil War. Furthermore, history also includes the expansion at the time into Latin America.
Spain is the first modern ‘state’ in Europe, in the broadly understood sense of the word. Nonetheless, there is the notion of ‘particularism’ i.e. the sense of a nation looking more inwards, and underlining differences between different groupings. It is a pervasive issue in Spain persisting since the 18th century.
Such contentions exist with both the history of Basque country, as well as with, of course, Catalonia. Unfortunately, in parts of extreme cases, this undertakes the form of outright racism, secessionism, as well as terrorism, such as the case with the ETA.
With regard to the Catalan issue, it should be underlined that there was a constitutional breach. The trials of convicted persons was transparent and recorded from the first to the last minute, with international NGO’s statements’ attesting to such. H.E. the Ambassador affirmed that “they are not political prisoners, they are politicians in prison”.
Moreover, Spain, like states in Eastern Europe, is also not immune from disinformation campaigns and espionage operations conducted by Russia. Building on naturally from this, the discussion proceeded to bilateral relations and cooperation. As avid members of NATO, EU, OECD, and the UN, engagement in multilateralism is conveyed through the patterns of voting on various issues. With regards to votes for ‘yes’, ‘abstain’, or ‘no’, on resolutions at the UN for instance, are essentially identically across all areas, with a gently wider gap in the field of economic development, that still does not make the voting patterns dissimilar.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Warsaw, relative to most other Embassies in Warsaw, is remarkably well-rounded and comprehensive in its personnel and department specialisations, attesting to the importance placed on the bilateral relations and the range of fields of cooperation in them.