Spain sees the arrival of Biden to the White House as an “opportunity”, according to the document approved by the Government this Tuesday
The Government advocates a “feminist foreign policy” and a “humanitarian diplomacy”; and he will try to take advantage of the “opportunity” offered by the arrival of Joe Biden to the White House to improve relations with the United States. This is included in the draft of the Foreign Action Strategy (2021-2024) that the Council of Ministers plans to send to Parliament this Tuesday.
The document, which establishes the master lines of Spanish foreign policy for this legislature, replaces the previous strategy (2015-2018) and, although it only represents the opinion of the Government, it has been consulted with the autonomous communities, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) and the main institutions of the State, from the Economic and Social Council (CES) to the Council of State, before sending it to Parliament.
The 100-page text begins with a gloomy diagnosis of the world panorama, characterized by the crisis of multilateralism and the appearance of four great fractures on a planetary scale: socio-economic, climatic, technological and political. “We live in an increasingly volatile and fragmented world” —the document points out— that tends to generate two opposing tendencies: “A centrifugal one, of disunity, marked by the rise of exclusive populisms and nationalisms; and another centripetal, with inclusive responses to global challenges ”.
Despite this situation, “Spain aspires to assume more prominence at the international level”, based on its commitment to a “reformed and reinforced multilateralism”; a “stronger and federal Europe”; “A strategic bilateralism” and a “solidarity commitment”. It is, in the words of the Secretary of State for Spain Global, Manuel Muñiz, coordinator of a project in which all the ministries have participated, not limiting itself to identifying the challenges, but rather “putting the bow with all the tools of action exterior ”to face them.
Drawn up in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic, the strategy maintains that the health crisis has accelerated processes already underway, although it is still too early to assess whether we are “in a time of change or a true change of era.”
These are some of its main points:
U.S. The Biden Administration “opens a more optimistic scenario” and “an opportunity to be seized.” Spain aspires “to a broader agenda for bilateral relations” with Washington, “in the economic and commercial sphere”, where “it will seek the lifting of unfair unilateral trade measures”, alluding to tariffs on oil or wine, maintaining the current defense cooperation, whose agreement should be reviewed in this period. The Instituto Cervantes will open a new headquarters in Los Angeles, which will be added to those in New York, Chicago and New Mexico.
More Europe. “A more federal European Union” will be promoted, with greater strategic autonomy, more powers and the extension to more areas of the qualified majority, instead of unanimity. Spain will play an active role in the Conference on the Future of Europe and will promote the integration process during its six-month presidency of the EU, in the second half of 2023. After the Recovery Plan, the next step should be “the consolidation of instruments permanent joint issuance of debt and the creation of new own resources ”, as well as a harmonization of taxes that ends tax competition within the EU. “The departure of the United Kingdom”, he assures, “represents a great opportunity for Spain to assume greater leadership in favor of a more global Europe”, with projection towards the United States, Latin America and the Mediterranean.
Feminism. A Feminist Foreign Policy Strategy will be approved to incorporate “the gender approach into all areas of foreign action” and “lead by example”, promoting “a greater presence of women in Spanish foreign action”. Currently 28% of diplomats and 20% of heads of mission are women. In addition, Spain will lead initiatives in defense and promotion of diversity, “in particular of LGTBI rights and of all disadvantaged or discriminated groups”.
Latin America. The EU’s relationship with the region and the conclusion of the agreement with Mercosur will be promoted. The Kings will visit Chile on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the first round the world. This is a year of commemorations in Ibero-America: the Central American countries, Peru and Mexico celebrate the bicentennial of their independence. In the latter country, where it coincides with the controversial fifth centenary of the conquest by Hernán Cortés,“There will be an impact on a constructive dialogue on the celebration of the historical ephemeris”. In Venezuela, “the priority will be to rescue the democratic framework and support it to overcome its political and humanitarian crisis.” He assures that Cuba is “at a time of updating its political and economic model […] which we must stimulate through critical but constructive accompaniment.
Immigration. Spain is committed to a “European Immigration and Asylum System, under the principle of solidarity and equitable distribution of responsibility”; and comprehensive management of external borders “, with a policy of” zero tolerance against mafias “and” the establishment of safe, regular and orderly migration routes. “
Health. Spain will support the Commission’s efforts “to lay the foundations for a European health union”, as well as a reform of multilateral institutions with a strengthened World Health Organization (WHO) and a renewed International Health Regulations.
UN. Spain will present its candidacy to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2025-2027 biennium. The Quart de Poblet (Valencia) base will be consolidated and expanded as a technological platform of the United Nations system.
Autonomies. “Regular consultation mechanisms will be established that bring together the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the regional authorities for foreign action”. It is not clear whether there will be an Interterritorial Council for Foreign Action or an expansion of the Conference on Affairs Related to the European Union (Carue), which brings together the central Administration and autonomies.
Diplomats. The number of diplomats has decreased by 6% in the last decade (there are 940). There will be a trend, “as far as possible”, to increase the number of places and a new Regulation of the Diplomatic Career will be approved to update the 1993 one. European funds will be used to digitize the consular and diplomatic services.
Expatriates The consulates will be redeployed and a consular emergency management system will be put into operation. The electoral law will be reformed to facilitate the vote of residents abroad (almost three million). The networks of Spaniards abroad (researchers, managers, cooperators or international officials) will be promoted and structured so that they become “agents of foreign action”. The figure of the Ambassador on Special Mission for Global Spanish Citizens will be promoted.
China. “More balanced relations” with China will be sought, especially economically, avoiding “confrontational dynamics”, and a strategic relationship will be promoted through the EU, without forgetting the “clear elements of rivalry in values and interests”, especially on issues related to respect for human rights and the need to prevent unfair competition.
Cooperation. The commitment to allocate 0.5% of GDP to development aid at the end of the legislature is maintained. A new Law on International Cooperation for Sustainable Development will be approved and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (Aecid) will be reformed.
Weather. Spain will lead, with a “climate diplomacy”, the agreements against climate change. It will promote an international coalition on green hydrogen and will commit to the protection of biodiversity.
Occidental Sahara. Just a passing allusion to the conflict in the former Spanish colony: it is a Spanish priority in the Maghreb and the Middle East “to contribute to the UN efforts to reach a political solution to the conflicts in the region in accordance with international parameters, especially in Western Sahara, Libya and Palestine ”.
Gibraltar. Gibraltar, a recurring theme in this type of document, is only mentioned in relation to the agreement of December 31st. Spain “will promote the negotiating process of an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar”, he limits himself to pointing out.