The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, headed up by José Manuel Albares, closes a year off marked by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, a successful NATO Summit which led to a new framework of priorities on defense, security and the organization of the Atlantic Alliance for the next ten years and a new relationship with Morocco.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the focus of a good part of diplomatic activity during 2022. Since the invasion, in the early morning of 24 February, diplomatic efforts have been stepped up to strengthen unity against the aggression of Vladimir Putin, both from the perspective of the defense of Ukraine, and of humanitarian aid for the citizens of this country and the millions of people displaced by the war.
Over the course of the year, Minister Albares has visited Ukraine on two occasions: the first, just a few days before the Russian invasion, and the second, at the start of November. On this last trip, the minister met with the President, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, and the Attorney General of Ukraine. He also met with his counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, with whom he has had almost permanent contact over the course of this year: as well as in Kiev, they have met on a bilateral basis on the sidelines of international forums and have held several phone calls.
Madrid was the backdrop for another of the diplomatic milestones of the year: the meeting of the NATO Summit, which involved the participation of 14 presidents, 21 prime ministers, the President of the European Commission, the Secretary-General of NATO and 52 foreign affairs and defense ministers. They all engaged, on 29 and 30 June, in developing the “Madrid Concept”. This new NATO Strategic Concept includes, for the first time, and at Spain’s request, references to the Southern Flank and identifies new threats to security, such as cybercrime, illegal immigration, the effects of climate change and hybrid threats.
The Madrid Summit was a complete success in terms of organization, logistics and results. The diplomatic work prior to the meetings of the leaders in Madrid led to the strengthening of Euro-Atlantic unity and paved the way for both the accession of new partners and for the approval of the new Strategic Concept. From the point of view of Spain's image, its role as a leading player on the international stage was also reinforced, with leadership capabilities and whose voice is attentively listened to in international forums thanks to its proposals and initiatives in favor of unity in response to aggressions, the defense of democracy, liberty and multilateralism.
In this new era, Spain counts on the United States as a strong and stable ally, as was made clear during the US president's visit to Spain. On 28 June, following a period of 21 years without updating relations between Spain and the United States, Joe Biden and Pedro Sánchez signed a new Joint Declaration that will further strengthen this strategic relationship between the two countries.
Furthermore, the Dual Nationality Agreement between Spain and France came into force in 2022, the first of this nature outside of the scope of Ibero-America. The agreement, signed in the French city of Montauban, settles an historic debt with the Republican exiles, whilst improving the rights of French citizens resident in Spain and Spanish citizens resident in France.
By signing the Joint Declaration through which Spain and Morocco decided to relaunch their relations, the date of 7 April 2022 was marked on the calendar of Spanish diplomacy. As from this date, a roadmap began to develop towards the normalization of relations between the two countries. By the end of the year, all the working groups, which in some cases had not met for 15 years, were all fully active and harvesting results.
As a result of these new relations, illegal migration from Africa has declined the most in Europe, and trade exchanges have gradually recovered to the levels that existed prior to the breakdown in relations between the two countries. This roadmap will receive a new boost in just a few weeks’ time, with the High-Level Meeting to be held in Morocco, which seeks to give a new dimension to relations between the two countries.
The fact of Spain’s solidarity as a country was underlined in Afghanistan in August 2021, but continued to be seen throughout 2022. Through new aid operations to the most vulnerable groups, the commitment made by Minister Albares “not to leave anyone behind” was fulfilled. This solidarity will also acquire legal status through the new Spanish Cooperation Act.
On the verge of completing its legislative process, the Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Global Solidarity Act was approved in the Upper House with the support of all the parliamentary groups, except Vox, to the changes introduced in the text. The Act, which will be definitively approved in the Lower House in the first few weeks of 2023, replaces the law currently in force, which was approved back in 1998. This new legislative framework updates the institutional, regulatory and budgetary pillars to move towards a model of cooperation that fosters inclusion, equality and sustainability.
The aim is to convert Spanish Cooperation into a State policy and a foreign policy that tackles unparalleled challenges. Many of these were subject to analysis at the forums that Spain hosted over the last 12 months: the Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean and the Southern Neighborhood, held in Barcelona; the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Summit, held in Malaga in May; and the recent meeting of the Rabat Process, held in Cadiz. These are just three examples of the capacity of Spanish diplomacy to organize high-level events.
They are also an example of the trust placed in Spain by international organizations such as the United Nations which, over the course of 2022, committed to our country by opening its Counter-Terrorism Office in Madrid, decreeing the opening of the Local 2030 Secretariat in Bilbao and strengthening its commitment to Valencia by inaugurating a new building at the Quart de Poblet Base.
Previously, on 20 January this year, King Felipe VI and Minister José Manuel Albares inaugurated the new headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in Madrid (the previous headquarters at Santa Cruz Palace remains operational but with the removal of the four Franco regime coats of arms located on its turrets in 2022. All vestiges of the Franco regime have also been ordered to be removed from Spanish embassies and consulates). Located in Plaza del Marqués de Salamanca in Madrid and with a capacity to house 1,300 people, work has already begun at these new headquarters on what will be the great EU policy event for Spain: the EU Presidency.
With a view to 2023, Spain will take on the Presidency that it last held in 2010: that of the Council of the European Union. The next time will be in 2037. José Manuel Albares has already defined it on several occasions as “a country project” that seeks to involve all the autonomous regions and also wishes to draw in citizens. A decentralized Presidency that will be present in all the autonomous regions through high-level meetings that will be organized in 25 provinces.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will mark a Presidency in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work to achieve a stronger and more united Europe. Another aim will be to consolidate the main pillars of action that Spain has contributed to shaping: the ecological transition, digital transformation and social pillar. And also in areas that are already entrenched, such as the reform of fiscal rules and migration.
As regards the geographic areas in the EU’s foreign relations, the priorities will include the Southern Neighborhood, with a new ministerial meeting in Barcelona, but also Latin America and the Caribbean, with the holding of an EU-CELAC Summit in Brussels. This relationship is based on the Euro-compatibility that Minister Albares repeatedly advocates between the two regions and that has just been underlined at the meeting of the Binational Commission with Mexico, which had not met for the last five years.
The decision on Malaga's candidacy for Expo 2027 will also be known in 2023. An unprecedented diplomatic effort has been made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a large group of public servants and Minister Albares himself who, at the bilateral meetings he holds with his counterparts from all over the world, has consistently asked for their support in voting for the Spanish candidature. The minister’s strong involvement was made patently clear when, on 28 November, he personally travelled to Paris to advocate Malaga’s bid at the General Assembly of the International Exhibitions Bureau (IEB).
Original press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation