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Spain - reviving its passion for life
September 7, 2013, 7:13 pm
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Ambassador Angel Losada

An extremely friendly and charming person His Excellency Angel Losada, ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain spoke candidly on wide ranging issues to The Times, Kuwait in an exclusive interview. Sketching a diplomatic career that has spanned over thirty years,  Ambassador Losada said, “Growing in a diplomatic environment ,meant that from a very young age I was influenced by global cultures and inspired by the world of diplomacy.”  Revealing, “The fact that I was born in Switzerland, did my schooling in France, spent my youth in Spain and settled down to married life with a lovely English lady, has only added to my interest in the people and cultures of different nations.”

Detailing his professional diplomatic career, the envoy said, “Following my training and graduation from the Spanish Diplomatic School, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.  In 1982. when Spain joined NATO, I was posted in Brussels as the first Spanish civil servant in the Secretariat of  the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. My years in Brussels and NATO were significant in that, not only did it provide me with in-depth experience on international relations, it also led me to the woman I soon married.”

“Two years later, in my first posting to the African continent, I moved as deputy head of mission to our embassy  in Ethiopia. Ironically, much of my foreign assignments out of Europe, were to interesting places, which at that time of my posting where witnessing tumultuous transitions. Ethiopia, in the mid-1980s was in the midst of a devastating famine and was ruled by the communist-led Derg military junta of Mengistu Haile Mariam. In 1986, I was assigned to Chile in South America and once again arrived in a country that was witnessing mass civil resistance to the military rule of General Augusto Pinochet. After four years in Chile, during which my son and daughter were born there, I  was appointed as counselor to Spain’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

In 1993, I returned to Madrid to serve as my country’s Deputy Director General to the UN in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a three year term and in 1996 was sent once again to Brussels. Spain was negotiating to join  the NATO military structure and I was assigned to our embassy to NATO when Javier Solana, the former Foreign Minister of Spain was the newly appointed NATO Secretary General. This was an extremely challenging period, as the Secretary General was in charge of the NATO mission in the Balkans.”

“After a four-year stint in Brussels, I returned to bilateral relations with an appointment to Cuba as  the Minister Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission at our embassy in Havana which is a very special and challenging posting for all spanish diplomat and which I enjoyed very much. And in 2004, I was assigned, with the rank of Ambassador, as special envoy and adviser to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. A year later, I left this dangerous but interesting assignment to be posted again to Africa  as Ambassador of Spain in Nigeria with additional charge over our interests in the Republic of Benin. Following four years in Africa, I received my first posting to the Arab World and arrived in Kuwait to head my country’s mission here in 2011.”

Speaking of his experience in Kuwait the Spanish diplomat said, “It has been an interesting and exciting time since taking up my assignment here. His Excellency Adel Al-Ayyar, the Kuwaiti Ambassador in Spain and a close friend, had made the necessary introductions for me in Kuwait and so on arrival I was immediately warmly welcomed and made to feel at home.  From social visits to ‘diwaniyas’ of my Kuwaiti friends, and in my regular meetings with government officials, I soon realized that Spain held a special place in the hearts of Kuwaitis. Many people remembered with gratitude the initiatives of the Spanish government during the invasion of Kuwait and thanked Spain for its help and generous hospitality; some of the young had even done their schooling in Spain during that period.”

“Politically, Spain and Kuwait enjoy extraordinarily strong relations that begin at the topmost level between His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain and His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait. Cordial relations between the two leaders flows down to every level of the establishment and reflects on the strong bilateral relations between our two countries,” noted the envoy. “Spain and Kuwait share similar viewpoints on many regional and international issues. We have signed several bilateral agreements to broaden cooperation in different fields and to further enhance bilateral relations,” added the diplomat.

Clarifying that on the economic front there was plenty of scope for improvement, the ambassador said, ”Bilateral trade does not mirror the strong ties between our two countries. One of my first acts after assuming office was to set up a Commercial Section in the embassy. I am pleased to say that in the two years since the office was set up, we have seen an uptick in trade and tremendous increase in commercial activity. This year, during the first four months, there was nearly double the volume of trade from the corresponding period last year. Moreover, many Spanish companies outside the traditional retail space are now successfully gaining a foothold in this country.”

Elaborating on bilateral trade, the envoy continued, “Spanish retail enterprises, especially fashion brands like Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Mango, Rosa Clara ,the newly arrived Piel de Toro ,Nano, companies like Aldeasa in the duty free of the Kuwait airport,  have always held strong appeal among shoppers in Kuwait, but now Spanish companies involved in furniture, renewable energy  and electricity (Isolux Abengoa, FCC Industrial,…) construction (OHL, San Jose Aric, FCC..) high technology (Indra) and manufacturing and transport engineering (  INECO) petrochemical  (Tecnicas Reunidas) and environment(Hera) car producer( SEAT…) among others are moving or reinforcing their presence into Kuwait and the region. Due to the ongoing economic crisis in Spain, many large companies involved in infrastructure, transport and telecommunication within the country are now turning to the lucrative Middle-East market and making their presence felt in various fields.”

“Spanish companies have adapted to the new economic situation and become more competitive.  In neighboring Saudi Arabia, the high-speed railway line linking Mecca, Medina and other cities in the country, as well as the Riyadh Metro network are being completed by Saudi-Spanish consortium that includes some of the biggest names in Spanish manufacturing and construction, such as Talgo, Indra,OHL  ISOLUX  FCC... In Kuwait, the ongoing Jamal Abdul Nasser road construction work, one of the largest road network projects in the country worth nearly a billion dollars, is similarly being undertaken by OHL in an Italian-Spanish consortium.”

The diplomat went on to add, “But more than construction projects, fashion brands and commodities, what I am proud of is the increasing number of highly qualified Spanish professionals, including bankers, lawyers, engineers and architects, who are arriving to work in this country. This increase in numbers is also reciprocal, with many more Kuwaitis traveling to Spain; last July, we issued more than 2,500 visas from our embassy to people traveling to Spain for business, tourism, studies and for medical treatment, especially to its many world-famous ophthalmology clinics like Vissum in Alicante.”

With nearly 60 million annual tourists and more than US$ 53 billion in revenues, tourism is one of the biggest industries in Spain.  Over the years the number of visitors from the Middle-East to Spain has increased and this is not surprising given our history of nearly 700 years of cultural amalgamation between the two regions. Along with other places of tourist attraction in Spain, the coastal plains of Valencia, the mountainous regions of Granada and the Caliphate capital of Córdoba with their mosques, building and other historic architecture are a big draw for people from this region,” said the envoy.

Describing the close cultural affinity between Spain and Kuwait through their love of art and football among other things, Ambassador Losada added, “One of my biggest and best PR exercises after taking charge here was in successfully conducting a tour by the Real Madrid football team to Kuwait last year sponsored by Al Maillem family and under the High Patronage of H.H. The Amir . The event was highly appreciated by everyone in the country. The embassy has also arranged on several occasions, cultural presentations by Spanish artistes in Kuwait, including music and Flamenco dance performances. We are now working with the Al-Babtain Library in Kuwait for literary cooperation and exchanges with libraries in Spain and in the near future we are also planning, in association with the Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyah, to hold a photographic exhibition on Córdoba that highlights the historic relations between Spain and the Arab World. On the other side, in Spain, the 'Bait Al-Arab' founded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing yeoman service in increasing awareness and understanding and expanding cooperation in cultural and economic fields between Spain and the Arab World.”

Speaking about his country’s foreign policy, the ambassador pointed out that the principal and traditional focus was along four vectors — closer integration within the European Union; cooperation across the Atlantic reinforcing the transatlantic relations ;special cooperation with Latin American nations that share a similar culture and language and finally reestablishing and reinforcing ties with the Mediterranean and Arab countries. Though we are now opening up to countries in Asia, like China and India, our main area of focus continues along our primary vectors.

Asked about recent challenges of Spanish foreign policy, the Spanish Ambassador mentioned the case of Gibraltar. “With the view to further strengthening multilateralism within the European Union, His Excellency José Manuel García-Margallo, the Spanish Foreign Minister, has on more than one occasion emphasized Spain's desire to collaborate, cooperate and discuss with Great Britain the contentious issue of Gibraltar. We have consistently maintained that in this modern age it is an anachronism to have a colony like Gibraltar existing within the European Union in the XXI Century. Spain has always taken the initiative to meet and discuss with the British at bilateral and multilateral forums on the continued legality of Gibraltar as an overseas British territory. While we agree that the interests of the people of Gibraltar should be considered, we stress, it should be done so on the basis of international law, and in accordance with United Nation Resolutions 1514 and 1541 on decolonization and territorial integrity. Moreover, Spain will not turn a blind eye to rampant use of Gibraltar as a base for environmentally hazardous off-shore bunkering of ships and dropping of concrete blocks, as an illegal tax haven, as a smuggling den and as a conduit for money laundering. These activities are in violation of several international and EU laws'” noted the envoy. 

Today, Spain has exemplary credentials when it comes to embracing multilateral international cooperation, promoting peaceful coexistence and encouraging social progress through development in a world that is increasingly growing interdependent and sharing collective global interests. So it is a matter of great concern to us that Spain and Britain, both friends and allies, members of the European Union, NATO and other alliances and with so many shared norms and values should as Minister Garcia-Margallo said “cultivate trust and address any conflict with honesty and transparency. . The dialogue must be bilateral and respect international, european and national law “, said the diplomat in conclusion.

The Times, Kuwait Report

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