We should strengthen our bonds

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Croatia and Spain share common objectives and values in most of the segments of the future EU agenda and we should continue working together as this will further improve our excellent bilateral relations.

We are witnessing deep changes in the international relations, where new stakeholders are assuming a more active role in the international arena, while the international framework, created after the Second World War, is now being questioned.Spain is among those European countries that believe in a stronger Europe”, says H.E. Mr. Alonso Dezcallar Mazarredo, the newly appointed Spanish Ambassador to Croatia, who is looking forward to improving the already good bilateral relations between Spain and Croatia.

1. You have recently assumed the duties of the Spanish Ambassador to Croatia. What are your key priorities in nurturing the bilateral relations between Spain and Croatia?

The bilateral relations between Spain and Croatia are excellent and a good example of this is the growing number of Spanish tourists visiting this beautiful country year after year. These people-to-people relations are without a doubt of one of the best ways to approach our societies and strengthen our bonds.

ZARA, MANGO, ROCA or ACCIONA are just a few of the Spanish companies already present in Croatia and I hope that many more will come in the near future. The Spanish companies are highly competitive and even leaders in many sectors (infrastructure, energy, water or waste management, agri-food industries). In the next few years, I would like to see them having an even bigger presence in the Croatian market while sharing their experiences and contributing to the ambitious reforms programmes that the Croatian Government is going to carry out. Likewise, I would like to see a similar bigger presence of Croatian enterprises in Spain.

In short, and in spite of the positive evolution of our bilateral relationship, particularly after Croatia’s entry into the European Union, I believe that no matter how good a situation is, it can always be improved. In this regard, you can count on my deepest commitment in doing my best to try to foster our bilateral relations in all fields, while honouring what my predecessors have done.

2. As members of the EU, NATO and other international forums which members share similar stances, in which aspects do the official views of Spain and Croatia coincide, and in which they collide? You are one of the five EU countries that did not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and Croatia, for example, has.

Obviously, we cannot always agree absolutely on everything. But I don’t see that as a reason for concern. On the contrary! It may help us to see other points of view on different topics and, accordingly, enrich our bilateral debate. But the essence here is that we agree on the most important issues and that explains why, in the recent years, Spain and Croatia have become close friends and allies. Spain was one of the most solid supporters of Croatia’s accession into NATO and the European Union. We share the same values, principles and objectives and face similar challenges. Our two countries believe in multilateralism and globalized economy, while rejecting protectionist or populist policies. We are also both staunch supporters of a reinforced European Union that can offer the biggest space for freedom, justice and prosperity for the European citizens.

3. Do you think that the outcome of the European elections will bring about some changes in the EU’s attitude towards Catalonia’s independence, or do you expect that Europe will continue providing strong support to the Spanish government regarding this issue?

EU’s attitude towards this question has always been unanimous and crystal clear and it is based on the European treaties. In consequence, I don´t see why there could be any change in its position after the next European Parliament elections.

4. The media and political analysts often draw parallels between Catalonia and Spain, on one hand, and other countries that are facing the possibility of some of their regions declaring independence. How realistic are these parallels?

I think that each case is unique and must not be compared to others. However, there is a common point in all of them: the critically important need to respect one´s Constitution and laws. Under the Rule of Law everything is possible as long as laws are respected. You can reform them, but always by following the mechanisms established for that purpose. In a democracy ends never justify means.

6. You are a diplomat with an extensive experience. How much has the world changed in the last 10 to 15 years?

It’s a faster world. Sometimes you don`t have enough time to get used to the changes that are taking place. Our societies have been deeply transformed thanks to the fourth industrial/technological revolution. We have transitioned from an analogue to a digital world. This transformation has affected us all – as individuals and as citizens. We live in a globalized world where people, goods, ideas and information travel more freely and faster than ever. Borders are no longer an obstacle for them travelling from one point to the other worldwide. Social media, the Internet, and new technologies have changed our daily habits. Our societies have probably changed in these last years much more than in the period between 1945- 2000. Also, similar deep changes have occurred in the international relations, where new stakeholders are assuming a more active role in the international arena and with the international framework created after the Second World War now being questioned.

7. Which global challenges could you single out as the most dangerous? How can we eliminate them and how can Spain help with this? Which challenges is Europe going to face in the upcoming period?

Along with the said changes, new challenges have emerged which make our world more unstable. We live now in a multipolar world with new proactive actors; we are becoming increasingly conscious of the climate change and of the need to act urgently if we want to preserve our planet. We have to face new and more sophisticated forms of international terrorism. misinformation, fake news, illegal and uncontrolled migration, the return of ideologies that we thought had been forgotten, at least in Western Europe, and cyber attacks. And the list unfortunately goes on and on.

International cooperation and coordination among the international stakeholders is the only way to face worldwide challenges that transcend borders. Dialogue, cooperation, respect for international laws, and multilateralism should be ‘the weapons’ to use. When it comes to this task, Spain is an active player, investing its best effort and offering proposals in all the international fora with the objective of contributing to a better world.

Obviously, those same challenges are affecting the European Union too. Additionally, there are other challenges to face. Brexit, diminishing populations, and the rise of the anti-European sentiment and nationalistic approaches among our citizens are some of these challenges.

Spain is among those European countries that believe in a stronger Europe, considering it a community of values and a successful story that remains unfinished and needs to be reformed in those aspects that proven to be inefficient. I think that our citizens demand a better performing European Union that can meet their needs and that has a more proactive role in the world affairs, while always defending our common values and principles. Perhaps Brexit may be an opportunity that will spur us in the right direction and make us realize that we must go ahead with this ambitious project by increasing our coordination and cooperation in fields such as the Economic and Monetary Union, the Social Europe, the Environment Agenda, Innovation and Research, Defense, Cyber Security and other issues. As President Sanchez said in his recent speech at the European Parliament:”If we wish Europe to protect us, we must protect Europe first”.

8.In the first half of 2020, Croatia will assume the presidency of the EU. What kind of advice could you give Croatia considering that Spain has already presided over the EU?

We would only give our advice if the Croatian authorities asked us for it. But what I can assure you is that Spain will completely support Croatia in this important task and offer all our experience. We are convinced that Croatia is going to assume this task with a great enthusiasm, responsibility, professionalism and efficiency.

On the other hand, during the Croatian presidency, the EU will launch a new agenda – a new set of priorities and a new working programme. Croatia and Spain share common objectives and values in most of the dossiers of the future agenda and we shall keep on working together.

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