Sun 07-02-2021 23:27 PM
By Binsal Abdulkader
ABU DHABI, 7th February, 2021 (WAM) -- The cooperation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has proved that Spain and UAE are "great friends," Madrid’s top diplomat told Emirates News Agency (WAM).
"We see this as a good moment to pay more attention to each other. We learned through COVID-19 that we were great friends. We helped each other a lot," Arancha González Laya, Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, said Sunday evening.
"We worked day and night to repatriate our citizens. Many of our citizens that were in the Far East made it to Spain through the Gulf, and they transited in particular through the United Arab Emirates," she noted.
Political, economic ties top priority
"And we know out of this experience how important this new stage of our relations. We work to make those relations stronger," stressed Laya who is on her first official visit to the UAE since she became the foreign minister in January 2020.
"This is a big priority for Spain at the beginning of 2021 to strengthen the very good partnership between the two of us," she emphasised.
Strengthening the political and economic relation is the first priority and working together to recover from COVID-19 through trade and investment is the next one, the minister added.
"And the third priority is equally on the culture, education and language. We know that the Emirates are very interested in learning Spanish. No wonder it is the second most spoken language in the world. We know that we have a lot in common in our cultural heritage," Laya explained.
Decarbonisation and digitisation
"We certainly in Spain are very excited by two sectors. One is decarbonisation. This country is moving fast forward in energy transition," she said.
"The second one is digitalisation. it is the transformation of our economies into more digital, more technology driven, whether it’s artificial intelligence in the agricultural sector, whether it’s the intelligent cities, whether it’s the vehicles of the future. In these two areas, I think there is potential to do more and more."
Laya signed with H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, an agreement to step up cooperation in security fields and the exchange of expertise and information.
Family ties with Gulf, Arabian heritage in Spain
Talking about the strategic importance of Spain’s relations with the Arabian Gulf countries, especially the UAE, she said that family ties and common heritage bind both people together.
"Our relations are strong because they have very deep historic ties. We have our own families that know each other. Our economies are very much intertwined. And we also have a big Arab heritage in our country," explained the minister.
"Spain has enjoyed excellent relationship with this region. We work with each other. We, especially on the economic side, see a big potential for taking our trade and investment relations to the next level."
COVID-19 and international relations and trade
An expert in international relations and trade with more than 20 years of professional experience, Laya, 51, had worked with the International Trade Centre, the World Trade Organisation and the European Commission.
Asked about the biggest changes in international relations and trade being caused by the pandemic, she said, "I hope one of the big lessons we all learned from this COVID-19 pandemic is the value of international cooperation, the value of multilateralism."
"What we have learned is that going the national way, going unilateral, going national was not enough actually was not efficient at all in addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19."
WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla