The threat from Russia is the omnipresent theme of the NATO summit in Madrid, but the prior bilateral meeting held on Tuesday in La Moncloa by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Pedro Sánchez has allowed both countries to strengthen their cooperation in multiple areas, some of them key for Spain, such as the economy or immigration.
After the fiasco of the 30-second ‘paseíllo’ in Brussels last year, Pedro Sánchez has finally achieved his meeting with Joe Biden. Almost an hour and a half in La Moncloa with a satisfactory result for Spain. The Government ensures that it has been a “close” appointment, that Biden has been satisfied with the good reception of his proposals and that even both leaders could hold a new meeting alone during the development of the NATO summit.
Biden described Spain during the joint appearance as an “indispensable partner” for the United States and expressed his desire to “improve the relationship” while stressing that the “great relationship we have makes us strong allies on the issues we face.” In the year and a half that he has been in the White House, the president of the United States has kept Spain in the background on his international agenda, leaving the country out of his usual contacts with European leaders, for example. There are many problems that Spain has in its relationship with Washington, particularly on the part of the PSOE governments, but both leaders have expressed their desire to redirect relations.
A document of four pages and 18 points signed by Biden and Sánchez themselves has come out of the meeting. The previous joint declaration between the two countries dated from 2001 and was signed by the then Foreign Ministers, Josep Piqué and Madeleine Albright. The text contains a series of general lines for bilateral relations and establishes a common position on multiple issues, from the war in Ukraine to immigration, security or climate change.
It is the first point of the declaration and the most important, with a direct practical application, such as the deployment of two new destroyers in Rota as part of the anti-missile shield. “Spain and the United States condemn Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine, which has fundamentally altered the global strategic environment,” the text says. “This aggression constitutes the most direct threat to transatlantic security and global stability since the end of the Cold War.”
It was another key point of the meeting. Spain is focusing its efforts on making the allies aware of the problem of what it has defined as the “southern flank”, that is, the Maghreb and the Sahel, with all their problems of immigration, jihadism and instability at the gates of Europe, and the addition of the particular problem of Spain with Morocco and Algeria.
Biden spoke in his speech about “the challenges of the South in all areas” and in the declaration there is a specific point on “safe, orderly and regular” immigration, which states that Spain and the US “recognize the importance of permanent cooperation in response to the challenges of irregular migration in the North African region”. And this just a few days after the jump to the Melilla fence and the terrible consequences on the other side of the border, with dozens of dead immigrants.
The immigration issue has its counterpart, because the United States has its own concerns with the issue. In this sense, the American delegation has shown interest in the circular migration model between Spain and Honduras to provide a temporary job opportunity for Hondurans. The United States announced a migration agreement in the framework of the Summit of the Americas, in early June, under which Spain agrees to double the issuance of work visas for Honduran migrants.
Number one concern of the United States that has been included in the text and, therefore, assumed by Spain. The statement said that both leaders “encourage China to fulfill its commitments within the rules-based international order” and to “contribute to international security.” Beijing’s role on the international scene, in trade relations with the United States and in the war in Ukraine will be key in the immediate future.
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