Baku. 28 November. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with Chargé D'affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain to Azerbaijan Ignacio Sanchez Taboada.
- How do you assess the level of relations between Spain and Azerbaijan? What did the countries achieve in 25 years of cooperation for rapprochement?
- First of all, good relations have been established between our countries. Our political relations with Azerbaijan proceed without problems. This is very important, since in diplomacy it is comfortable to have relations with a country, which with it we have absolutely no problems. Our countries are not so far away, but we have lack of broader connections, in particular, in the field of civil society and business. Political relations are in a good condition, however, contacts between people, associations, companies are very rare and random, and this is what we want to promote, that is, we want more cultural and economic ties between our countries. Spain and Azerbaijan have excellent network of international agreements, including bilateral and multilateral treaties. At the moment, we are at the stage of finalizing two new agreements - avoiding double taxation, which is important in the context of establishing business ties and about cooperation in the field of defense.
In recent years, a number of high-level visits have been carried out. For example, our foreign minister visited Azerbaijan in 2014 and 2016, the Azerbaijani foreign minister visited Spain in 2012, Azerbaijani defense minister visited Madrid in 2016. I want to note that in our political framework we have well-developed relations, but I would like to reiterate that we need to form relations at the level of civil society.
- What is the level of economic cooperation? What products does Spain import and export to Azerbaijan? What is the level of trade turnover between our countries, is there any progress?
- Economic relations are extremely scarce. At the peak of economic relations between our countries in 2014, Spain imported from Azerbaijan products worth about 700 mln EUR, mostly oil. Spain exported to Azerbaijan products worth 80 mln EUR, in particular textiles, construction materials.
In 2016, Azerbaijan exported goods to Spain worth 400 mln EUR, while the export of Spanish goods to Azerbaijan amounted to only 35 million euros.
- How do you assess cooperation between Madrid and Baku in energy sphere? Are there any joint projects in this direction?
- At the moment, we do not implement any projects with Azerbaijan in the energy sector. Certainly the main export of Azerbaijan to Spain is oil, but at the moment the main for Spain the main supplier of oil and gas is not Azerbaijan, but other countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and sone others.
- How active are Spanish companies in Azerbaijan? How many Spanish companies do we have in our country today and vice versa? Is there information on the level of mutual investment and direct cooperation between businessmen of both countries?
- In addition to trade (import and exports as referred before) very few Spanish companies have settled permanent office in Azerbaijan. Today this number is extremely low, not exceeding 10. Regarding Direct Investment the statistical information is sometimes misleading, and not very acute. Notwithstanding it is clear that the figures are very low. Direct Investment over the past 10 years has not exceeded 50 million euros, from both sides. This speaks of very limited economic relations, but also of an enormous challenge ahead of us.
- Spain around the world is known as a country with a rich tourist potential. What kind of experience can Spain offer in this direction to Azerbaijan? How interesting is Azerbaijan to Spanish tourists and vice versa?
- I recently talked with the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Azerbaijan and other official representatives. Tourism is one of the domains in which cooperation between our two countries can be enhanced. This cooperation could focus not only in the exchange of information, experties and experiences, but also in the promotion of the tourism industry in Azerbaijan, and, possibly, the attraction of Spanish investors for the development of the tourist sector. Both Spanish and Azerbaijani governments are considering a similar strategy to attract investment in this sector. It should be recalled that about 75 million tourists annually visit Spain and we have a very well-developed tourism industry. Spain has also helped to developed tourism sector in the Caribbean region and in several other places in the world.
You can use this experience to strengthen tourism in Azerbaijan. I am not an expert in tourism, but I can say that Azerbaijan has valuable tourism assets, but some of them are not enhanced enough for tourism comsumption. For instance, mount Yanardag is a real wonder, but a tourism visiting cannot find easily information and services to enjoy it and to understand it. I think that the Spain’s experience in this field could be used in Azerbaijan. I think that there is room for cooperation not only in the context of training of work force, but also in terms of rules for accommodation, daily packages, management of the flow of tourists, and so on.
- How do you see the future of Catalonia in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in December?
- Allow to me to extend a little bit on this issue, as it is of extreme importancy for my counrty, and for me also. There is a huge amount of propaganda an misconceptions around the events in Spain and Catalonia. The first misconception is the idea that there is a people of Catalonia opposed to the the people of Spain and searching for its independence, acting unanimously against Spain. This is far from reality. Most people in Catalonia is opposed to secession from Spain. The separatist organizations do not represent to Catalonian People as such, just a small fraction of it. Catalonia is a region in Spain that has never been a kingdom or a republic in its history. It was part of the Kingdom of Aragon. Then it became part of Spain in the 15th century, that is, it has been part of the kingdom of Spain for more than five centuries. Most of the Catalonia population has repeatedly shown their desire to be European and Spaniards, and that they have no problems in their identification. But the separatist propaganda incessantly repets that only the separatist are Catalonian Citizes. That is an enormous mistake, if it is not pure racism.
Another misconception based on propaganda turns around the faked referendum of October, and the alleged repression against it. First of all there was the idea of “we just want to vote” and “we are not allowed to vote”. Well the sovereignty of Spain resided in the Spanish people, all Spaniards should be allowed to vote on the future of their nation, not only a fraction of it. Hence it was the separatist who refuse the right to vote to the majority of the Nation, not the other way around. Secondly the alleged voting for independence did not match any international standard as a referendum. No census, no control on the voting stations, voting boxes, on the number of times one person could vote, where this person was entitled to vote, and so on. The alleged referendum was a farce, but it was also an alleged criminal act committed misusing public funds against national and regional laws.As a result, we have several politicians or political structures in the autonomous region of Catalonia that have transgressed the law, and even acted contrary to the interests of the Spanish people.
The courts have already delivered some decision, I can say, in a very proportional manner. Most of them where precautionary decisions to prevent perpretators from evading the action of Justice. The courts decided that the perpetrators could not leave the country to avoid justice, but some managed to escape. It is obvious that these politicians have publicly committed a crime and violated the law in a number of spheres.
Any government that wants to protect the Constitution will not take steps that are contrary to the Constitution.
This is the real situation that we see today. The future depends on regional elections to the parliament, which will be held in Catalonia, December 22. Everything that happens in this election will be important. But it will also be important to know what Catalan institutions intend to undertake, because we will not accept the amendment of the Constitution because of the actions and reactions of some politicians. Whatever they do, the Spanish Nation and Spain itself will remain unchanged.
- In your opinion, how will the processes in Catalonia affect Spain itself and, in general, the region of Europe?
- I think that most European colleagues will agree that the braking of an old European Nation is a huge loss for all and it will affect the rest of the European Union. We do not know to what extent, it is difficult to predict something like that. It is not easy to predict the future with accuracy. But it can easily be determined that the exit of Catalonia will necessarily have consequences throughout Europe. Not necessarily in the form more separatist movements, but also in the form of the emergence and growth of radical movements in a number of countries.
I believe that propaganda about the status of Catalonia has come from outside. First of all, we must determine the channels and sources of such propaganda. This propaganda is aimed at both the right and the left, it is aimed at weakening the strength of our nation and our democratic institutions.
- Is it possible that the Catalan crisis will become a precedent not only for Spain in the context of the Basques, but for the whole of Europe?
- We have no reason for this at the moment. On the contrary, the Basque Nationalist Party behaved differently than other local parties.The ultra-left Basque parties publicly supported extremist-oriented Catalans, but the traditionalist Basque nationalist party behaved calmly and kept silent about it.
- The problem of separatism exists both in Azerbaijan and in Spain. What actions do you think must be taken to prevent such separatist phenomena?
- I have repeatedly heard about the parallels between the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the situation around Catalonia. To be frank, I think that this is all Armenian propaganda, because the Armenian propaganda wants the situation around Catalonia to resemble the idea of a struggling separatist nation. These are completely different situations in fact. Nationalism, separatism, attempts to split appear today in many parts of the world. It is necessary to analyze the relationship between such movements in Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France and other parts of Europe and some foreign world powers. It is necessary to be careful in these analysis and to understand who really helps someone and what are the connections between them. However, I want to add that these movements are quite specific. For example, the radical separatist movement in Spain proceeds somewhat differently than in Ukraine, where it is possible that the institutions of pro-Russian movements play a role. It is necessary to take each situation separately, analyze it and understand the current situation.
- What contribution can Spain make to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement as an EU member? How do you see the prospects for settling this conflict?
- Spain supports the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group. In 2009, Madrid hosted a conference on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, during which the so-called "Madrid principles" were adopted. Spain supports the efforts of the international community to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We do not support the manifestations of separatism.