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Ambassador lauds Jordan-Spain ties, says there is ‘room for improvement’

‘Developments in Catalonia represent unilateral breach of social contract’

By Mohammad Ghazal - Oct 12,2017 - Last updated at Oct 12,2017

Spain's Ambassador to Jordan Aránzazu Bañón Dávalos speaks to The Jordan Times during an interview on Wednesday (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — Ties between Jordan and Spain are “deep and strategic”, yet, there is room for more improvement and cooperation, Spain’s Ambassador in Amman Aránzazu Bañón Dávalos said Wednesday.

Cooperation between the two countries covers a wide range of fields including politics, security, culture, education and archaeology, according to the ambassador, who noted that Spanish investors are actively involved in the implementation of projects in high importance sectors in Jordan such as infrastructure, water and energy.

“The friendship between Spain and Jordan is so deep and sound that we always refer to our excellent bilateral relations… Yet, I feel sometimes that there is also a risk in that… The risk of self-indulgence,” the ambassador said in an interview with The Jordan Times on the occasion of Spain’s National Day, which the embassy will mark on today.

“From the moment I took office last July, I said to myself: ‘All right, here I am posted in a country with which we share so many views and good feelings: let us build on that. Let us explore how we can bring those relations even further’,” she said.

The ambassador said there was a room for increased cooperation in the economic and commercial fields including investment and exchanges.” We have to take advantage of our mutual trust and translate it into concrete projects from which both people can benefit,” she added.

According to the ambassador, trade exchange between the two countries has been steadily increasing over the last three years. Spain’s exports reached 438 million euros in 2016, up by 50 per cent compared to 2015. 

Referring to the EU rules of origin agreement with Jordan, she said the Spanish government supported the agreement and is making efforts to familiarise Spanish companies with the advantages it implies.

“We must admit that the agreement on the relaxation of the rules of origin has not reached its full potential in its application but both Jordan and the European Union are actively working to ensure more efficient results and assist Jordanian companies that can benefit from this agreement.”

On tourism, the ambassador said around 16,000 Spanish tourists visit the Kingdom annually, adding that there were regular campaigns by Jordanian tourism authorities to promote Jordanian tourist sites in Spain.

“This country has all it needs — culture, climate, landscape and, above all, excellent human resources — to develop a diversified touristic offer. In other words: Jordan has the best possible conditions to move forward in this field,” she said.

“I personally love the beauty of Wadi Rum and the silence of the desert and the sentiment of peace of mind that one gets there,” she added.

Another key area of cooperation between the two countries is the fight against terrorism.

“Both Jordan and Spain have suffered from its blind violence, and we are equally engaged in a fight which can only end with its eradication. We are both part of the International Coalition against Daesh as well,” said Dávalos.

“We stand with Jordan in the struggle against it: both in its security dimension and in the ideological battlefield,” said the ambassador.

While keen on increasing bilateral cooperation, Spain has been also supporting Jordan with the resulting consequences caused by the influx of Syrian refugees. Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Spain has been providing humanitarian assistance to the victims and supporting the protection mechanisms — including legal assistance and cash programmes — in line with the Jordan Response Plan 2016-2018 for the Syrian Crisis. 

Additionally, Spain has been cooperating with competent authorities in order to upgrade the resilience of local communities. 

The total volume of support, since 2011 to date, provided by Spain to countries hosting Syrian refugees, including Jordan, has reached 27 million euros, she said.

Spain has been cooperating with Jordan significantly in the cultural field, adding several activities since the start of the year, including a training course on theatre with marionettes in November, she noted.

The ambassador shed light on the increasing number of Jordanians learning Spanish in the Kingdom.

“We were very pleased to learn that, in the last academic year, there was a 34 per cent increase of students in our cultural centre Instituto Cervantes: we detect a growing interest in Spanish in this country”. 

More than 600 students attend Instituto Cervantes. There are also 500 students of the Spanish language in the University of Jordan and 200 more in Al Albayt, she said.

Being aware of the growing interest in learning Spanish in Spain — and the need to consolidate and develop the collaboration with Jordanian educational institutions, especially with universities, Spain is determined to increase the number of scholarships.

“We expect the resumption of scholarships given to Jordanian students to pursue their studies in Spain to resume in the next two years.”

Regarding the crisis in Catalonia, she said Spain is a mature democracy with an open, diverse, tolerant and vibrant society.

“We have one of the most decentralised political systems in Europe,” she said.

“The rule of law is the backbone of every democracy. The very serious developments in Catalonia represent a unilateral breach of the social contract that Spain agreed on.

In addition to being illegal, it is also a misappropriation of the rights of the Catalans as a majority of them are not in favour of independence,” she said.

 

“Under the present constitution, Spain has enjoyed an unprecedented period of collective wellbeing, stability and social and economic progress. We are certain that we will overcome the crisis based on the strength of our democracy and the shared purpose to preserve our unity in our diversity,” she added.  

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