In the latest edition of the radio programme 'De Cara al Mundo', on Onda Madrid, we were joined by Enrique Millo, Secretary General for External Action of the Andalusian Regional Government. Millo spoke about the institutional rapprochement between Andalusia and the United Arab Emirates following the visit of Majid al-Suwaidi, the Emirati ambassador. On the other hand, the Secretary General for External Action of the Andalusian Regional Government analysed the opportunity that this type of meeting represents for Andalusian businessmen.
Are you satisfied with the outcome of the Emirati ambassador's visit to Andalusia?
To be able to count on the presence of the UAE ambassador in Andalusia for four days has been a very positive experience for all of us. One of the main conclusions we have been able to draw is that it will not be the last time we are working with the United Arab Emirates. Andalusia plays a very important role in Spain's relations with the Arab world, so I can say that I am very satisfied overall with the work carried out during these days.
Have Andalusian businessmen taken note in order to present their projects in a timely manner?
During these days, throughout these visits, I have been able to see that the priority objective of the United Arab Emirates is to be able to channel its investments towards projects that are strategic for our country. Through this contact with the ambassador, we have been able to provide Andalusian companies with information on the objectives of the Emirates. During the meetings, interviews and visits to companies that the ambassador himself has been able to make, it has been clear to the businessmen that the ambassador came with very clear ideas, not with the intention of making a purely formal visit. Throughout these days, he has been analysing investment opportunities and strategic projects in sectors of interest to the Emirati country, which has allowed him to talk about food, technology, infrastructures, biomedicine, the aerospace sector and, in general terms, all the industry that flourishes in Andalusia, in addition to the more traditional and consolidated sectors. Andalusian businessmen have been taking note of this capacity to channel investment and be able to develop projects. I believe that we have seen great opportunities and I am sure that we will be able to consolidate concrete actions over time.
The cultural sphere played an important role in the visit. Once again, culture as an essential element for understanding between cultures.
This is fundamental. At the General Secretariat for External Action, we work with a vision that is closely linked to culture. In general, countries can be powerful for different reasons, because they have a strong economic muscle, because they have a large army, or because in matters of international geostrategy they have a specific mission. For us, culture is our great potential; we have historical roots and an extraordinary culture, and in relation to the Arab countries, we are united by many important issues. This cultural diplomacy that we develop from Acción Exterior de la Junta de Andalucía, allows us to use it as a platform, generating an ideal space that creates an atmosphere of trust and knowledge. In the same way, it also undoubtedly provides the possibility of collaborating economically in commercial and industrial areas. Through this type of action, such as the visit of the Emirati ambassador, a better capacity for economic growth is generated, creating employment and dedicating resources to the welfare state. Therefore, this visit has effectively demonstrated the importance and the weight that culture has in this function of improving understanding between different countries which, in this case, clearly correspond to different cultures.
Andalusia has two impressive jewels that the ambassador was fascinated by: the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada.
Of course, to be able to mix such important elements as meetings with businessmen through our public company, with knowledge, through our Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, an unprecedented foundation in the whole of Europe, which is formed precisely to promote dialogue, understanding and peace between the countries of the Mediterranean, made up of the three cultures and the three monotheistic religions: Jews, Muslims and Christians working together, which the ambassador was very interested in because there is nothing like it in the rest of the world, while at the same time being able to visit these jewels: the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, the Alcazar of Seville or the Alhambra in Granada, nobody can deny that they form an extraordinary context. All of this is particularly conducive to dialogue, generating a climate of trust, knowledge through culture and strengthening ties that will benefit us all. In this case, as I mentioned earlier, Andalusia plays a role of proximity, of historical roots of knowledge, trust and friendship with the Arab world, which greatly favours Spain's interests as a whole.
You mentioned the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, the ambassador stressed the importance of promoting inter-religious dialogue and having concrete options for cooperation with the Foundation...
Absolutely, it was very satisfying for us to listen to him. The Emirati ambassador is a knowledgeable man in the economic sphere, as he comes from the economic and business world of the Emirates. Moreover, we were also pleasantly surprised by the speech he made within the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, the way in which we coincide in such important objectives of inter-religious dialogue, the promotion of peace and knowledge between different cultures. We have therefore found an interlocutor there to continue working along this path, and he also spoke to us about an Islamic foundation that works with precisely the same objectives, with this open mentality of dialogue and knowledge. We are going to work on formalising a bilateral collaboration agreement between Andalusia and the Emirates, through these foundations, and the ambassador himself found it very interesting. Given that we are going to coincide with the Universal Exhibition in Dubai in February 2022, where Andalusia is going to have a week dedicated to the international projection of Andalusia and knowledge of its customs, traditions, culture and also its economic and commercial sphere, we will probably be able to take advantage of this. This scenario, the Spanish Pavilion during Andalusian Week, was set up in order to be able to formalise agreements that have a direct concrete expression of the work carried out.
One last question to conclude, is Andalusia key to Spain's relations with Arab countries?
This is a good conclusion to what we have discussed in this interview. Andalusia plays a key geostrategic role within Spain. Firstly, because it is the gateway between Europe and the African continent, we have North Africa 14 kilometres from the coast, and for many other reasons in which we are connected, in the cultural sphere, the economy, security, and so on. There are extremely important elements in which Andalusia plays an important role with Morocco, which is our first border, but also with all the countries of the Mediterranean, of the three shores, not only of Europe, but also of North Africa and the Middle East. Because of those historical roots that we share, that form part of the history of our people, of our country, of those 800 years of Arab presence in Spain. All of this forms a context in which Andalusia is unquestionably a key tool for Spain in promoting relations with Arab countries for the benefit of the general interest and the common good of all, as the Spanish Government's own Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees and recognises. We have thus established a permanent working relationship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this purpose. Andalusia's strategic role and our work are placed at the disposal of Spain's general interests.