Spain, Colombia bolster bilateral ties with signing of 10 accords

Madrid, May 4 (EFE).- Spain and Colombia strengthened their bilateral relations on Thursday with the signing of 10 agreements in areas including transportation, renewable energies and information technology.

During his visit to the Iberian nation, Colombian President Gustavo Petro also won financial backing from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government for his administration’s ongoing peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Andean nation’s largest remaining guerrilla group.

Those agreements were signed during a meeting between the two leaders on Thursday in which the peace negotiations were one of the main items on the agenda.

Sanchez, despite announcing a 1-million-euro ($1.1-million) package this year to assist the process, did not, however, specifically commit to working to remove the ELN from the European Union’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

Petro had expressed that desire to Sanchez, hoping to leverage the fact Spain will hold the next presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2023.

Nevertheless, in remarks to reporters, the Spanish premier said that as the peace talks proceed and progress is made he will be prepared to convey the Colombian president’s requests to his European partners.

The Spanish prime minister also offered his support for the different reforms (health-care, labor, pension, tax and political) being pursued by Petro and stressed the important role of the bilateral accords signed Thursday, saying they would strengthen cooperation in different ambits.

He called attention in particular to one accord that will ease access to undergraduate studies abroad in both countries by facilitating the recognition of high-school degrees awarded in the students’ home country.

The prime minister also pointed to a financial protocol agreement aimed at defining areas of shared interest that could be focal points of cooperation projects.

Referring to that same protocol, Sanchez said Spain would contribute 1 billion euros toward financing projects involving Spanish companies in priority sectors in Colombia.

Additionally, the two leaders spoke about the importance of the EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit, which is scheduled for July 17-18 in Brussels after Spain has taken over the presidency of the Council of the EU.

Petro said he is hopeful it will not be just another gathering but instead a milestone in the relationship between the two regions.

The two leaders also discussed the need to overcome political deadlock in Venezuela, the search for solutions to immigration problems and the joint effort to combat climate change.

Prior to his meeting with Sanchez, Petro sat down with Spanish business leaders and urged them to invest in the tourism and clean-energy sectors in Colombia.

The Andean nation’s first leftist president said he wants to leverage Spain’s experience in tourism to transform that sector into one of the drivers of growth at this moment of Colombia’s transition to a green economy.

He also sought to sell Spanish companies on the “mutual benefits” to be reaped from their investments in clean energy in Colombia.

“It would be an opportunity for us and can be for whomever enters into partnership” with Colombia, Petro said, recalling that Spain has a stronger relationship with South America than other countries.

The Colombian president said the energy issue should be “front and center” at the next EU-CELAC summit and that Spain’s six-month presidency of the bloc can help promote that agenda between the two regions.

Spain plays a crucial role vis-a-vis Latin America within the EU, he said. “We’re not the same, but we’re similar. There’s an opportunity for you and for us.” EFE


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