By Jose Miguel Blanco
Quito, Aug 25 (EFE).- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez intends to lay the groundwork to take advantage of the “unique opportunity” in the next few years to tighten relations and cooperation between the European Union and Latin America.
Sanchez on Thursday was in Ecuador on the second leg of his Latin American tour – which already has taken him to Colombia and will also include Honduras – and during his meeting with Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso he delivered the same message that he had transmitted to Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday.
The Spanish PM’s analysis is that the relationship between the EU and the Latin American region still has enormous potential and it is necessary to push forward with it taking into account the various geopolitical circumstances around the world.
In that regard, he said that Spain can play a key role in bringing both regions closer together, adding that he believes that there are milestones ahead that will facilitate achieving that objective.
To the Ecuadorian leader, Sanchez reiterated that Spain, during its rotating presidency of the European Union during the second half of 2023, will do its utmost to push forward with that collaboration, one milestone for that being the summit of European, Latin American and Caribbean leaders that Spain will host.
In addition to that conclave, he mentioned the significance he believes several upcoming events will have: namely, the upcoming Latin American and Caribbean summit at the end of this year, the Ibero-American summit to be held in the Dominican Republic in March 2023 and another such summit that will take place in Ecuador the following year.
“This calendar is a unique opportunity to relaunch the role of Latin American on the international stage and to emphasize Spain’s commitment to that effort given its deeply European vocation,” said Sanchez during his appearance with Lasso after their meeting at Carondelet Palace.
In addition to the desire to continue strengthening political ties, the economic area was also given special emphasis during the Spanish leader’s visit, and before their meeting both he and Lasso had attended a business forum in which representatives of some 300 companies in the two countries participated.
Before that gathering Sanchez guaranteed that Spanish businesses will continue increasing their investments in Ecuador.
“One invests where one has confidence,” said Sanchez, who emphasized Ecuador’s legal security framework and noted that the roughly 100 Spanish firms who have established themselves in Ecuador are generating some 20,000 direct jobs.
Lasso, too, called for increasing Spanish investment in his country during his remarks at that forum.
“I invite you to invest in an Ecuador that generates confidence, that has excellent (economic) indicators, peace and true democracy,” he said before promising to strengthen legal security and adding that he was certain that in September his country will be ready to sign a new bilateral accord on investments.
The two governments promised in the very near future to launch a dialogue process that will deal preventively with potential business and investment controversies that may arise.
Lasso thanked Spain for its support in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic by donating to his country 1.6 million vaccine doses and also for backing Ecuador’s aspiration to have its citizens exempted from having to acquire Schengen visas for short stays in Spain.
Meanwhile, Sanchez praised Ecuador’s management of migration and emphasized that the country, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has aligned itself with the majority of the international community in rejecting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lasso commented that he had presented Sanchez with a hat after the one he had taken to Madrid during his official visit turned out not to be the Spanish leader’s size. On that occasion, he also gifted Sanchez with a basketball, given the Spaniard’s love of that sport.
After their remarks, the two leaders made a brief tour of Quito’s historic city center – which has received Spanish cooperative financing for its rehabilitation and refurbishment – and also visited the Society of Jesus Church.
That area of the capital is considered to be the best-preserved historic city center in all of Latin America.
Sanchez’s agenda in Ecuador – on the first visit by a Spanish PM to the South American country in more than 20 years – is to conclude with a meeting with the Spanish civilian contingent residing in the country, and when the official events are over he will fly to Tegucigalpa on the last leg of his Latin American tour.