Interview: Anunciada Fernández de Córdova, ambassador of Spain
Ms de Córdova arrived in Slovenia in May 2009 and speaks of the country and its nature with the greatest passion. She is a career diplomat who has devoted much of her professional activity to culture and more recently, she has been trying very hard to promote Spain as a strong potential economic partner for Slovenia. She is credited with organising many events promoting all aspects of Spain including the Month of Spain as part of The European Capital of Culture in Maribor; an exhibition of the Spanish painters Clavé and Picasso; a concert by Paco de Lucía; a concert by the Spanish tenor José Carreras; and a friendly match between the Slovenian and Spanish basketball teams which opened the Stožice stadium.
First, congratulations on your win in the Guest Star Campaign where you won the Guest Star 2011 Award for Diplomacy from quite strong competition. What is your winning concept?
First I must say that all my opponents are very good and skilful diplomats, all three of them could have won. I think that just being a candidate, I was also a nominee last year, is recognition of good work. I´m very happy to have won this campaign, on a personal level of course this is a big honour for me but I want to stress that I´m also very happy professionally. The prize was for the Spanish Ambassador and all my work in Slovenia focusses on establishing the visibility of Spain. I want to put Spain on the map of Slovenia, I want that Spain is not just some “Španska vas” which is far away, unknown and distant. I think that this campaign and this award are very good for the promotion of Spain in every segment of Slovenian society.
Spain is well recognised in Slovenia in sport and tourism, every week Slovenian fans follow the legendary football clubs, Barcelona, Real and in summer, many Slovenians visit Spain... However, it seems in terms of economic cooperation we still have a long way to go. In Slovenia, the majority of companies and also the politics are still narrowly focussed toward our traditional markets of Italy, Germany Austria...
My main purpose is definitely promoting deeper economic cooperation. I think that we still don´t know enough about each other and maybe this is the main problem preventing broader cooperation. There are several fields where our cooperation can be increased considerably. One is the railways. Your network is very old, you must renovate it, your government is now dealing with that. Spain renovated it´s network in the last 15 years, it has modern technology, for example it is not generally known that Spain has the longest high speed rail network in Europe and the second longest in the world. Our technology has been installed in Canada, parts of Latin America and the world (most recently a high speed train to Mecca, Saudi Arabia). We know that Slovenia is traditionally oriented to Central and Eastern Europe but Spain definitely has a lot to offer Slovenia in infrastructure, renewable energy, solar energy and last but not least, tourism where Spain has a lot of experience, particularly in terms of creating tourist routes, combining different parts of a tourist offer into an attractive destination promotion.
How do you see the Slovenian way of solving the current crisis? In our case, it is more than obvious that we reacted too slowly on the structural problems. Do you see any similarities between Slovenia and Spain?
Definitely! There are several similarities, we had elections at almost the same time and we have new governments, both conservative and this is already a good basis for wider cooperation. The crisis is of course obvious, in both countries Slovenia and Spain, we are fighting the crisis inside the framework of the European Union and we are both ready to implement the necessary reforms. In the case of Spain, we had already introduced the golden rule into the constitution even before the fiscal compact at the level of EU was signed. We signed the fiscal compact and we must also not forget that we need growth which must be the main focus of all governments and the European Commission. The Spanish Government has adopted structural reforms in three important fields, finance, the labour market where we adopted some painful measures which are necessary and of course, fiscal reform to keep our deficit under control.
How do you see the process of deepening the Union, with the fiscal pact and further integration of policies, the EU is becoming more and more a political union. Do you expect that we will face some reservations or concerns from some countries that could lead to a two track EU, one track more politically integrated and the other just economically connected to the core of the Union?
I think that we have to stress the important fact that if you are able to overcome the difficult moments you will grow and become stronger. I think the EU is undertaking very big steps towards resolving the crisis. Of course, there are tough and difficult moments, but the EU is going forward, the EU is a reference in the world and we are more clearly speaking with one voice in international politics.
Do you think that maybe we are all too pessimistic as we face daily pessimism in all areas - politics, the economy, media... this, for some EU citizens, is just too depressing and creating doubt about the future of the Union?
Crisis definitely has the tendency to make people too pessimistic but I would say that we are not facing just pessimism but also healthy realism. For example, if you look at the case of Lehman Brothers which started the crisis. Nobody had a single doubt about their financial strength and the instability that triggered the disaster. Now we are facing the harsh reality, we must undertake painful measures, the crisis is obviously socially affecting many people across Europe. But Europe is a reference, a good example is the area of ex-Yugoslavia, Serbia became candidate recently, Macedonia is almost there and Croatia is almost in. Also your border problem with Croatia will obviously be settled much more easily in the framework of the European Union.
How do you see the role and the strength of the EU at the international level and in relation to the United States? Can, for example, the challenges in the Middle East and North Africa be the testing ground for the credibility and unity of European policy?
In that sense I think that Europe is an important moral reference. Having credible representatives such as President Van Rompuy or Lady Ashton, Europe has valid partners. As you know, Henry Kissinger said in the past “When I have to phone Europe, I don´t know which number to dial”. This is now very clear and everybody knows which number to dial. And if you look at Syria, the Palestinian issue or the environment for instance, you will see that Europe has a position.
In Slovenia this year we are hosting The European Capital of Culture and in March there was the Month of Spain. Do you think that this event is being used enough for general international promotion of the country and especially for expanding the economic potential of Slovenia? How do you see the potential of these big events?
The transformation of Barcelona through the Olympic Games was just amazing. I think that having a focus, having a reason to have a focus on you as The European Culture of Culture is a very good opportunity for increasing the visibility of the country. Of course, because of the crisis, everybody is experiencing funding problems and probably at the end of the year the responsible people will say that if they had the opportunity to start again, they would do some things differently and with more experience. I was really motivated and really wanted to have a Month of Spain as a part of The European Capital of Culture, so we made a huge effort, we used a lot of imagination and enthusiasm and we managed to present a really attractive programme for March, the Month of Spain, in Maribor. We wanted to stress the relationship between tradition and modernity, between urban and nature.
You came to Slovenia in 2009. How have you seen the development of Slovenia in this time?
I’ve gotten to know Slovenia more and more and the more I know it, the more I love it. It´s a beautiful country, the nature is amazing, the change of seasons I adore. I have very good Slovene friends. I spend my leisure time with Slovenian friends so I think I´m getting to know Slovenia from the inside. For me, the evolution in this time was very positive, personally I have had two books published here and this has been very satisfying for me, not just as Ambassador but also as a writer.
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