Written by Current Affairs

Spanish Ambassador: Albania brings strategic value and benefits to the EU at a crucial point in history

These were the remarks by the Ambassador of Spain in Albania, Álvaro Renedo Zalba, on the occasion of the National Day of Spain.

On behalf of Spain, I earnestly welcome the new phase in Albania’s EU integration process, of strategic importance for Albania and for the EU as a whole. We live in an age of spectacular strides for humanity, but also of grave crises and looming threats to our security and well-being; as well as exacerbated great power competition.

The EU – along with an increasingly European NATO –are our main frameworks for effectively defending our security, upholding our interests and values, and jointly addressing the challenges of our time. I am firmly convinced that EU integration will contribute decisively to making Albania’s society more prosperous, its economy more competitive, and its institutions more resilient. I am also convinced of the strategic added value that Albania brings to the European Union.

Albania’s key geostrategic position as a Mediterranean gateway to the Western Balkans, its active role in NATO, its leadership within the UN Security Council, the vibrant energy of its society, the dynamism of its youth portrayed in Tirana as European Youth Capital, the constructive regional approach of its foreign policy, its interconfessional harmony … these and other factors underline the strategic benefits that Albania will provide to the EU as a whole, as I see it, at a crucial point in history.

As we look towards the future and roll up our sleeves for the hard work ahead, I would
like to express Spain’s encouragement and support to Albania for giving momentum to her reform process –the main driving force of EU enlargement.

As Spanish poet Antonio Machado once wrote, “Se hace camino al andar” (We make our path by walking).

The Prime Minister of Spain, during his historic visit to Tirana in August, stated that Albania can count on Spain as its friend, as we walk, together, down our shared path of European integration. Spain will hold, for the fifth time, the Presidency of the Council of the EU throughout the second semester of 2023.

We will work tirelessly to further the works within the EU Council and live up to the mammoth challenges we face, in the age of the greatest interdependence and globalisation in history.

An age which began, arguably, on the specific date which we are commemorating today: October 12th, when Christopher Columbus, at the behest of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, Fernando and Isabel discovered America and ushered in an unprecedented era of global exchanges.

This milestone for humanity coincided with the process of national unification in Spain. The unification enabled the Spanish monarchy to become, from the late 15th century, one of the most extensive and complex political constructs in history.

For centuries, Spain marked decisively the course of history, uniting continents and oceans, building bridges between civilizations; and thus contributing, to no small degree, to the emergence of globalisation. The silver peso, transported across the Atlantic and the Pacific, became the first global currency, facilitating the development of an international economic system.
The introduction of agricultural technologies and new crops from both sides of the Atlantic
helped to feed the world. Cultures came closer to each other: For example, it was a Spanish friar who finished, in the city of Fu-Zhou, the first Chinese grammatical study written by a westerner.

All the while, a group of Spanish scholars known as the school of Salamanca laid the foundations of public international law and human rights. Cervantes showed us in Don Quijote de la Mancha that, sometimes, dreams deemed impossible, are nonetheless worth pursuing.

Velazquez inspired entire generations of painters across the world with las meninas and other masterpieces. Goya depicted the lights and shadows of the European enlightenment. And the Spanish language forged an everlasting link between peoples and cultures in different hemispheres.

As a Spaniard and a European, as the ambassador of Spain to Albania, I feel that these timeless contributions to shaping global history remain today ever compelling. 500 million people across the world are currently native Spanish speakers. Spanish culture is truly global, as our language is the second most spoken mother tongue in the world, after mandarin, and the third most used language on the internet.

As the fourth largest economy in the EU, we contribute resolutely to the deepening of European integration; to a strengthened and enlarged NATO, in the wake of the Madrid Summit; and to effective multilateral diplomacy through the UN and its specialised organisations, the G20, NATO, CELAC, OSCE, OECD, the Council of Europe, and, more recently, the European political community, among others.

Spain is a world leader in tourism, having received pre-Covid 85 million visits per year – a figure that comes close to doubling Spain’s population. Spain has notable global projection also in sports: records set by Rafael Nadal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and this year’s Eurobasket gold medal are just a few examples; although, it must be said that Albania’s impressive national football team put up a seriously good fight when Spain last played them in march.

Last but not least, Spanish gastronomy is also known throughout the world, and, in a similar way to Albania’s extraordinary cuisine, it reflects the different cultures and traditions that make Spain the unique nation it is today.

In sum, Spain is a European and Mediterranean country, a member of the Latin American community, a bridge between Europe and America, and a nation with a global outlook. The daunting challenges international society faces today require concerted action on a global scale. Spain will pursue, responsibly and relentlessly, in the light of our history and our culture, such concerted action, more necessary than ever.

As we honour the national day of Spain, I thank wholeheartedly Albania and all of the friends here today, for your support in contributing to this common purpose of paramount importance for humanity.

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