22 Feb 2011

Spanish Ambassador to Russia Juan Antonio March: It‘s time that Russian and Spain rediscover each other

Spanish Ambassador to Russia Juan Antonio March in an interview with has spoken about the upcoming visit of King Juan Carlos of Spain to Russia, facilitation of visa procedures, as well as prospects for Spain‘s involvement in preparations of 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Question: Mr. Ambassador I would like to start the interview with the current state of affairs and prospects of Russian-Spanish bilateral relations. What is your assessment of them?

Answer: Well, bilateral relations have developed very intensively in the last years, because the world is changing very quickly and those who are a part of what we can call a larger Europe, we have to renew our relationships, open new opportunities for our citizens. Obviously, Spain and Russia have a very good understanding on many issues, and what is the most important is that both nations are very interested in having more contacts. Russian citizens like Spain a lot, and Spanish citizens like Russia a lot. So, what we have tried is to make things easier for more contacts between our people. I think we are progressing on this.

Q.: You mean facilitation of visa procedures?

A.: Spain is committed to the visa facilitation [process]. Spain also considers that there should be no visas. We think that people of ‘good faith‘ on both sides should move without difficulties in both spaces. This also means progress fr om Russia. Nowadays when a European citizen comes to Russia, he has to register, when he moves fr om a city he has to register again to inform of his wider moving. We think that the situation should be identical. Russians when they go to the Schengen space move totally freely. They can go to Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Brussels without saying why they are going there, wh ere they are going to stay, what they are going to do. Nothing. They are allowed to be 90 days, and they should keep public order, to behave well. And that is the same obligation that European citizens have. If they fulfill these two conditions, they can move freely. We think the same should happen to European citizens coming into Russia. The two conditions should be the maximum time they are allowed to stay and respect to public order. But if they are going to stay 10 days St. Petersburg, five days in Kursk, or six days in Vladivostok, they should move freely. So, I think this should go in that direction.

Q.: Is Spain ready to give as many multi-entry visas to Russian?

A.: Yes. We are very happy to welcome all Russian citizens of ‘good faith‘. So, we think that if they like the country it is important that they have also a possibility to come to us as many times as they like. What we are going to develop is to give multiple-entry visas for six months and if they have used them well, we will give next time a one-year multi-entry visa. And if they use them well again, we will give a three-year multi-entry visa. What dies it mean ‘to use well‘? It means that if they say that they go to Spain, they go Spain. We have a principle in the European Union that each member state gives visa for Russian citizens that ask to go that country. If they say that they want to go to Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, we check flight tickets first and then we trust people. What is the problem? If they do not do what they say, next time when they will come for renovation, they will have no renovation. If they do it well, then after six months they will have a one-year [visa]. If they say, we go very often to Spain and we need one-year multiple entry visas, and then after one year they come with their passports and there a lot of entries in Spain, we will give three-year multiple visas. What people have to understand is that this is based on trust.

Q.: Do you expect the same steps from the Russian side?

A.: We would like the same steps from the Russian side, Because, you see, you have a marvelous country, and Spain is very interested in this country. They also like to travel and discover the great diversity. It is a good thing to give the same treatment to Spaniards in Russia. They have a lot of difficulties to come here and [we would like] that they can prepare their trips without all these difficulties, I mean administrative barriers.

Q.: We are talking ahead of the visit by His Majesty King Juan Carlos. What is his program here in Russia? Does he have a great accompanying delegation?

A.: His Majesty is coming here to open the Year of Spain in Russia and Russia in Spain. This will be the first time in history that Spain is honored with this distinction. The Year of Spain in Russia is not only cultural. It is the year of Spain and Russia in general. So, we have culture, economy, science, education, connection between societies, and many other things. The King is coming and we will have a very important working program: he will have a dinner with President Medvedev and some ministers wh ere he will discuss very intensively relationships between Spain and Russia, there be an opening of an exhibition in the Hermitage. That is going to be the most important exhibition that the Prado Museum has ever done in Russia in history. That is going to be a fantastic exhibition of more than 60 top painting of the Prado Museum coming to Russia. And they be reciprocated with a top exhibition that the Hermitage will do at the Prado Museum in November. Then there will be also a very important meeting with businessmen, top presidents of Spanish and Russian companies, and this rencontre will be co-presided by President Medvedev and the King of Spain. He is accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs, of industry, trade, tourism, energy and the minister of culture.

Q.: Will he attend only St. Petersburg?

A.: This time he will attend only St. Petersburg. We will have a very important meeting in Moscow on March 28. We will do two important things in Moscow. There will be a really big conference of rectors of universities of Russia and Spain, and also there will be a great exhibition on Spain in Manezh on March 28 that we call ‘Spain Today. To Live and Renovate‘. And we think that may be some members of the royal family will also come. Then President Sapatero is coming to St. Petersburg on June 18. He will be a special guest for the St. Petersburg Forum. So, as you see our relationships are growing.

Q.: In what spheres do these relations need an impetus to give?

A.: We only need time and the full involvement of societies. Both countries, Russia and Spain, have asserted parallelism. In the last 20 years both countries are making great renovations. So, in these years Spain was concentrated on Europe, the EU and Latin America in the modernization of the economy, and the same, Russia was very concentrated on renovation of society, economy, so both have been concentrated on particular []. Now it is the moment they can look at different spaces. Spain now can think more globally. We can now think not only [in terms] of the EU and Latin America, but also Russia, China and India. And Russia can begin to think not only about its immediate space, that is the CIS countries, but also going into new and important relationships with countries that traditionally had not very tender relations, for example Spain. It is the moment to rediscover both countries. And what I think is the importance of the Year of Spain and Russia that gives assignment to people in the economy, culture, science and education to say let‘s work together and discover the potential of these relationships.

Q.: Are you satisfied with the state of affairs in the economic sphere?

A.: This sphere is growing. What we are interested in is the perspective. It is very important to know if you go for increasing speed or you go for decreasing speed, that is the tendency. You can have a very important relationship, but if something goes in the wrong way, then the future will not be very bright. If you have something maybe limited but that can go for great perspective and you put the work together, in short time you will have very important relationships. And we are at this stage. We have Spanish companies that have invested here and are working very seriously here. Some have factories here. Some have high employment. Spanish companies are here and are giving an assignment to other Spanish companies that this is the country interesting to work with. Now we are going to have like 25 top presidents of Spanish companies coming to St. Petersburg, and the assignment is let‘s go to work in various areas: transport, energy and etc.

Q.: Is Spain going to help Russia in some infrastructural projects to prepare the soccer World Cup?

A.: We will be very happy to participate in this effort. We are very strong in football, and we were very lucky to win the world championship in 2010. May be we will bring the World Cup to the exhibition in Manezh. May be there will be some football players to sign some things. So, in football we are very strong, and we have new huge stadiums in Madrid, Barcelona with seats for 100,000 people. So, we are very strong in this area and we can do things together.

Q.: Russia is a little bit weak…

A.: Russia is always very powerful, so I have no doubt that things will go very well. So, it will be pleasure for us to collaborate.

Q.: What is your assessment of Russia-Spanish treaty on military transit?

A.: We have an extremely good collaboration with Russia. We have concluded this agreement. I think that it is very important for all of us to get stability in Afghanistan. This is important for all Western countries and particularly for Russia. Obviously, we are very interested in the development of Afghanistan, stability and prosperity there. I think all of us have the same goal. It is very positive that we are all able to collaborate.

Q.: How would you describe prospects of Russia-NATO relations?

A.: Well, the Lisbon summit was very good. I think that the developments in this area of strategic issues is progressing well. There are good relationships between the United States and Russia. Now I think it is time for technicians also to discuss technical questions of how protection system have developed, how command decision are taken. Lisbon was only a few months ago, so we need a little bit of time for experts and officials who are responsible for these areas to work and develop a day-to-day mechanism.

Q.: What could you say about Russian mafia in Spain. Do you face a threat from it, or do you co-exist with it?

A.: I think in each country you have 99.5 people of ‘good faith‘ and may be 0.5 people who are in the rough side. I think we should treat Russia as a powerful country in science, culture with very cultivated people, with the desire of the population to progress and be positive in world, this is how we have to see Russia. The fact that there are Russian citizens that are also criminals, there are also many citizens of many other countries that are also criminals, and for them we have Interpol, which is the connection of all police, because we have people of many countries that are not on the right side. I think that we have not to exaggerate this problem. It is important for the Russian people to behave as best as possible. Spain is very committed to legality. We have judiciary system that work totally independently from the political power. The country is safe, and people are very happy to come to Spain because public order is well kept in a very democratic way. So, people have to understand that if they come to Spain, they should be respectful of all laws and all the Spanish habitudes. And if they behave without respect to the laws, then they will have all actions of police and judges against them. This is how it works in Spain.