The president of the Spanish Government and the United States met this Friday at the White House with the intention of deepening bilateral relations between the two countries. At the beginning of the meeting in the Oval Office and after greeting the press, Pedro Sánchez praised Joe Biden’s “commitment to democratic values”. “It is an example for everyone,” said Sánchez, who added that “in this context, Spain and the United States share common values.” “Our relations are excellent, we are stable allies and friends,” he said.
The president wanted to emphasize that these relations are especially close in matters such as “science or investment” or the defense of human rights. “The world needs a president of the United States who is committed to fair fights like you do and you can count on Spain for this,” said the Prime Minister in relation to issues such as “gender equality or the rights of LGTBI people” .
Before, Joe Biden had briefly taken the floor to recognize the work of Spain on issues such as migratory movements. “Both countries face the challenge of immigration and you are doing a great job in this regard,” said Biden, who promised to work closely with the Spanish presidency of the European Union, scheduled for the second half of the year.
The President of the United States also had words of appreciation regarding the role played by the government of Pedro Sánchez in Ukraine: “I cannot thank you enough for your outstanding support for Ukraine and your leadership among allies,” he extolled.
After a 45-minute private meeting, Pedro Sánchez appeared before the media to take stock of the meeting and to list some of the issues discussed, such as the war in Ukraine, the management of migratory movements, or issues of Spanish interest such as the conflict of the tariffs on black olives or the withdrawal of land contaminated by plutonium in Palomares.
Without going into detail about the agreements, the Spanish president did advance close positions in the shipment of new warships by the United States to the Rota (Cádiz) base, a principle of collaboration between NASA and the new Spanish Aerospace Agency for Seville or the attempt to solve the tariff conflict inherited from the Trump administration. “I have found receptivity for leaving this point of friction behind,” Sánchez limited himself to commenting on the obstacles to the export of Spanish black olives.
Regarding migration, Pedro Sánchez was pleased that both countries have “a very similar vision on how to deal with irregular migration.” “The best way to build a migration system that is respectful of human rights and against the mafias that traffic is to promote positive incentives for regular migration,” he stated. Regarding collaboration with the United States, he did not want to quantify when, how, or how many migrants with refugee status Spain will welcome from the United States. “This is a resettlement program for people with refugee status based on the needs of the labor market. We cannot establish the number because it will depend on what the Spanish labor market needs, ”he explained.
The president also explained that during the meeting with Biden they devoted a good part of the time to the situation in Ukraine. “The end that we envision of this invasion is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian soil. We would be wrong if a peace were achieved against the criteria of Ukraine. We need to return to the world a global order based on rules and where the principles of territorial integrity, national sovereignty and the freedom of peoples to decide their future are respected”, he defended.
This Friday was Sánchez’s first visit to the White House since he became president and the second bilateral meeting with Joe Biden. The two governments have shown good harmony since the beginning of their relationship, since their agendas are aligned in folders such as the ecological and digital transition, social democratic economic measures and active policies in defense of the rights of women and the LGTBI community. . In addition, they are united by the fact that both governments have before them an extreme right that is totally willing to go back on rights such as abortion or persecute trans people.
From an economic point of view, the United States is the leading investor in Spain, as well as the main destination for Spanish investment abroad, so it is an absolutely strategic relationship for the interests of our country.
Migration: the hot potato of both countries
The two leaders are also united by the difficulties in migration management at their southern borders, a central issue at the meeting this Friday, for which they reached an important agreement at the end of April: Spain has promised to host a part of the migrants from Latin America who process their asylum application in the processing centers that the US is building in Colombia and Guatemala.
Both countries are responding to the border situation with a mixture of lockdown, iron fist and negotiation. In the case of the US, this morning Title 42 has expired, the sanitary norm that has allowed in the last three years to expedite the expulsion of migrants. This fact has caused the arrival of thousands of people to places like Ciudad Juárez, where the shelters are overflowing, with the intention of crossing the Rio Grande to the US. And the response of the Biden Administration has been to shield the border and deny the possibility of asylum to anyone who has not requested it from another country.
For its part, a year ago Spain took a historic turn in its position with respect to Western Sahara, its former colony, in order to reduce the clandestine arrival of migrants from Morocco.
More US military in Spain
The first bilateral meeting between the two presidents took place last June, coinciding with the NATO summit in Madrid, and already then they reached an important agreement that materialized this week: the US will expand its military presence in Spain, with two new destroyers missile launchers in Rota, which will be added to the four already present at the base located in Cádiz.
This was announced this Monday by the Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, together with the US ambassador to Spain, by signing a joint document explaining that the first destroyer will arrive in the country in 2024 and a specific date has not yet been defined. for the second. According to the document that signs the agreement, the objectives of this collaboration are “to contribute significantly to regional stability and security in Africa, Europe and the Middle East”, as well as to the “ballistic missile defense system of the Atlantic Alliance”. .
This increase in ships is given “at the request of the United States”, whose government “commits that any increase in US military or civilian personnel” derived from the agreement “be carried out without exceeding the total level of authorized permanent personnel.” In other words, the US will not be able to exceed the established maximum of 4,250 soldiers and 1,000 civilians at the Rota base. The four ships that currently operate in this location in Cádiz have 1,200 crew members and the two new ones, of the Arleigh Burke class, will add 300 crew members each, increasing the figure to 1,800.
The increase in troops in Spanish territory was authorized by the Council of Ministers on January 17 and, on this occasion, it will not go through the approval of the Congress of Deputies, unlike in previous cases, since it does not modify “neither the missions nor types of forces or maximum force levels” currently authorized in the Defense Cooperation Agreement.
This agreement was signed between the two countries in December 1988 for eight years. Subsequently, it was extended until 2021, and from then on it is automatically extended each year if neither party challenges the agreement, which is currently in force until May 2024.
Sánchez landed in Washington on Thursday to participate in the award ceremony of the Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic to Nancy Pelosi, former president of the United States House of Representatives, at the Residence of the Spanish ambassador in Washington and before become this Friday the sixth president of the democracy to visit the White House. The last time, in 2017, Mariano Rajoy did it in the days of Donald Trump. “Today I am proud to welcome our close partner and allied president of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, to the White House. I hope to deepen the historic ties between our nations,” the US president launched on his social networks by way of welcome.
The Spanish president was invited by Joe Biden coinciding with the start of the 28M electoral campaign. In the Moncloa they counted on receiving the call for that meeting taking into account that it will be Spain who will be in charge of the presidency of the European Union in the second half of the year, although the exact moment of the appointment was unknown until it was officially produced. communication on April 19.