Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Cardin, February 15-17, Spain

Published: Mon 8 Feb 2010 03:28 PM
DE RUEHMD #0162/01 0391528
R 081528Z FEB 10
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) Summary: Embassy Madrid welcomes the February 15-17 visit of
Codel Cardin to Spain. U.S.-Spain relations are strong and based on
shared global interests, including our association in NATO, the
fight against terrorism, and growing economic ties. Spaniards are
enthusiastic about President Obama, and President Zapatero's desire
for closer bilateral relations and enhanced engagement is reflected
in GOS stances on Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Counter-terrorism and
law enforcement cooperation is strong, and business ties are
increasing. End summary.
Political and Economic Context
2. (SBU) Zapatero came to the Presidency in 2004 and won re-election
in 2008, but the story since then has been the erosion in his
popularity because of the long recession and rising unemployment.
His center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) is seven
seats shy of a congressional majority and fared poorly in regional
and European Parliament elections in 2009. Polls indicate the main
opposition party -- the center-right Popular Party or PP -- would
win an election held today. Zapatero is not expected to hold
another general election until the spring of 2012.
3. (U) Spain grew much faster than the EU average over the 15 years
through 2007 and now has the world's 9th largest economy. The rapid
growth was driven by a housing boom that ended in 2007, after which
the world economic crisis aggravated the economy's woes. Spain has
been in recession for almost two years. The economy is to be the
last large economy to begin to recover, and the eventual recovery is
expected to be sluggish. Unemployment, now over 19 percent, is
expected to pass 20 percent this year. The GOS has responded with a
major fiscal stimulus. This has boosted the budget deficit above 11
percent of GDP, and the GOS will have to limit spending
significantly between now and 2013 to meet EU deficit requirements.
In recent days, financial markets have driven down the value of
Spanish debt, apparently because of concern that the government will
not be able to address its budget difficulties. Zapatero's
government is working to reorient Spain's economy towards more
sustainable sectors, with renewable energy a key priority. Spain,
the tenth largest foreign investor in the U.S., is especially active
in wind and solar power, banking, and road construction. The U.S.
is also a major investor in Spain.
EU Presidency
4. (U) Spain's presidency of the Council of the EU gives Zapatero an
opportunity to emphasize an international role to counter the
negative domestic economic situation. However, Spain's role is
constrained by the need to adjust to the new roles of EU President
Van Rompuy and High Representative Ashton. The GOS has also been
stung by foreign press criticism that Spain's economic difficulties
disqualify it from helping lead EU economic recovery efforts.
Spain's stated priorities for its presidency are: full
implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon; promoting economic recovery
and sustainable growth across Europe and launching the EU 2020
strategy for growth and jobs; strengthening the EU's foreign policy
to make the EU truly a global player; and fostering Europe of rights
and freedoms for its citizens.
5. (SBU) Spain was eager to host a U.S.-EU summit as the centerpiece
of its Presidency and was disappointed to learn recently that this
would not happen. Nevertheless, the GOS is stressing the strength
of U.S. ties to Spain and Europe and the important agenda we share.
6. (SBU) We are emphasizing that there was no hidden message in the
decision regarding a summit. The U.S. never agreed to such a summit
(unfortunately, the GOS had publicly announced the dates implying
they were agreed). The decision was based on the President's very
busy agenda and had nothing to do with the importance the U.S.
attaches to Spain or Europe. The U.S. has no more important
relationship than the one it enjoys with Europe, and Spain is an
important and valued ally. The President traveled to Europe six
times last year and met twice with Zapatero in the last year.
Zapatero spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast February 4. The
President will receive King Juan Carlos at the White House February
7. (SBU) Spain remains a target for Islamic extremists. Top
al-Qaida leaders routinely call for the recapture of the former
Muslim-controlled region they still call "al-Andalus." Spain
suffered one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in European history
on March 11, 2004, when Islamic extremists carried out the Madrid
train bombings. Spain has also been combating domestic terror from
the Basque group ETA for more than 40 years. Although ETA remains a
threat, cooperation with French and Portuguese authorities have
yielded numerous successes against ETA in recent years. GOS
officials value close counter-terrorism cooperation with the U.S.
and, within the EU, have been proponents of information sharing.
The GOS has also been supportive on enhanced airline security
Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Security Cooperation
--------------------------------------------- ----
8. (U) Spain operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team in
Afghanistan with about 1,000 troops participating in ISAF. Zapatero
recently announced he would seek congressional authorization to send
another 511 troops to Afghanistan along with 40 civilian police
trainers. Spain has suffered nearly 90 causalities in Afghanistan,
most in two serious aviation mishaps. The GOS has also said it will
take five Guantanamo detainees to assist the U.S. in closing the
detention facility. In both cases, Zapatero has faced public
criticism that he has subordinated Spain's interest to President
Obama's. Spain also allows us the use of two military bases, Rota
(which you will visit) and Moron, which are crucial transit points
between the U.S. and Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iran, the Middle East, and Union for the Mediterranean
9. (SBU) Spain supports EU initiatives on Iranian non-proliferation.
It recognizes the threat from the Iranian nuclear program and is
concerned about the human rights violations in Iran. Spain hopes a
strong, new UN Security Council Resolution will emerge on Iran, but
the GOS recognizes the need for enhanced sanctions in any case and
has expressed a desire to work closely with the U.S. on this issue.
10. (SBU) Spain is an active diplomatic player in the Near East and
supports U.S. peace efforts. Spain has a good relationship with
Syria and with the Palestinian Authority. It has also worked in
recent months to improve its chemistry with the Government of Israel
and hopes PM Netanyahu will visit during Spain's EU Presidency.
This has much to do with FM Moratinos' experience in the region as
EU Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process. Spain has over
1,000 troops in the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and recently took
command of that mission.
11. (U) Spain is a strong supporter of the Union for the
Mediterranean and is working toward a summit in June in Barcelona.
Moratinos warned recently that preparing such a summit was difficult
because of the complicated situation in the Middle East.
Maghreb and the Sahel
12. (SBU) The importance of these regions has been increasing for
Spain because of terrorism, illegal immigration, and narcotics
trafficking. The still unresolved November 2009 kidnapping in
Mauritania by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) of three
Spanish NGO aid workers has garnered wide attention here and been a
vivid reminder of the threat from AQIM.
13. (SBU) In 2006 the maritime flow of illegal immigrants headed to
Spain rose dramatically, with the Canary Islands being a principal
destination. A sustained law enforcement response has reduced the
flow. Members of the National Police and Civil Guard are engaged in
security assistance and liaison programs with several countries in
Africa (Morocco, Cape Verde, Senegal, and Mauritania). Spain has
increased its diplomatic engagement in West Africa in part to
safeguard repatriation arrangements for illegal immigrants.
14. (SBU) Spain remains a principal entry, transshipment, and
consumption zone for the large quantities of South American cocaine
and Moroccan cannabis destined for European consumer markets, and is
also a major source and transit location for drug proceeds returning
to South and Central America. West African traffickers play an
increasingly important role in this trade. Spanish cooperation with
DEA is strong.
15. (SBU) On Western Sahara, there is strong public support in Spain
for Polisario and the Sahrawis. The GOS, as a former occupying
power in what is now Western Sahara, takes a neutral position,
calling for continued discussions over the long term. The GOS
supports regional consultations by the UNSYG's envoy.
Somali Piracy
16. (SBU) Somali piracy has been a major issue for the Spanish, with
two Spanish boats taken and ransomed in 2008 and 2009. The issue
has caused much embarrassment to the GOS because of its perceived
powerlessness in the face of the pirates. The Spanish have played a
prominent role in the EU's anti-piracy operation (Atalanta) and have
offered to lead an EU training mission for Somali security forces.
Personal Security
17. (U) In general, Spain is safe. However, Madrid and other large
cities attract a large number of criminals and pickpockets, and
frequent crimes of opportunity against the unwary do occur. It is
best to carry only essential items, including a photocopy of your
passport's photo page. Visitors can protect themselves against
crime by being street-smart, alert, and aware of their surroundings.
Travelers are encouraged to review the most recent Worldwide
Caution issues by the Department of State. As the Department of
State continues to develop information on any potential security
threats to Americans overseas, it shares credible threat information
through its Consular Information Program, available on the Internet
at http://travel/
Additional information regarding safety and security in Spain is
available on the U.S. Department of State's website
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