Jose Jorrin: Possibilities to Go to Spain Are Always Open

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | October 9, 2002, Wednesday // 00:00

H.E Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin has been Spain's Ambassador to Bulgaria since 2001. He was Spain's Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1997 to 2001. Before that he worked as deputy director of Western Europe at the Foreign Office. He also worked as a diplomat in Caracas, Venezuela, Peru and the Netherlands. H.E Jorrin is a law graduate who started his diplomatic career in 1974.

H.E Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin met Martina Iovcheva on the occasion of Spain's national holiday.

Q: Spain celebrates its national holiday October 12th. How will Spain mark the holiday?

A: In 1492, this is five centuries ago; two very important events took place for Spain. First of all in the beginning of the year, Spain reached its national unity in January and became a modern state, as we know it today with union of all the different kingdoms that were inside the Iberian Peninsula except Portugal. On 12th of October 1492 Spanish expedition led by Christopher Columbus discovered America. In the same year, in which Spain reached national unity, Spain gave birth to one of the most incredible adventures in history, which is certainly the discovery and colonizing of a new continent. That is what we celebrate because that feature is in the essence and in the deepest personality of the Spanish history and the Spanish population.

This is our national holiday and it is non-labor day, of course. Usually, there are ceremonies in all Spanish capitals and usually there is also a military parade.

Q: How will the Spanish Embassy in Sofia celebrate October 12th?

A: Usually, here in Sofia, the Embassy offers a big reception, cocktail for all the Spanish people who are here in Bulgaria as well as for the government, Bulgarian society and the diplomatic corps. This year it will take place on 14th of October, Monday.

Q: On Saturday Spain celebrates its day of unity. However, one of Spain's most serious domestic problems continues to be tension in northern Basque region. How could this problem be solved? What measures does the Spanish government take?

A: The problem in the Basque country is a problem created by a terrorist band. Spain is a very specific sort of country. Our present constitutional arrangement recognizes that we are plural nationalist estate and we are divided in many autonomous regions, in which specificities and particularities through history have been recognized. In this sense, the Basque country has the highest level of autonomy of any region not only in Spain but also in the whole of Europe - their language, personality, history is respected and recognized. The problem is that this terrorist band is working for secession in a fascist way to create a totalitarian regime there.

We are suffering this terrorism for more than twenty-five years or thirty years and we are trying to fight it with tools of the state - the rule of law and democracy. That is why while respecting the freedoms, while respecting dialogue and tolerance, we are trying to pursue with our present legislation those terrorists that make co-existence impossible. Recently, the Spanish Parliament voted overwhelmingly the proposal to outlaw the political branch of ETA called the Batasuna. The government is starting the necessary provisions to outlaw this political party. At the same time, a judge has also decided the suspension of this political organization. I have to say that the fact is that this is not outlawing a political idea. There are people in Spain who can support and defend the independence of the Basque country. The outlaw is because this idea is defended through violence. Since it is clear that this is just the political branch of ETA, it is being outlawed.

So, we try to respect the rule of law and democracy and the tools that law gives the government to fight this terrorist phenomenon. At the same time, we rely very much on the cooperation of our friends. Just as we are in the international coalition against terror, we also have friends like France and other countries that cooperate very closely with Spain in order to tackle this problem.

Q: Spain was elected to the U.N. Security Council last Friday at a time when the Iraqi controversy is high on the agenda. Now that US-led military action in Iraq appears likely, what is Spain's stand on the issue?

A: Spain shares the concerns of the United States and our allies and concerns that also exist inside the European Union about the threats that represent the current situation in Iraq. Our position has been very clearly stated: this is a problem that has to be tackled through the United Nations Security Council. We are very much encouraged by the fact that the United States recently have brought that subject to the United Nations and the Security Council is working on resolution or resolutions to adopt the proper actions. So, Spain stands behind the United Nations Security Council. We favor a resolution to that respect, which means that any action will have the backing of the international community and its principal instrument, which is the United Nations. Some actions have to be taken in order to solve this threat that exists at the present moment.

Q: EU opened this year with the rollout of the euro. If all goes according to plan, EU will close with another major milestone: the end of negotiations to enlarge the EU membership from 15 to as many as 25. What are the factors, in your opinion that could delay EU enlargement by the end of Denmark's presidency?

A: Frankly, I do no foresee any. It has been repeated time and again that at the end of the year the green light would appear for enlargement of ten countries. I think that negotiations are well on track. Unless any unexpected or completely unforeseeable for the moment circumstances, I think at the summit in Copenhagen, these ten countries will receive invitation to join the European Union.

Q: How do you assess Bulgaria's progress en route to EU?

A: Bulgaria has been working very consistently in getting through these negotiations and making the reforms progress inside. This has been recognized time and again. If this level of work and determination is kept, I personally think that the year of 2007 is completely realistic and can be achieved for Bulgaria to join the EU.

Q: Does Bulgaria have any chance to negotiate more favorable for Bulgaria terms for closure of the N-Plant units?

A: The nuclear energy and the Nuclear Power Plant Kozloduy is only a part of the whole negotiations of Bulgaria with the European Union. The position of the fifteen member states has been stated time and again that several reactors of this nuclear power plant should be closed. The decision taken by the parliament and the government is a brave one; a good one, a positive one and I think it opens the way to help so that the negotiations can proceed further. As your prime minister has said, there are still four years before 2006 and 2007, so let's cross that bridge at that moment and for the time being let's all concentrate in making these negotiations progress. What is at stake - the entrance of Bulgaria in the European Union is by far much more important than a particularity.

Q: How can Bulgarians tap the Spanish experience for increasing the economic efficiency in the country?

A: All experiences are by definition very personal. We have always said that we are ready to show what has been done in our period of transition and since our entry in the European Union. Perhaps, not always to say we did this good but also to show: we did this mistake don't do it if you can avoid it.

We have been having seminars here on how to use structural funds; we have had delegations visiting Bulgaria or people from Bulgaria coming to Spain to analyze the Spanish experience. We are very much in favor of helping Bulgaria with our own experience but just bringing this experience to the knowledge of Bulgaria, then Bulgaria will pick of it what is best fro it. We think Bulgaria has to become the sooner the better full member of the European Union because Spain and the whole union needs to complete this map of Europe.

Q: Do you think Spain's tourism industry should fear rivalry by Bulgaria and Croatia?

A: In general, I would say, perhaps, yes. But there is always competition in tourism as in all other spheres of life. If the tourism in the Balkan region develops, this would mean that Spain will have to share its tourism quota that it presently has. But that will be good. That is not necessarily bad. We do not want to monopolize all tourism. We have many shared interests in which we can benefit from this tourist current. The same people, who come to the Balkans, later come to Spain or vice versa. We can share joint ventures in order to make our potential bigger, to share our experience. For the time being, I guess there are more complementarities than competition. I just hope tourism in Bulgaria develops very quickly because even it represents a bigger competition; it will be all good in the end. We will all have a better quality in tourism.

Q: Many Bulgarians live and work in Spain. What is the image of Bulgaria in Spain?

A: Bulgaria's image in my country is changing little by little. For a long time, because of the political regimes that were so different in the two countries, we did not have much information or the information that we had was not always positive. Then, at a certain point, the information that we had about Bulgaria was mainly through your outstanding sportsmen like football players or Olympic teams, which was good for the image.

I think Bulgaria needs to promote its image in Spain more - the image of a modern country. I think that a lot of work needs to be done on part of the Bulgarian representatives to make the present day Bulgaria known to the Spanish public. We are trying to do this also. We are trying to get as many people from Spain coming here, businessmen to show what the new possibilities are.

Q: There were reports in the Bulgarian press that over one thousand Bulgarians who work illegally in Spain will soon be deported. How would you comment these reports?

A: I have read the same news in the press. I have no official confirmation about this. In the last two or three years there have been a very strong process for regularization of foreign immigrants that were in illegal situation. Those that were entitled to regularization have already been regularized. But the influx of the illegal migrants is constant not only in Spain. So, we will always end up having people from many nationalities that are in illegal situation. At certain point those who do not comply with rules will have to be sent back to their own country.

We are trying to work a common policy on that inside the European Union. I have to say through your media that the possibilities to go to Spain in a regular, legal way are constantly open. The fact that Bulgarians do not need a Schengen visa does not mean that anybody can go to a Schengen country and settle there. Schengen visa has been abolished only for short duration terms for visits of up to ninety days. If you want to study and work, then you need a visa, a contract, and university authorization. That has to be properly done and in the end the consulate will have to deliver a visa.

The best thing I can advise any Bulgaria is to get informed through the consulate on how to go. Always pay attention! There are serious agencies that work well but there are some others that do not work well and they mislead the people. If they have any doubt, they should consult the consulate and we will try to help them.

Q: Do you expect visits of high-ranking Spanish officials to Bulgaria soon?

A: We are working on that. I wouldn't say for the moment any date or any particular officer but we would like this winter new visits on both sides to take place. After the presidency of the European Union that Spain had during the first semester of the year, we want to re-launch the dynamics of the bilateral relations. So, I just hope that in the near future we will have more visits.

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