11 November, 2016

Visit to the Spanish Embassy in Tunisia

Mr. Juan López-Dóriga Pérez, Ambassador of Spain in Tunisia, and Mr. Alberto Ucelay Urech, Minister Adviser of the Embassy, received the pupils of Vll Promoción.

Mr. Alberto Ucelay Urech gave a conference on the Embassy of Spain in Tunisia and the Spanish-Tunisian relations:

“The Embassy of Spain in Tunisia and the Spanish-Tunisian relations are framed in the first diplomatic network of a modern state: that of Fernando The Catholic in the Mediterranean that, between other things, was projected on Tunisia. Piracy always worried the kings of Spain, as well as to increase its influence towards the north of Africa in its commercial networks. Spain was the first one, together with the Italian republics, to start up a series of embassies and consulates along the Mediterranean, whose protagonists were acting almost like colonial viceroys since they had jurisdictional faculties and were administering justice to their subjects, going further from the purely commercial function and turning into small viceroys. That also happened in Tunisia: the Consuls of the Christian powers had relations with the Ottoman Empire, which was the one with the official sovereignty in Tunisia. All the consular offices were in La Medina, but with the independence in 1956 it changed to embassy status. The current Embassy was created in this time period and, since then, 17 Ambassadors have occupied this position.”

“It is said that we are now in an exceptional moment. Why? Because our Tunisian friends are, unfortunately, the only experience that has survived the so called Arab Springs, and they are aware of this, and I believe that Spain, like pioneering country (we have always been) of the Euro- Mediterranean relations, we have to echo of that to ourselves, and Europe also has to echo of that to itself, and support this experience, to accompany it […] and to assure the success of this experience”.

“The Embassy of Spain in Tunisia is of average size, it has Defense, Education, Interior and Cooperation Commissions, the Institute Cervantes and a diplomatic Chancellery. Approximately 60 persons work with the Ambassador at the head, and with advisers or aggregations at the head of each of these sections. They meet in this room periodically with the Ambassador to coordinate the agenda, the ongoing activities and its course.”


“The political relations, which it is with what basically the diplomatic Chancellery deals, are good, the Embassy wants them to be more frequent, more intense, and to promote the frequency of political exchanges.”

“A dense agreements network exists with Tunisia in all the environments, and we keep on negotiating. Now there are 8 or 9 agreements under negotiation with Tunisia, being especially important the agreement of good neighborhood, friendship and cooperation that was signed more than 20 years ago and that the Tunisians remember it, because Spain was the first country that signed with Tunisia a neighborhood agreement, before Italy or France.”

“But this bilateral dimension Spain – Tunisia is not the only one, and in many aspects even it is not the main one. There is an European dimension that is fundamental, the Euro-Mediterranean one. Spain was a pioneer in the Process of Barcelona, and it was its big promoter up to the Union for the Mediterranean. Tunisia was always very interested in this Euro-Mediterranean process, and it is a country that looks very much to Europe, much more than Morocco.”

“Along with this bilateral and European dimension, there are others that shape a very rich dimension of the relations with Spain: the Mediterranean dimension, the Arab dimension (Tunisia presides at present the Arab League until March), therefore right now Tunisia is a very valuable speaker, for example, before the crisis of Libya. Despite being a small country, and despite being perceived by its associates in the Arab League as an exception (it is the only truly democratic one between all the members of the League), Tunisia has a central role and also it is listened by its Arab associates. It has had also a role emphasized in the Palestinian cause, receiving the PLO when it went out of Beirut until they returned to Palestine (in Gaza), at the beginning of the 90. It is important to bear in mind this Arab dimension of Tunisia, which also is important for Spain, without forgetting the African dimension.”

“On the other hand, in spite of its geographical situation in Africa, Tunisia lives with its backs turned to the sub-Saharan Africa, they are divided by the Sahel in situation of disorder, insecurity, and threat on the part of DAESH, Al Qaeda and its branches, which it does that the countries of the North of Africa look more towards Europe than at the rest of Africa. Nevertheless, Africa is there. In the relations with our Tunisian neighbors and, in general, the Maghrebis, it is a fundamental dimension. The cooperation with Tunisia is also a cooperation with Africa.”

“Finally, the global modality exists. Due to this situation that takes Tunisia as a democracy entirely homologable, the country has a global dimension.”

“The country has received a very special meaning; there the Nobel Prize is, granted last year to the Quartet. Tunisia has turned into a sign or a message, a country – message to the international community, which says that a modern democracy is possible in an Arab country with all its complexities: As if it had no complexities in other western countries, Latin America or in Asia! […] If we say that it is complicated in an Arab country it seems that it is already quite done in other western countries, Latin America or in Asia as for human rights, economic governance and so many other issues, and that is necessary to bear it in mind”.
“ This global horizon of Tunisia also is of interest for Spain. Tunisia wants to present itself to the Security Council in a few years, it wants to assume again this global role that occasionally has corresponded to them, and this time is going to do it with a very peculiar profile.”