The Alhambra And The Spanish Presidency Of The EU – OpEd


By Jorge Hevia Sierra*

Later this year the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union will organise 23 informal ministerial meetings in 21 cities throughout the country, in addition to the Conference of Speakers of Parliament, the trip of the College of Commissioners to Madrid, and the informal meeting of heads of state or government.

That meeting will be held in Granada, a city at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and in the south of Spain and Andalusia with a historical legacy of enormous tourist interest. It is where the formidable Alhambra, the 13th century Nasrid palace admired throughout the world, was built by architects from the ancient Arab world.

The European Union Film Festival 2023 included the screening of the Spanish film “The Builders of the Alhambra” last month in Riyadh. The film directed by Isabel Fernández is a unique feature-length documentary that rebuilds the Nasrid society in Andalusia for the first time. From the embassy of Spain we were able to feel the special affection of the Saudi spectators after the screening of the film due to its historical significance and the memory of the ties that have united Spanish and Arab cultures since ancient times.

Once again, the Nasrid palace will be the protagonist when the Spanish government grants a special rank to the Alhambra, since the most important meeting of the Spanish presidency of the EU will take place in its premises. The leaders of 44 European countries will meet in October in Granada —not only the 27 members of the EU will attend, but also another 17 members of the European Political Community who do not belong to the bloc.

With a special nod to our Saudi friends from the memory of the Alhambra, the embassy of Spain is pleased to say that Spain assumes the presidency of the EU in the second half of 2023, from July 1 to Dec. 31, at a period of great challenges for the member states and the EU as a whole. The Spanish presidency has established four priorities for its period in office, as announced by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and more recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Manuel Albares: to reindustrialize the EU and ensure its open strategic autonomy; advance the green transition and the environmental adaptation; promote greater social and economic justice; and strengthen European unity in a world of uncertainty and growing geopolitical tensions.

In a geopolitical context marked by uncertainty, Europe must become an area of certainties. In this context, Spain acknowledges the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia for the EU, and welcomes the strengthening of bilateral relations — notably through closer political dialogue and consultations and enhanced sectoral cooperation matching the priorities of Vision 2023 relating to global issues such as the fight against climate change and environmental degradation, or dealing with regional issues deepening the strategic partnership with the Gulf.

The Patio de los Leones, the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife, the towers … these are places that the Spanish government wants to make known to the European delegations, at the same time that once again an Arab historical cultural flavor links Spain with Saudi Arabia.

• Jorge Hevia Sierra is the Ambassador of Spain to Saudi Arabia

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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