Cablegate: Scenesetter for Assistant Secretary Carson's

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E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Embassy Madrid welcomes your visit for EU
consultations on Africa being hosted by Spain. The GOS seeks
to strengthen EU (and GOS) ties with the USG during its
presidency. 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. Africa has become increasingly
important to the GOS in recent years, and your interlocutors
will be eager to meet with you.

Bilateral Relations

2. (U) We value Spanish cooperation on security issues and in
the fights against terrorism and narcotics. Spain is a
strong bilateral defense partner, despite differences in the
past. Spain operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team in
Afghanistan with about 1,000 troops participating in ISAF.
Zapatero's enthusiasm for President Obama and his desire for
closer bilateral relations have resulted in GOS willingness
to send 511 more troops to Afghanistan, pending legislative
approval, and to take five Guantanamo detainees. 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 and Moron,
that are crucial transit points between the U.S. and
Afghanistan and Iraq. Counter-terrorism and law enforcement
cooperation is strong, and business ties are increasing.

Political Context

3. (U) President Zapatero won re-election to a second term in
2008. 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.
Zapatero's popularity and credibility have suffered because
of the long recession and high unemployment, his initial
unwillingness to acknowledge the seriousness of the economic
situation, and his continued claims that things will get
better soon. Recent polls suggest the main opposition party
-- the Popular Party or PP -- would win an election held

Economic Context

4. (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 expected to continue
contracting until later in 2010, which would make it the last
large economy to begin to recover, and the eventual recovery
is expected to be sluggish. Unemployment, now over 19%, is
expected to pass 20% this year. The GOS has responded with a
major fiscal stimulus. This has boosted the budget deficit
to around 10% of GDP, and the GOS will have to limit spending
significantly between now and 2013 to meet EU deficit
requirements. Zapatero's government is working to reorient
Spain's economy towards more sustainable sectors, with
renewable energy a key priority. Spain, the 10th 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

5. (SBU) 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. He seeks
to use the presidency to show that he is taking a leading
international role in responding to the economic crisis; this
ties in with his argument that the crisis is an international
problem for which his government should not be held
responsible. The GOS has been stung by foreign press
criticism (in the Economist, Financial Times, and New York
Times) of Spain's intentions for its presidency. At his
January 8 press conference with Van Rompuy and Barroso to
mark the start of Spain's presidency, Zapatero had to argue

MADRID 00000075 002 OF 002

that Spain's economic difficulties did not disqualify it from
helping lead EU economic recovery efforts.

6. (SBU) The need to adjust to the new roles of President Van
Rompuy and High Representative Ashton will be both a major
focus of the Spanish presidency and a factor that will reduce
the prominence of Spain's role from what it might have been.
Initial GOS aspirations to use the presidency to address a
wide range of issues seem to be giving way to a greater focus
on key issues. Zapatero and his officials have repeatedly
cited strengthening transatlantic relations as a key aim of
Spain's presidency. For domestic political reasons, they
intensely want a US-EU summit, and the lack of a Presidential
visit would be seen as a major failure of Zapatero and a sign
of USG disinterest.


7. (SBU) Unlike North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa has not
traditionally been a Spanish priority, but that is changing
thanks to terrorism, illegal immigration, and narcotics
trafficking. Zapatero promised at the beginning of his
second term to make sub-Saharan Africa a top priority.
Spain's Plan Africa for 2009-2012 provides for increased
diplomatic and development assistance in North and
sub-Saharan Africa. Spain has been increasing its presence
in the region with new embassies and new development offices.
The still unresolved November 2009 kidnapping in Mauritania
by AQIM of three Spanish NGO aid workers has garnered wide
attention here and been a vivid reminder of the threat from

8. (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). Part of Spain's
increased diplomatic engagement in West Africa is designed to
safeguard repatriation arrangements for illegal immigrants.

9. (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.

10. (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
Operation Althea and have offered to lead an EU CSDP training
mission for Somali security forces.

Personal Security

11. (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

© Scoop Media

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