Cablegate: Spanish Reaction to Announcement Regarding U.S.-Eu

DE RUEHMD #0133/01 0341451
R 031451Z FEB 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000133



E.O. 12958 DECL: 02/04/2020

MADRID 00000133 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Ambassador Alan D. Solomont, Reasons 1.4(b),(d).

1. (C) Summary. In the last 48 hours the Ambassador has spoken with Spanish National Security Advisor Leon, FM Moratinos, and President Zapatero regarding the announcement that President Obama will not attend a U.S.-EU Summit in Spain. Spanish disappointment -- both among senior government officials and in the media -- is profound. Nevertheless, the GOS is taking the high road, stressing the health of the U.S.-EU and U.S.-Spanish relationships. We are taking a similar approach privately and publicly, aggressively reaching out to media to urge that they not read into this decision some hidden and inaccurate message about U.S. policy. The Spanish still hope for a Presidential visit, and will probably raise that with Washington at every opportunity. End summary.

2. (C) It is important we all continue to reiterate a consistent message about what has and has not happened. There was never U.S. agreement to a summit. The GOS was told that on many occasions. The decision made this week has everything to do with the President’s very busy agenda and nothing to do with the importance the U.S. attaches to Europe and Spain. The U.S. has no more important relationship than the one its enjoys with Europe, and Spain is an important and valued ally. The President traveled to Europe six times last year. He met twice with President Zapatero in recent months, will see him again at the National Prayer Breakfast this week, and will receive King Juan Carlos at the White House February 17. The Spanish press is covering the story heavily. Our message is being repeated in the media, although commentary is running heavily towards characterizing the decision as a slight to Europe and Spain.

3. (C) The Spanish reaction is colored by the hopes they had pinned on this summit. The domestic economic news has been uniformly bad for Zapatero for a long time. That is not likely to change in the near future. Zapatero looked to the EU presidency as a chance to burnish Spain’s international standing, especially as a leader within the EU. The summit with the U.S. -- the first visit of a U.S. President in eight years -- was to be the climax of Spain’s presidency. Early on Spain proposed late May as the date and began working to convince U.S. officials of the value of a summit. Regrettably, and despite being told repeatedly that no dates were agreed, the GOS treated the summit as a fait accompli when talking to the media.

4. (C) The Spanish did take seriously U.S. injunctions that a summit needed concrete and worthwhile deliverables and began working on an agenda that would be meaningful to the U.S. In discussions with the Department of State and the NSC, the Spanish stressed some worthwhile topics such as data protection/information sharing, removing trade and regulatory barriers, climate change, and -- most recently as described to the Ambassador -- having Zapatero personally lead an effort to persuade other EU countries to accept more Guantanamo detainees. The Spanish did appear to have taken seriously their role as a transitional EU presidency, trying to find a balance with EU President Van Rompuy and High Representative Ashton, dividing up meetings, and agreeing on appropriate roles for both Van Rompuy and Zapatero in a proposed U.S.-EU Summit in Spain.

5. (C) By the time the new U.S. Ambassador arrived January 9, the GOS was clearly becoming nervous about the summit. In his first days, senior GOS officials raised the issue with the Ambassador, including Moratinos, Leon, Zapatero, and the King. In each instance, the Ambassador made clear that the USG had not yet agreed to a summit. His Spanish interlocutors made it equally clear that they placed great importance on having a summit.

6. (C) At this point, the Spanish do not feel betrayed, but they are deeply disappointed. Naturally they regret, as does everyone, that the bad news first appeared in the press. Despite that, the GOS is trying to put the best face on this situation. The Ambassador has explained personally to Leon, Moratinos and Zapatero that Spain remains an important and valued ally. In a February 2 conversation, Zapatero told the Ambassador he understands President Obama has a complicated agenda and that he traveled several times to Europe in the past year. Zapatero assured the Ambassador he understands the decision has nothing to do with U.S. feelings towards Spain or Europe. He said he hopes President Obama will find a convenient moment to visit Spain and suggested he would tell the President that when he sees him at the National Prayer Breakfast.
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7. (C) Comment: Zapatero has taken a serious political blow at a time when he can ill afford it. Nevertheless, bilateral relations will survive intact. We expect Spain to follow through on its commitments to send more troops to Afghanistan, accept five Guantanamo detainees, and be helpful on Iran sanctions. The Spanish are still hopeful for a Presidential visit this year, perhaps in conjunction with the President’s visit to Lisbon in November. In that regard, we have advised the Spanish not to create false expectations. We do believe such a visit would be useful in terms of strengthening relations with an important ally who has demonstrated an increasing willingness to support U.S. priorities. The use of Spanish military bases by our Navy and Air Force has long been of great value to us as is Spain’s commitment in Afghanistan and its cooperation on CT, law enforcement, etc. Although Spanish leaders may voice their desire for a visit to senior USG officials, they should avoid making the same mistake twice of speaking publicly about a visit that has not been committed to. End comment. SOLOMONT

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