KUWAIT: The Embassy of Spain held a ghabqa attended by members of the local media. Kuwait Times was represented by Public Relations and CSR Manager Jana Al-Naqeeb. Spanish Ambassador to Kuwait Miguel Maro Aguilar gave the following speech on the occasion: Firstly, please let me take this opportunity to start by conveying a warm message of congratulations to HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and to HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal, on the occasion of the Ramadan celebrations, and extend our best wishes for the people of Kuwait in these important festivities for all Muslims throughout the world, including Spain.
Our bilateral relations are strong – strengthened by the traditional friendship between the Royal Houses of the two countries. Fruitful political consultations were held in Madrid last June 2022 at the level of Vice Minister of Foreign affairs, where many issues were discussed including high level contacts. The Joint Trade Committee discussed ways to increase the volume of our bilateral exchange, the cooperation in the realms of defense, cultural or in the promotion of the Spanish language, science, or sports. Many issues of international and regional dimension were discussed.
Let me point out that there is indeed a large space of understanding and for collaboration between both countries. I sincerely hope that soon, there will be a normalized cycle of high-level visits in both directions, giving an impulse to these multifaceted relations. Kuwait Airways presented officially in Madrid last September its first direct flight between both capitals in almost 40 years, as well as an agreement with the Spanish Air Europa for a shared code agreement, a real hallmark in our relations and a wonderful bridge for both countries to improve our links in all fields.
Important new avenues are from now on to be explored and rendered effective. The first bilateral Joint Economic and Trade Committee took place in Madrid on November 14 and 15, 2022, which was a hallmark in our bilateral relations. I would also like to mention here that around 600 Spaniards are living in Kuwait now. I am proud to say that they are a well-integrated community present in almost every sector: education, business, sports, engineering. They are a very valuable part of these people to people relationship between Spain and Kuwait, and I want to thank them for their contribution.
Additionally, let me emphasize the value of the EU-Kuwait relations. Spain, as one of the largest EU countries, is fully committed to the strengthening of these relations and from next July, we will hold the six-month Presidency of the Council, when will try to give an impulse to the EU-GCC and EU-Kuwait relations. A Spanish Business Council was created last year, which I hope will definitely help to give our economic relations more vitality and visibility. We already enjoy a strategic partnership, bound to grow exponentially in the next few years, if we all make the right decisions and take the adequate steps.
I sincerely think we can do better to improve our cultural links, in both directions. Spanish culture is well-known all over the world and Kuwait people, due to their special bond with Spain, really like every aspect of our culture. For instance, flamenco is very popular in Kuwait, as well as the Spanish gastronomy. What can we say about Spanish sports like football or tennis!, Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have academies in Kuwait and even Rafael Nadal inaugurated his fabulous academy here.
Bringing Spanish artists
In this spirit, we are working hard to bring Spanish artists to Kuwait. As a result of these endeavors, a Spanish duo playing guitar and violin will perform a concert here in Kuwait on May 14th, with the much appreciated collaboration of the National Council. There is a huge potential but more must be done. In this regard, the academic exchanges and internships are vital. Every year dozens of Kuwaitis go to Spain, most of them, for post-graduate studies in some of our excellent business schools.
Several young Kuwaitis come to our country too, thanks to the generosity of the Kuwait Fund in order to work in some of the best companies of engineering and architecture. On the other hand, I would like to highlight the contribution of Al Babtain Foundation to promote, in collaboration with several Spanish Universities, the study and research of the Arabic language and its literature. Many youngsters are learning Spanish in Kuwait and every year the official exams of Spanish as foreign language are hold. We want to encourage more and more people to starting learning Spanish, doubtlessly that would be a very important investment in the relations between our countries.
Unfortunately, there is not an Institute Cervantes, the Spanish entity in charge of promoting our language, but I had the chance to meet many teachers of Spanish as a foreign language who are doing a great job in the Institut FranÁais, the American University of Kuwait, the Gulf University or in Kuwait University. I really would like to work with them so that we can all together raise awareness about the importance of the Spanish language.
Economic, trade relations
Economic and trade relations between Kuwait and Spain have intensified with a sustained increase in Spanish exports (from €149 million in 2009 to €394 million euros in 2022). The Spanish imports from Kuwait have also increased 145% until €133 million in 2022, mainly oil products. There is a trade balance favorable to Spain, with a diversity of Spanish exports compared to imports concentrated in oil, plastics and chemical products and the high relative weight of clothing items. The main chapters exported were mechanical machinery, non-knitwear (14%), knitwear (9%), fuels (7%) and ceramics (5%).
The main chapters imported were mechanical machinery… (50%), organic chemical products (30%) and plastics (14%). Clothing in our export, especially the INDITEX group among others, results in the extensive presence of scores of fashion brands under franchise in the major malls and shopping centers in the country. There is a growing number of Spanish companies (14), with awarded projects worth €4,300 million in various fields of activity, (infrastructure and engineering, oil and gas, health, security…), and a greater flow of Kuwaiti investors in Spain in recent years.
Institutionally, the Agreement to Avoid Double Taxation (2013) and several Memoranda of Understanding of economic content are helping to the strengthening of existing relations. There is no data available on our services trade with Kuwait and its classification but they are definitely an important part of our relationship.
The main services demanded by Kuwait are tourism, transport and insurance operations. On tourism, let me tell you first that Spain was visited in the last few years by almost 90 million people (with the exception of the Pandemic period), making our country the second most visited worldwide. Spain is also a traditional destination during holidays for many Kuwaiti families. Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis travel to Spain every year, among them a considerable number even own their own properties, especially in the south of the country.
Spain offers high quality services with very competitive prices and beyond the famous slogan “Spain everything under the sun”, our country has many more things to offer, such as one of the best football league in the world, a great gastronomy with scores of Michelin. Starred chefs, an incredible variety of landscapes, a magnificent architecture, hundreds of thrilling golf courses or great shopping facilities all over the country are only some of the attractive features in our country. Spain is full of wonderful sites and towns, a rich nature and a variety of landscapes. I can only recommend you to explore it and enjoy it.
The activity of our consular section regarding the visas is hectic. On average, we issue between 25,000 and 30,000 visas per year, most of them during the summer season. We are also responsible for Bahrain visas at our Embassy. We don’t only issue visas for tourism, also for students, businessmen or for medical reasons, which shows the diversity of our relations. In Health, every year hundreds of Kuwaiti citizens sponsored by the Ministry of Health, or on their own expense, travel to Spain for health reasons. The Spanish health system is one of the best and more solid ones in the World and It’s time now to boost all kind of cooperation and exchange information and best practices.
We can mention in that regard the recent agreement with the Spanish Ribera Salud for the management and operation of the DHAMAN healthcare network within the framework of an integrated health maintenance organization system, with 3 hospitals, 15 primary care centers and about 7,000 employees. The objective of this great PPP project is to relieve the public health through more efficient private management.
Another area of potential, cooperation is the Railway project in the GCC and in Kuwait. Let me highlight the important cooperation in the region and in particular in Saudi Arabia, which has several projects with Spanish companies. In particular, I would mention the Haramain High Speed Rail, capable of reaching speeds of approximately 320 km/h, an electrified line with a length of more than 300 kilometers. Spanish companies are very competitive in the supply of electrified high-speed rolling stock, more respectful with the environment and more efficient in energy consumption. As regards the renewable energy, Kuwait has announced its commitment to boost renewable energy to reach the 15 percent in 2030.
We have to point out that for Shagaya’s solar power station, the Spanish company TSK has developed and is operating the biggest project in the area and in the country. ELECNOR and GAMESA are also part of the first wind projects in the same Shagaya area. Spain wants to become one of the major European hubs in green hydrogen produced exclusively from renewable energy. We are ready to collaborate with Kuwait in this field and in the Renewable energies in general. There is room for improvement regarding the cooperation between Kuwait and Spain in science and technology.
We want to boost this cooperation, and on the 11th of May, the Director General for the Center for the Development of Technology and Industry will visit Kuwait to explore new ways of collaboration between both countries. As Ambassador of Spain in Kuwait, I would like to express my gratitude to all the Kuwaiti people who have shown me, from the very first minute, their love and fondness of Spain. I feel myself at home, so often surrounded of so many friends of my country. This encourages me to keep on working along with the authorities and the Kuwaiti society so that together we build an even stronger friendship between our two countries.