The Spanish embassy in Doha highlighted the outstanding relations between Qatar and Spain in various areas of co-operation while marking the National Day of Spain Tuesday.
“The bilateral relations between Qatar and Spain remain excellent and inspired by the strong affection between both royal families,” Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro said in a statement.
Citing the two ministerial visits from Spain this year, she noted that Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Co-operation, Jose Manuel Albares, met with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on September 14.
The envoy added that His Highness the Amir also spoke with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “to express his solidarity with the Kingdom of Spain after the volcano eruption in La Palma and to discuss bilateral, regional and international developments”.
Alfaro underlined the importance of Spain’s historic ties with the Arab world, particularly in the áreas of education and cultural co-operation, due to the Arab heritage and legacy of Al-Andalus.
She said Qatar and Spain signed an agreement this year aimed at further boosting their cultural co-operation, leading to the launch of “The Majlis – Cultures in Dialogue” exhibition, a project by Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, in the Alhambra in Granada, after being displayed in Madrid.
“In education, the learning of the Spanish language is on the rise in Qatar. The Spanish language has 8% of Arabic words from the history of Al-Andalus. It is the second most spoken language in the world as a native language, the official language of 21 countries.
“It is the second most used language in international communication and the second most used language in social media, in Facebook and Twitter,” Alfaro noted.
She added that Spanish International School in Doha – SEK, Qatar University, and Hamad Bin Khalifa University, offer a wide range of classes for adults and children while many private schools in Doha also have Spanish language courses in their curriculum.
Alfaro stressed that the two countries also share a passion for sports, especially football, signing a memorandum of understanding on Youth and Sports which aims to further enhance their collaboration in this field this year.
About the hosting of the first carbón neutral FIFA World Cup next year, she expressed confidence the tournament “will be a great success not only for the country but for the region”.
“Spain is contributing to enhance sports culture in Qatar in many ways: through Aspire Academy and Aspetar, where highly qualified Spanish professionals work, with top Spanish players in Qatari teams.
“Many Spanish companies have also been contributing to the development of the infrastructure projects designed to service the World Cup, such as the metro, airport, roads, etc. Two of the eight 2022 Qatar World Cup stadiums have been designed by the Spanish architecture firm Fenwick Iribarren Architects: Education City Stadium and Ras Abu Aboud Stadium,” Alfaro said.
In the commercial and economic sector, she said the two countries’ bilateral ties are enhanced by the economic co-operation in various fields such as construction, architecture, food and beverage, facility management, consultancy services, healthcare sector, fashion retail, energy and water, sports business, and information and technology sector, among others.
“Spanish business performance in Qatar is robust and sustainable with around 200 companies who wish to remain in Qatar and become reliable partners for local companies,” Alfaro added.
Bilateral trade between Qatar and Spain stood at about €1.3bn in 2019 after years of steady growth and in 2020, it dropped around 43% due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Alfaro. She expressed optimism that it will keep its traditional upward trend once the economic recovery shows up.
“Spain is a country that depends on foreign energy supply and Qatar is one of our leading suppliers of gas. On the other hand, Spanish exports to Qatar are well-diversified; the main items of our exports are machinery, mechanical appliances, clothing, electric and electronic devices, and equipment and furniture,” she said.
In the area of direct investments, the envoy said Qatar´s capital investment stock has registered steady growth in recent years, and Qatar Investment Authority made significant investments in Spain.
“By way of illustration, QIA holds stakes as relevant as the one in Iberdrola, with an 8.6% share of its equity. We may also find equity holdings in Colonial, Marina Port in Tarragona, W Hotel in Barcelona, Intercontinental Hotel in Madrid or even a small share of the Banco Santander in Brazil, among others.
“Spain is an attractive destination for investments, since it is the natural gateway to Europe, the Mediterranean and Latin America. Spain is the first European investor in Latin America and the second in the world after the US. These ties to the Latino world offer to Qatar a trustable partner to open the door for new markets investment.
“Our businesses in the field of telecommunications, financial and insurance sectors, energy, tourism, or infrastructure are well-known, making our companies attractive for co-operation around the world,” Alfaro said.
She noted that the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade awarded its businessmen in Doha with the official title of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain to Qatar in February 2019 as a formal recognition for the prominent job that Spanish companies are doing in the country.
In tourism, she noted that Spain remains to be the second destination of international visitors, seeking to recover and increase the pre-pandemic figures.
Alfaro cited a strong enthusiasm by Qatari tourists to return to Spain, saying that many of them have travelled to her country in the first two months since the reopening of the borders in July.
“Spain will come again as an attractive destination for natural parks and wonderful beaches. Our country is the third in terms of natural areas declared Biosphere Reserves and it harbours the coast with most Blue Flag beaches in the entire Northern Hemisphere. As mentioned before, the Arab legacy of cities such as Seville, Granada, or Cordoba makes them a favourite to visit,” she said.
“I am confident that both our countries will continue to closely work together to further develop our bilateral relations to an even higher level, under the leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani,” she stressed.
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