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Conferencia de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias "Iberoamérica y España", en las Conferencias "Zeitgeist Europe 2009"

Reino Unido(Hertfordshire), 18.05.2009


adies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to take part in this new edition of Zeitgeist Europe. A forum, launched by Google that offers an exciting space to meet and reflect on key issues in current events that embody the Zeitgeist, or "spirit of the times", of the world we live in. A space that may very well allow us to understand more about today?s severe world financial and economic crisis, about the flaws that led us into it; while it can also provide us with some of the clues about how, or indeed if, a new economic order can take shape, certainly deeply inspired in values such as integrity and accountability.

I would like to thank Google for such a kind invitation to talk to this distinguished audience a little bit about a part of the world that is very closely linked to Spain -and indeed very dear to our hearts: what we call Ibero-America. I intend to present a few ideas to explain why we consider this region and its peoples of great interest for us, and why we believe that today the world, particularly Europe and North America, should pay more attention to it, to the great potential it beholds, as a good opportunity to effectively expand global progress by reinforcing together this great Atlantic area of democracy, stability and development we form all together.

Think of this Atlantic area as a triangle between Alaska, Patagonia and Europe (North East) and you have about 60% of world?s GDP.

Many of you might ask yourselves why I?m talking to you about ?Ibero-America? and not ?Latin America?? two different, although not opposing, concepts. Very simple: we talk of "Ibero-America" as that part of the Americas where Iberian languages are spoken officially. In a wider sense, what is called the "Ibero-American Community of Nations? has for nearly 20 years brought together 22 sovereign, independent and equal countries of the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula that speak Spanish and Portuguese into what is today a functioning global actor.

Now, this Ibero-American dimension is an essential part of both our past and our present, and now also of how we envision our future. In many ways we are inseparable, we cannot be fully understood without our Ibero-American soul; and the same applies for countries of that region with respect to Spain and Portugal. Our culture and identity are deeply and intimately intertwined.

Therefore today it has great influence in our foreign policy, our cultural creativity, our overseas business and cooperation, and our effort in foreign aid. It also explains much of the movement of people we have seen ?and still see today- in such areas as migration, education, and tourism.

With this in mind, the Spanish Crown naturally devotes special care to the region and its new reality, not only due to the profound sentiments I?ve talked about, but actually also as a specific Constitutional mandate.

So in my job, I have the honour and the privilege of being closely involved, with much of my travels and daily agenda dedicated to this effort. Of course day by day this enhances my knowledge and affection for the entire region. In fact, since 1996 I have been assigned the official duty of representing my country at the inaugural ceremonies of all the Ibero-American newly elected Presidents. This invaluable experience has provided me with the opportunity to maintain close contact with the leadership of these countries and with their political, cultural and socioeconomic developments.

Therefore, as Crown Prince and especially in the field of international relations, I am determined to preserve and enhance the useful role of the monarchy and its relevance to Spanish Foreign Affairs; indeed by representing the country?s image and favouring its legitimate interests, precisely in a time when the divide between national and international politics is fading so rapidly with the impact of globalization.

The second reason I wanted to talk to you about Ibero-America today is that ?as I said earlier- I?m convinced it should have a growing presence in the international scene. It deserves greater attention due to the potential contribution to world governance it bares in the new economic and geopolitical reality that is taking shape. Why?

Let me give you a quick overview of what Ibero-America represents in the world today to answer the question:

+ This is a huge Community, both in terms of geography and population, but above all, in terms of its cohesion, since it has two major languages and cultures with unquestionable powers of interaction and integration; surely a great economic opportunity.

+ At the same time it is a community of independent nations ruled largely by the same principles and values of freedom, human rights and democracy, something also shared of course with Europe and the rest of the Americas.

+ It has just ended an economic cycle in which, for the first time, all its members were in expansion at once, a very uncommon experience in its history.

+ Ibero-America is not a product of intellectual construction, or a relic of history; but rather a living reality that excites mutual affection and solidarity, to an extent reinforced by the impact of modern transatlantic migrations in both directions; a reality that has anchored a new collective consciousness, above our diversity and the occasional differences, and far from the spirit of colonial times or the tensions of independence. Furthermore, this region probably holds the largest, fastest-growing melting pot in the last few centuries, with demographic groups hailing from every continent, culture and religion into what we call el mestizaje.

+ The region is a leading cultural power with immensely rich artistic and historic heritage, together with a creative genius that has produced extraordinary results and world wide recognition.

+ The Ibero-American Community of Nations is an important space for concerted policies and true multilateral cooperation among its member countries. Created nearly 20 years ago, today it has a genuinely coordinated institutional framework. Our Heads of State and Government attend a Summit every year in a different country; one that has grown in reach, ambition and effective results by dealing with a wide range of interests and aspirations, but especially by strengthening democracy and bringing closer part of the two most democratic continents on Earth to improve millions of people?s lives.

For the sake of time, allow me now to focus on two areas I gather are enough to clearly grasp the new reality of this part of the world and its potential: language and economy.


1. - Together with the hundreds of vernacular languages, two major official ones, Spanish and Portuguese, provide Ibero-America with a powerful instrument for communication, unity, cultural industries, and international projection.

2. - Spanish is, today, the 2nd language of international communication, after English; and according to different sources and statistics, It is spoken as a mother tongue by nearly 450 million people.

3. - Furthermore, Spanish, or Castilian, is the official language of 20 countries and many international organizations. Even, the United States, with nearly 50 million people of Hispanic origin, has become the second country with the most Spanish-speakers in the world after Mexico and ahead of Spain and Colombia

4. - Spanish is also the 2nd most-studied foreign language in the world today and for its worldwide promotion the Instituto Cervantes, with a network of 73 centres in five continents, not only offers technical support for the study of Spanish language and culture, but it also works to promote all the culture that is produced in Spanish language or comes from Spanish speaking countries. Therefore, this makes it a Spanish institution that serves Ibero-American culture as a whole.

5. - Although it is spoken in many?and very different?countries, Spanish presents a strong and remarkable image of unity, within its rich diversity. Few languages have, as ours, an Association that brings together the Language Academies of 22 countries as equals, to preserve the unity and integrity of a language that belongs to all of them.

6. - The importance of a language is not only measured by its number of speakers, but also by the cultural richness of those who express themselves with it. In Spain alone, estimates show that the economic value of the Spanish language equals 15% of our GDP, due to vibrant industries dedicated to culture, especially the audiovisual, publishing, and teaching sectors. Imagine what it can represent for the whole region

7. - On the Internet?and this is especially relevant to you given the nature of this forum?Spanish ranks 3rd, after English and German, in terms of the volume of pages online, and is also 3rd regarding the number of users, but in this case after English and Chinese.

8. ? Finally, as I pointed out before, Ibero-America has a second major language, Portuguese. It is spoken in Brazil, Portugal, and also in six other countries of Africa and Asia, making it, also one of the most widely spoken in the world, with more than 240 million native speakers.


In economic terms, the Ibero-American Community's GDP adds up to more than 3 trillion USD, a figure equal to 10% of the world's GDP; it is home to 10% of the world's population (about 600 M); and its landmass equals 15% of the entire surface of the Earth.

It is mostly on a continent that has the greatest biodiversity, one-third of the world's entire fresh water reserves and treasures enormous quantities of other natural resources that are in great demand world wide; especially by many of the APEC countries, where half of the worlds manufacturing and trade is concentrated; another interesting connection of the new global scenario that deserves great attention, though I?ll spare you the burden just now.

Poverty reduction is of course one of the major challenges also facing Ibero-America. But important advances have been made. Just imagine: about 50 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the very last few years, and social spending has reached historic highs as a percentage of GDP. However, much remains to be done, especially in areas like income distribution or equality.

The economies of Mexico, Central America and South America are enjoying sustained growth. From an average 2,9% GDP increase in the 1995-2004 period, they have gone to a 4,8% between 2005 and 2008. While their inflation has actually dropped from 11,1% to a 6,5% average for those same periods.

Another positive statistic shows that 8 countries, representing more than 60% of Ibero-American population have passed the $10,000 barrier of GDP/ per capita income in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), which means that middle classes are coming up favouring of the region?s true potential as an attractive robust market.

And by the way, in terms of ICTs, it will certainly surprise many to know that this region has been the main recipient of telecom investment between 1990 and 2005, and has 145 million Internet users.

Therefore, in recent years the Ibero-American economies have gone from strength to strength. It is no longer an isolated region, and it is increasingly affirming its weight and its role on the international scene.

Ibero-America, and Latin America as a whole, has undergone a major transformation, allowing it to face the onset of this global economic crisis much more calmly than in the past. Unlike in previous crises, Latin America cannot be credited for this one, nor has it contributed to worsen the situation. But let us not forget, this is a global crisis from which no one will escape unscathed?

The latest estimates by the IMF show that the economies of the region will touch bottom during the first half of this year, with an overall 1,5% GDP contraction in 2009, and will experience a 1, 6% GDP growth for 2010. A very interesting and eye-opener figure as we compare with the poor performance offered for the more advanced economies, a 3, 8% slump in 2009 and zero growth for 2010.


So it is clear that Spain's relationship with all Ibero-American nations has flourished in recent decades to an unprecedented degree since their independence around 200yrs ago. We have contributed to create the Ibero-American Community of Nations and we often played an honest and impartial role in different regional or bilateral controversies; we have multiplied our efforts to strengthen the European Union?s relations with the region, and we have raised our profile in the areas like business, development assistance, education and other cultural relations.

And I have to say, quite honestly, that Spain's commitment to Ibero-America -and Latin America at large- has not only increased our clout in the region, but it has also enhanced our country's status on the international scene.

But it is also for the common benefit; we strongly believe It is very worth it to support development and help consolidate democratic regimes in every one of our sister nations in the Americas; as it is to help their efforts for a higher degree of regional and sub-regional integration over there in order to face challenges with a wider scope, sharing more the strengths and burdens while making the region's voice heard on a greater international scale.

And this has run parallel to achieving closer contacts between our societies and citizens on both shores of the Atlantic. Let me mention a survey called Latinobarómetro conducted across Ibero-America last year, 62% showed a highly positive image of Spain, versus only 15% with a negative one; in terms of their country's relations with Spain, 67% considered them to be good, and 61% felt that Spain's impact on their country's history was positive. This gives us a great margin to do more together in the region.


On the economic front our relations have experienced strong growth in the past 15 years, as a result of our own economy?s intense modernization and internationalization. Spain's GDP more than tripled in 20 years, and by 2007 we had become the world's fifth largest investor.

Thus, Spain has now become the second largest investor in the region, with 1.3 billion euros in accumulated investments, more than 10% of Spain's own GDP. Four countries (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil& Chile) concentrate about 70% of all the effort.

Up to 2007, there were 743 Spanish companies established in Ibero-America, and out of the top IBEX 35 companies in Madrid?s Stock Exchange, 31 are present in the region. Spain has a leading presence in finance, energy, publishing, communications, transportation, infrastructure, and the service sector in general, after more than a decade since our top corporations set their sights on that market, in every sector, helping to modernise and promote growth in their economies.

It is particularly interesting to see the importance of the publishing industry in Ibero-America. It is the second-ranking region in the world, after the European Union, in the volume of books that are published. Its dynamic culture and languages, attractive to an international audience, are only part of the explanation. The other resides in the long-standing commitment of Spanish publishing firms to the Ibero-American market.

Our trade is not as important as investment, even though it is significant. But it is relevant to note that trade needs to be promoted especially within the region for the synergies to really pick-up. Today it is still weak at the least.

And finally, a note on Official Development Assistance: last year, more than 40% of the funds that my country earmarked as ODA?1.5 billion euros?were allocated to projects in Ibero-America; essentially involving institution-building, fight against poverty and exclusion, essential social needs like health, education, and emergency assistance; and also micro-credits lending.


What have we done on this side of the Atlantic? As a European nation and since joining the EU in 1986, we have upheld this strong Ibero-American dimension of ours, by working to bring closer together both regions; yes with history in the background, as I mentioned earlier; but more so, because we believed there was an obligation and an opportunity in do so.

Today the soundness of that objective seems more obvious and we still believe to be well placed to work effectively with that aim. To a very large extent, the key values and principles we share with our great Ibero-American family are those we share in the EU, and we try to translate our sense of solidarity and hope in that region into proper policies and programs with the help of our European partners and institutions .

Therefore, Spain -and Portugal- have been fostering trade, policy, and cooperation negotiations between the EU and the main sub-regional Ibero-American groups Mercosur, the Andean Community& Central America to reach specific agreements, sometimes with specific countries like Brazil, Mexico?

But the wider and more ambitious Strategic Partnership between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean is yet to be finalised. All those involved are working hard to reach that objective; so in 2010, during the Spanish Presidency of the EU, when we host the 6th summit for inter-regional cooperation, we will then push further toward that greater Strategic Partnership.


And very briefly, let me mention the USA: Ibero-America and the United States, of course, share a continental space and are bound by an array of issues, relations and concerns of all kinds, political and socio-economic. But they also share cultural and linguistic ties greatly due to the strong Hispanic presence in the country, with a common part of Spanish heritage and a strong northbound migratory flow.

I won?t go into further detail, but history shows us how those relations have sometimes been quite difficult (remember the so called backyard of US foreign policy). So Spain, both as an Ibero-American country and as a partner, ally and friend of the United States, supports a more intense and fruitful cooperation and understanding between the Ibero-American countries and the United States, which we hope to see on the upswing with the new US Administration. Certainly the tone and first steps seem to be moving in the right direction.

In sum, Ibero-America is increasingly present in the world and eager to have a say ?in where it goes and the way it spins?. Spain supports and promotes this new reality, fully conscious of the capability this region has to contribute to a more stable and just international community, in which effective multilateralism and human rights serve both as guidelines and goals. Isn?t all this just so good for all of us?

I trust the facts and figures I have offered you present a different ? and interesting- picture of Ibero-America today, taken from a Spanish perspective; and I hope I have stressed enough the new sense of purpose that exists within this community: a great space that is diverse, united, mestizo, with enormous potential and open to the world. One that has contributed, is contributing even more, and has yet to contribute so much more to the Zeitgeist, or spirit of our times.

Thank you very much.

Itzuli Hitzaldiak atalera
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