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Palabras de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias en la cena-entrega de los Premios 2009 de "The Foreign Press Association in London"

Londres, 24.11.2009


ood evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Princess and I are very thankful for the kind invitation of the London Foreign Press Association (FPA) to attend this year's Media Awards dinner here at Carlton House Terrace. Thank you all very much for your welcome. And many thanks, especially, to the FPA's President, Mr. Hosny Eman, for his generous words of greeting.

By the way, I'm so sorry to be a bit of a disappointment to you all. I can see in your eyes that you probably hoped my wife were the one to stand here now and speak to you. Well, I understand the bias for -among other reasons- she was indeed one of you, a journalist. However, fortunately she switched camp.... Sorry, your loss!

Now seriously, ladies and gentlemen, it is a real privilege to address such a distinguished audience at an event that brings together so many prominent professionals and executives of the British media and, of course, of international media represented in London. I hope it will also be my privilege to say a few words and not make us all late for dinner.

I must congratulate the Foreign Press Association for its brilliant history. At a young 120 years of age it may well be proud not only of having been a pioneer and of its consequent seniority, but also of its current prestige and vitality. Its intense, eventful history mirrors the ever-growing influence of the international press upon the media scene of every country in the world, and the role it has in promoting better understanding among nations. So the FPA was the first of its kind ever to be created and therefore served as a model for similar organizations worldwide.

Few cities concentrate -as London does- the headquarters of so many prestigious and influential media, or attract so many distinguished foreign correspondents, which is hardly a surprise considering that London is both one of the world's great cultural and historical capitals, and one of the most dynamic centres for the production of internationally relevant political and economic news of great importance. So it is even less surprising that media from all over the world should send their best professionals to this city!

The fact that the next Olympic Games will be held in London in just under three years' time -and this I say as an Olympian myself- will of course give an additional edge to the news value of everything that happens in this marvellous city, and in the whole of the UK. We wish London every success in meeting this wonderful challenge!

The Media Awards -that are celebrating their 10th anniversary- will be distributed tonight in their 2009 edition. The "short list" has indeed been quite long, making the jurys' decisions much more difficult, of course; but that also enhances the merit of those who have finally been selected. The Princess and I wish to express our heartfelt congratulations to them (even if a few minutes in advance!) for these honours that both recognise their merits and represent an incentive for others.

This reminds me of a story about my great-grandfather King Alfonso the XIIIth: Apparently, when he was giving an important decoration to the Spanish writer and intellectual Don Miguel de Unamuno. Don Miguel said to the King "Thank you very much, Sir, for bestowing upon me this well-deserved honour". The King was visibly surprised. "Don Miguel, you are the first person to say that the honour is deserved. Everybody usually says they are not worthy of it". To which Don Miguel replied with total ease "Small wonder, Sir: each of them was as candid as I have been now".

Of course I know very well that all the recipients of tonight's awards very thoroughly deserve them, whether they choose to follow Don Miguel's example or not!

I spoke earlier of the FPA's brilliant history. Well, please allow me to congratulate them again for having established these awards. They are indeed a due tribute to a profession whose role is crucial in the modern world. Good journalism, whether written, broadcast or online, helps us understand and evaluate the changes that are constantly taking place in the international scene.

In fact, one of the most difficult jobs for the media, one of its most complex challenges-and, may I say, one of its most exciting responsibilities-is helping the public make sense of daily events and perceive the way those events transform the world around us.

This is not at all an easy job; above all taking into account that today History evolves at breakneck speed, so just in case you haven't noticed reality is changing quicker than we think, quicker than our own perceptions.

A good example of changing realities, but this time over a few centuries can be found in the relations between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain. Our London Embassy, created in 1485 by King Ferdinand the Catholic, was the first foreign Embassy to be established in this city and is Spain's second oldest permanent Embassy in the world. Since then we have been close friends, even allies, we have been estranged and..., yes, we have been at war. Oh! we also have a long-running dispute that unfortunately is still pending... But, that's quite another question... which I don't wish to go into this evening!

We are both indeed old and great European nations, with a centuries-long record of world affairs engagement, who are now working and cooperating ever more closely as partners and allies within Europe and elsewhere, through multilateral collaboration or by taking part in international peace-keeping operations as we see today in Afghanistan. Every day it is more evident that our contacts have grown dramatically -and continue to do so- in all fields, may they be political and economic; or cultural, scientific, educational and social.

The explanation for this latest evolution, above the general trend brought by globalization, lies in the fact that we complement each other and that our interests concur and are quite similar; but above all, that, our economies are open and liberalized and that we both belong, since Spain joined twenty-five years ago, to the European Union.

You may ask, what has really changed between our two countries during this period? It is true that twenty five years ago there were already millions of British tourists who visited Spain and that the total number has increased only slightly -to be precise, an average of 1 out of 6 Britons visit Spain at least once a year.

But here are a few things that our British friends who travelled a quarter of a century ago could not have possibly experienced then and which are perfectly normal in our days, or will soon be: flying back on a British-Spanish airline, very probably guided to land in London by an air traffic control system made by a Spanish company; landing in an airport very probably managed by a Spanish company; perhaps taking an underground train or using a mobile phone managed by a company with a substantial Spanish participation; or paying for goods and services with a credit card issued by a Spanish bank or by one with Spanish capital... and so on...

Of course I know that any of the numerous Spaniards who visit the UK year after year could easily have similar experiences -only in reverse-, with a long list of other examples and, indeed, from earlier on. But, in any case, they all prove that there has been a dramatic change, the UK and Spain have never been so intensely connected before. And also, you must admit that making our respective public opinions aware of the extent and implications of these changes in our bilateral relations is an arduous task.

Few people seem to know that the UK has become the top destination for Spanish investment in the world, or that, for some years now, in terms of trade it means much more to Spain than all of Latin America. Likewise, we should remember the extraordinary impact that the traditional flows of British investment towards Spain have had on our development.

This relationship has, of course, many other facets and holds many other possibilities. Think of the British citizens who have a home in Spain -nearly a million of them; or of our ever more intense cultural exchanges. Allow me to mention the most recent exhibitions like: the Picasso show at the National Gallery here in London; the exhibition devoted to Spanish Baroque art that is now open there, or the "Discovery of Spain" show on Spanish and British painting at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Our educational exchanges are also growing, especially due to the interest in each others' language. For decades now, thousands of Spanish students have been coming to the United Kingdom every year to learn English or to complete their training; today, there is a new and vigorous demand for learning Spanish in this country, with over a million students learning our language, both in British schools and the online network of Instituto Cervantes, as well as the many university Departments of Spanish Philology.

This growing interest in Spanish language can be explained by the fact that it has become the 2nd most important language for international communication-after English. Also, it is the official language in more than 20 countries around the world, and the mother tongue for more than 450 million people-a figure which surprisingly ties us with English.

By the way, that figure includes the nearly 50 million Spanish-speakers in the United States, which has thus become the second-ranking country in the world with the highest number of people who speak Spanish, just behind Mexico and ahead of Spain and Colombia.

And just a couple more facts: Spanish is also the 2nd most-studied foreign language in the world today and (be aware you media professionals!) it ranks 3rd on the Internet; after English and German, in terms of the volume of pages online; and after English and Chinese, with regard to the number of users. No wonder it has become a powerful instrument for media and other major cultural industries.

In all, Ladies and Gentlemen, the United Kingdom and Spain are, today, two great countries ever more bound by ties of friendship and cooperation; committed to building Europe; committed to fight such intolerable threats as terrorism, from which have both suffered severely; allied against major threats to international peace and security; and partners on a multitude of business, social, educational and cultural initiatives.

This is the reality that I wanted to share with you all tonight, at this FPA Media Awards 2009 ceremony; a reality that inspires us to continue to work together. My wife and I, thank you once again for your kind invitation and for your attention

Thank you very much.

Itzuli Hitzaldiak atalera
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