|Crowning moment: The year 2014 will be also remembered in the history of Spain as the year King Felipe VI took over the Spanish throne after the abdication of King Juan Carlos I. — Photo courtesy of Spanish Embassy
Cristobal Colon had no idea he had discovered America. He was searching for a faster route to Asia when he landed in the Caribbean. The event would shape the future of our nation and the world.
Spain's rich 2000 years of history before the discovery of America was a crossroad of religions, civilisations and cultures, with influences from Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Visigoths, Romans, Arabs and Jews. Spain expanded to the New World, reproducing there the ethnic and cultural melting pot of the Iberian Peninsula.
There was no challenge too hard or destination too far for the Spanish explorers, who also touched the coasts of the Kingdom of Annam. Spanish missionaries, together with Portuguese and French, helped devise the Quoc Ngu, now the official writing system of Viet Nam.
These early relationships between Viet Nam and Spain have grown larger and richer since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977. After the Spanish Embassy opened in Ha Noi in 1996 and the Vietnamese Embassy in Madrid in 2002, the two countries established a Strategic Partnership in 2009. It was the first between Viet Nam and a member of the European Union.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia visited Viet Nam in 2006 and President Nguyen Minh Triet visited Spain in 2009, evidence of our strong political partnership. Exchanges in all fields have constantly grown. In 2013, bilateral trade reached more than 2.1 billion euros (US$2.6 billion) and more than 33,000 Spaniards visited Viet Nam. This year, the number of visitors is expected to rise to 40,000.
During the last 17 years, Spain has sent more than 250 million euros ($316 million) in grants to Viet Nam. It has financed projects aimed at reducing poverty, improving gender equality, developing agriculture and fishing, increasing child nutrition, fighting human trafficking and increasing renewable energy use.
Spain's Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, visited Ha Noi in March and Viet Nam's Minister of Planning and Investment, Bui Quang Vinh, visited Spain a few days later.
Minister Garcia-Margallo held a public event called "Growing Opportunities" in Ha Noi with Spanish and Vietnamese businessmen to explore new avenues for co-operation. Just two weeks ago I had the honour of accompanying Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the opening of the Noi Bai – Lao Cai expressway, a major infrastructure project completed under the technical direction and supervision of GETINSA, a leading Spanish engineering firm.
This year will also be remembered by my country as the year King Felipe VI took over the Spanish throne, after the abdication of King Juan Carlos I. All Spaniards have a deep debt of gratitude to King Juan Carlos, who engineered the complex process of transition to democracy in Spain and firmly opposed in 1981 those who intended to subvert the constitutional order.
He has been our head of state during the longest period of peace, democracy and prosperity in the history of Spain.
King Felipe, upon taking the oath before the Spanish Parliament, stated his commitment to build "a renewed Monarchy for a new time", and reaffirmed his "faith in the unity of Spain, symbolised by the Crown, unity that is not equal to uniformity, since the Constitution recognises our diversity as an essential part of our identity as a nation".
We Spaniards look to the future convinced that hard work, determination and the search for consensus and dialogue within the constitutional framework will allow us to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. — VNS