Viet Nam News spoke to Spanish Ambassador to Viet Nam Fernando Curcio on the occasion of his kingdom's National Day today.
How do Spanish people celebrate their National Day? What special activities are scheduled to mark the day in Viet Nam this year?
Spain's National Day is held on October 12 to celebrate the anniversary of Cristibal Colin's arrival on the American continent. It is a public holiday in which the King of Spain Juan Carlos and the Government attend a military parade which is becoming more and more a family spectacle with music and celebrations. The parade features the country's different military capacities with particular emphasis on the emergency units, peace keeping forces and others. At school, children prepare special activities to learn about Cristibal Colin's first landing on the shores of the new world, and it is becoming common for people to take their family on a road trip for picnics in the mountains or beaches.
Ambassador Fernando Curcio.
In Viet Nam, we will celebrate at the Opera Houses in Ha Noi and HCM City, with a Flamenco Show performed by Cristina Hoyos Ballet. Cristina Hoyos is an internationally renowned dancer and actress who became famous when she performed at the Universal Exhibition of Seville and the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. She is also remembered for her outstanding interpretations in the Carlos Saura´s films Carmen and Bodas de Sangre. I believe it will be a great chance to experience the emotion and passion of a dance that enters into your heart and mind.
Spain is one of the EU countries that has been most affected by the financial crisis. Has the crisis had any impact on investment by Spanish businesses in Viet Nam or on Spain's ODA policy for Viet Nam?
It's impossible for the financial and economic crisis that we are going through to leave business and development activities untouched. So far, there has been a reduction in Vietnamese exports to Spain due to a decrease in consumption while, on the contrary, Spanish exports have soared to Viet Nam and the rest of the world because of the international-isation of the Spanish industry. The total trade flow between both countries continues to surpass 1 billion euros but now there is a tendency to narrow the current surplus of Vietnamese exports.
In terms of ODA, we have not yet seen a change. The Spanish Agency for International Co-operation (AECID) recently granted 2,696,000 euros to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), the Women's Union and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to develop their policies on gender equality and poverty alleviation. Anyhow, the budgetary funds in Spain allocated for international development co-operation will likely be reduced as a consequence of the measures that need to be taken to adjust the current public deficit.
But the financial crisis that affects the global economy cannot be an excuse to avoid our commitments. On the contrary, it should encourage us to fulfill them. This is the reason why Spain believes in supporting the development of innovative financing instruments. That is to say, the development of mechanisms through which we should be able to mobilise additional mid and long term financial resources, in a stable and predictable manner. Spain currently holds the presidency of the pilot group on innovative financing for development, a group in which we have pinned great hopes.
Spain at a glance:
Official language: Spanish
Population: over 46 million
National flag: three horizontal bands of red (top), yellow (double width), and red with the national coat of arms on the hoist side of the yellow band
Shipbuilding is a key industry for both Spain and Viet Nam. What do you think about the potential for co-operation between the two countries in this field?
As coastal states, shipbuilding has been of great interest to both Viet Nam and Spain and the common Plan of Action has identified this area as one for potential development. The Spanish Secretary of State recently visited Viet Nam with a delegation of naval industries to seek areas of collaboration. Both parties are currently studying their respective capacities to establish a common project in the future. It is still too soon to know the outcome but it is clear that there are complementarities between Spanish technology and Vietnamese shipyards.
Viet Nam and Spain signed a Memorandum of Understanding in traffic infrastructure co-operation last year. How has the MoU been implemented and what achievements have been made?
The MoU in Transport and Infrastructure and other political instruments signed by the two countries have initially been crucial for building confidence. Construction and transport companies in Spain have submitted their proposals and we are still awaiting the results. Other companies are already working in different fields such as the road network (Getinsa), waste management (Metrocompost), airports (Ikusi), and road traffic control (SICE).
People dressed in traditional costume attend the traditional costume festival in Santiago De Composte, Spain. — File Photo
Without a doubt, the largest project is the construction of a Metro line in HCM City for which there is a 500 million euro soft loan offer from the Spanish Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The feasibility study for lines 5 and 6 have been completed and presented to the Government of Viet Nam. We all have great expectations to see this project kick off and link with the other metro lines planned for the city.
The latest reports show that the unemployment rate in Spain has risen slightly to 21.2 per cent, the highest in Europe. How is your country dealing with this issue?
The international financial crisis and the necessary adjustments in the housing sector have weighed down economic growth in Spain over the last three years, including a significant increase in the unemployment rate. Sovereign debt problems in the eurozone have further complicated the situation.
In this context, the Government of Spain has done its utmost to maintain social spending, particularly unemployment subsidies, universal education, and health care and pensions for the elderly.
The so-called welfare state has been maintained as the Government's main priority while at the same time there is a total reshuffling of basic economics in Spain. The labour market, banking system and industries are being continually reshaped to prepare us for a brighter future.
Spain is well-known for its tennis and some of its players are in the world top ten. Tennis has become one of Viet Nam's favourite sports, following only football in terms of numbers of fans. Last year, Tommy Robredo came to Viet Nam to the joy of thousands of Vietnamese fans. As an Ambassador, could you work as a bridge to help bring more Spanish tennis players to Viet Nam in the near future?
You know, tennis and football players have become 21st century celebrities and heroes and it's very difficult to meet them but now that you have made the suggestion I will do my best to bring them to Viet Nam.
Tommy Robredo was in HCM City to play in the Tennis Open last year. Perhaps he or another world renowned player could extend their trip for a few days to take part in a tennis lessons event. I think I am going to talk to the Vietnamese Tennis Federation and hopefully we will make your idea come true. — VNS