The King who put Spain on the world stage

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The King held a intensive international activitiy, as in the Iberoamerican summits. 

 

Luis Ayllón. The Diplomat.

 

In May 1976, just half a year after the King Juan Carlos succeeded to the Throne, questions about what could happen in Spain had not been answered in most of the world’s capitals. The United States, the country that, during Franco’s period, had established a special relationship marked by the presence of North American troops in the Spanish military bases, did not hide their concern.

 

Therefore, when at the beginning of June, the president Gerald Ford, in the White House, and the American delegates and senators in the Capitol, listened to the words of the King Juan Carlos marking the path that he wanted for the country to follow, they felt relieved.

 

The King highlighted his intention to, “under the principles of democracy, assure ordered access to power of the different alternatives of Government”. It was a historical speech, during the first trip of the new Monarch abroad, and the beginning of an activity that, throughout the years of his reign, turned him into the best ambassador of Spain in the world.

 

The repercussions of the King’s intervention were huge in all the western chanceries, which looked expectant towards Spain. However, the King could confirm that, despite that admiration, it was not going to be easy to convince everyone of the sincerity of his intentions.

 

The King Juan Carlos turned into the best ambassador of the country in his return to the international sphere

 

Getting the support of our French neighbours was a complicated mission, especially while Valery Giscard D’Estaing occupied the Élysée Palace. His limited sympathy towards Spain would be reflected in the difficulties he created for Spain’s admission into the European Communities, an unavoidable objective for our country in its return to the international scene.

 

The role played by the King Juan Carlos throughout the years would contribute to change the perception of the neighbouring country towards Spain and it would be reflected in the invitation to the King –the first one made to a foreign head of state– to talk about the National Assembly in 1993.

 

The King’s figure became bigger and bigger in different places of the world, especially, in Latin America, where the King Juan Carlos made his first tour in October 1978 including Peru, Mexico and Argentine. The last stage was the most difficult, because Argentine was governed by the dictator Jorge Videla and there were many voices in Spain considering the Monarch’s presence to be inappropriate. However, the King surprised everyone defending the respect for dignity and human rights of the Argentinian people.

 

The Monarch had an intense relationship with Latin America

 

From that moment on, the King’s prestige in Latin America rose steadily. The King, who had chosen the Dominican Republic as his first destination abroad, in the Spanish island, the first one seen by Colon in America, made an official visit to every country in the region, with an only exception: Cuba.

 

Both the King and the Queen were in the island in 1999, but they went there to attend the Ibero-American Summit, not in an official visit. The King and Queen’s hopes to visit one of the towns with the greatest connections with Spain could not become a reality because of the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, who made everything in his power so that the streets of La Habana were deserted when the King Juan Carlos and the Queen Sofía walked round the city.

 

In any case, the King’s figure is indissolubly linked to the celebration of the Ibero-American Summits he has attended without a break from 1991, in Guadalajara (Mexico), until 2012, in Cadiz. He was only absent last year in Panama, since he was convalescing from surgery.

 

The brush with Hugo Chávez took place during one of those meetings, when the King Juan Carlos told him the famous “Why don’t you shut up?” while he was throwing accusations against the former Prime Minister José María Aznar.

 

The King has been able to meet most of the Latin American Heads of State throughout his life, just like the Prince of Asturias, who, for many years, has represented Spain every time the Prime Ministers of the region’s countries took office.

 

Privileged contacts of the King with the Arab monarchies, key for the Spanish companies

 

In Europe, one of the King’s visits was especially significant: the one he made to the United Kingdom in April 1986. That visit was the reunion of the two great European Monarchies and would be followed by the visit Isabel II made to Spain in return, two years later. The King spoke in the British Parliament, in a much praised speech where he did not mentioned the dispute with Gibraltar, expressing his confidence in the possibility of reaching a satisfactory solution for everyone.

 

Spain was already part of the Atlantic Alliance and the King Juan Carlos had gained worldwide recognition, as he could confirm in the applause he received during his first speech in the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1986.

 

In the same way, the King’s figure has been the key in the relations with other parts of the world, especially with the Arab monarchies, with whom he maintains a close relationship, which has been fundamental in several occasions for the grant of important works to Spanish companies, such as, for example, the AVE Medina-Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

 

He was also a decisive element in the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1987 and, especially, in the relationship with Morocco. The King travelled to the Maghrebi country for the first time in June 1979 to meet Hassan II, who considered himself to be his “older brother” and would come back in numerous occasions, to sign the Treaty on Friendship, Good Relations between Neighbours and Good Cooperation in 1991 or to correct the bilateral relations when these were going through difficult times.

 

The King’s disposition has been really useful to solve different disputes between some twin countries, such as Argentine and Uruguay, or affecting Spain in the world. In addition, of course, to support the foreign policy of different governments of the democracy and to support, with enthusiasm, the activity of the Spanish businessmen beyond our borders.

 

 

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