Eduardo López Busquets/Photo: Diplomat
Eduardo González. Madrid
“In the whole of Europe, if there is a country sensitive to Arabs, that country is Spain”. This is how clearly Valencian, Eduardo López Busquets, sees it. He’s been Director of Casa Árabe since March 2012, and his main aspiration is that “the words ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ become synonyms of calm”.
Spain, due to its historical, political, geographical and economic roots, is very close to the Arab world, and, in fact, is the only European country with terrestrial borders with an Arab country”, declared the Director of Casa Árabe in an interview with The Diplomat in Spain. “Whether we wish it or not, there is a historical link that means many people see Al Andalus as a vindication”, he warned.
In these circumstances, López Busquets explained, one of Casa Árabe challenges is “to be a centre of reference for all Arab and Islamic matters in Spain” and to contribute to overcome certain “stereotypes” which relate that which is Islamic with violence, and which are reinforced by the fact that “eighty percent of the crises reported in the news are related to the Arab or Islamic world”.
Other traditional links, according to the Director of Casa Árabe, the ties between the Muslim world and Spain have increased in the last years because of the economic crisis. “Many Spaniards leave the country and go to work in Arab countries”, he explained. “In the United Arab Emirates, there are 11,000 Spanish professionals” and a number of Spanish airline pilots and architects are working in the Persian Gulf”, he added.
One of Casa Árabe’s main tasks over the last year has been diplomatic support for the government in certain areas. “Casa Árabe has contributed to the triumph of the Spanish candidacy to the Security Council” López Busquets explained. “We translated into Arabic the publicity for this, organized seminars with ambassadors and in February I met, in New York, with 25 ambassadors from Islamic and Arab countries” he added.
With the same objective, eleven months ago, Casa Árabe organised, in their Cordoba branch, a “extremely difficult” conference attended by 180 political and civilian leaders of the Syrian opposition. “These meetings can be organized by Casa Árabe, but not by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, he manifested.
Whether we wish it or not, there is a historical link that means many people see Al Andalus as a vindication
Because of all this, López Busquets surmises, topics relating to the UN (such as the Iraq and Syria crises, the increase of Islamophobia, the Alliance of Civilisations or Iran’s nuclear programme) have become “priorities” for Casa Árabe, and “over the next two years” the institution intends to “reinforce its capacity to serve as an instrument in service to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, within the context of the Security Council.
For 2015, according to López Busquets, Casa Árabe will be celebrating, at the end of January, a meeting of Tourism ministers from seven North African and Middle Eastern countries, within the framework of the FITUR; also, a conference in April about Arab Christians in the Middle East, “especially slated” by the Islamic Army; and will participate, in May, in the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.
“At some point we will be organizing a great exhibition about Qatar 1850-1950 and we are trying to bring an exhibition on Hajj (the emigration to Mecca)”, which has previously been on show in London and Paris, he added on 1 December, the Casa Árabe board (which includes the Comunidad de Madrid, the Junta de Andalucía, the town councils of Madrid and Cordoba and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) approved the strategic lines of the organization for its branches in Madrid and Cordoba, and adopted a 2,75 million euro budget for 2015.