The Minister of State for Europe was in the Spanish capital Madrid on 2 and 3 March for a two‑day visit. While there, he met his new opposite number, members of the European Affairs Committee of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate as well as civil society representatives. He also held discussions with students from the Complutense University of Madrid. It was the first visit of the German Minister of State for Europe since the new Government was formed at the end of 2016.
After his meeting with the Spanish Secretary of State for the European Union, Jorge Toledo Albiñana, Minister of State for Europe Roth declared, “Europe needs the strong and clear voice of Spain.” He went on to say that he would like to see Spain, an important partner, play an even more active role in current issues on the future of Europe. In many areas the two countries hold common positions, such as their particular emphasis on the rule of law and their focus on shared values. The talks also centred on further developing exchange on the Maghreb countries. “Spain’s amicable and close contact with Morocco benefits the whole of Europe,” Roth emphasised.
Even during times of crisis Spain remains pro‑Europe
Spain’s economic development was one of the dominant issues during the meeting with the members of the European Affairs Committee. Deputy Pablo Casado Blanco stressed that even during times of crisis, Spain had remained a pro‑European country, and pointed out that in Spain there was no major right‑wing populist party. Deputies from all parliamentary groups underlined how much Spain benefited from a common Europe. They said that the upswing, particularly the reduction in unemployment, now needed to reach all sections of the population.
Minister of State Roth talking to students from the Complutense University of Madrid
Nothing less than Europe’s future was the focus of the lively discussion with students from the Complutense University of Madrid. Minister of State Roth emphasised that against the backdrop of anxiety, crisis and rising populism in large areas of Europe, cutting ourselves off and retreating into national shells was the wrong way to deal with globalisation. He said that in this context particularly, young Europeans were called to get to know and understand their neighbours better through student exchanges, for example.
The situation of homosexual African refugees was the focal point of a meeting with representatives of civil society organisations working to promote LGBTI rights. Representatives explained that in many countries, persecution was routine and people were subjected to violence and imprisonment because of their sexual orientation. They said that the “gayafricansmigration” initiative had set itself the goal of raising awareness and helping victims.
Support for Roma in Spain
Around 700,000 Roma live in Spain. They can count on support from numerous municipalities. Despite this, around 60 percent of Roma in Spain still live below the poverty line. The German Minister of State also learned from representatives of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano during the last stage of his trip to Madrid that the number of Roma with little or no school education was much higher than average. The Foundation supports the “gitanos” in Spain by means of its diverse social and housing projects as well as through numerous campaigns designed to challenge wide‑spread social stereotypes. Minister of State Roth felt that this was an exemplary contribution to protecting minorities in Europe, as he highlighted at the conclusion of the meeting.