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National Day  October 12

His Excellency Mr. Carlos Bastarreche
Embassy of Spain
39 Chesham Place
London SW1X 8SB
T: 020 7235 5555
F: 020 7259 5392
E: emb.londres@maec.es

Spain’s new Ambassador Carlos Bastarreche was nicely settled as Head of Public Affairs Spain at Airbus, when he received the call for his current appointment. “After 38 years of public service, I thought that my posting as Spanish Ambassador in Paris had put an end to a long and substantial career in the public sector.” This was not to be the case, and Mr Bastarreche and his family arrived in London on 1 March.

Like many Spaniards of his generation, he spent summers in England to learn the language when he was young. He fondly recalls “the Beatles’ songs and Mary Quant mini-skirts,” and today he is “amazed by the coexistence of traditional symbols like double-decker buses, black cabs and uniformed Beefeaters, with the modern skyline that you can see while walking along the Thames.” A keen golf player, he’s also been busy immersing himself “in the fascinating history of this country, which helps to understand what is happening nowadays.”

And indeed, there’s plenty to understand. The Ambassador says: “In diplomacy, no country has exclusive challenges. Many countries currently face common threats stemming from populism, terrorism and the economic imbalances caused by globalisation. The challenge is to know how to manage these threats in a sensible and joint way, according to each country’s options, which in the Spanish case, has been European integration.”

From a family with a strong naval tradition, the Ambassador notes that “diplomacy and the navy share the blue color of the uniform.” Thirty years of his 38 years of work, have been dedicated to European issues. Coinciding with the Spanish accession to the European project, his career allowed him to take on various responsibilities in Madrid and Brussels, where he spent 18 years. “I could say that I am the Spanish civil servant who has spent more years working on European issues, appointed by different governments, and has participated in negotiations for: treaty reform, negotiating financial packages and enlargements…”

As Spain’s Ambassador to France (2010-14), Mr Bastarreche had to translate a lifetime of experience in multilateral diplomacy into a bilateral level, “in a country with which we have excellent and very close relations on a range of areas far beyond the territorial neighbourhood.” The Ambassador’s experience as Spain’s Permanent Representative to the EU (2002-10) will undoubtedly assist him in understanding and working with the UK during its process of leaving the EU. “Although the role of a bilateral Embassy should not be to steer the negotiations on the departure of the UK from the EU, I believe that our Embassy can and should assist in the common goal of achieving the best possible outcome in that process.”

The past three years have been spent at Airbus (2014-17), experience that he believes has been very “important,” and can assist him in his role as Ambassador in the UK. “Working for the private sector and at a cutting-edge company – one of the undeniable symbols of the European cooperation success – has helped me a lot. I think it is very important for the private sector to know how the administration operates and also for the public sector to understand how the private sector works. With regards to the UK, one of the four ‘home countries’ of Airbus, my experience as Head of Public Affairs at this company has allowed me to learn about the industrial and scientific reality in the British aerospace field, and how an integrated supply chain works.”

As Ambassador in the UK, his work in the short-term will focus on questions relating to Brexit “in our respective communities: the Spaniards living in the UK and the British people living in Spain. Shortly after I arrived, we launched an informative one-stop-shop at the Embassy to address these uncertainties among our citizens, which has been very favorably received.”

One of his longer-term goals is “to help transmit an accurate picture of Spain today in the UK. There are relatively few people who know that Spain and the UK are at the peak of their 500-year-old bilateral relationship. Spain’s main companies are established in the UK and are creating many jobs for both countries. Spain is a dynamic country that has overcome – to the surprise of some people – a severe economic crisis.” He concludes: “It is not the first time that Spain wonders the world; the Spanish democratic transition of the seventies was also a very positive surprise.”


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