JAUME V. AROCA BARCELONA 26/03/2021
Manuel Muñiz was appointed Secretary of State for Global Spain in early 2020 by the new Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya when she took over from Josep Borrell. Global Spain took on three tasks after the change: the work of foreign action strategy, communication and economic diplomacy.
“Spain is perceived as a full and consolidated democracy”.
“The foreign ministry has just finished coordinating the drafting of the foreign action plan, which sets a series of realistic objectives with an ambitious diagnosis that states that Spain will be an active player in the defence of an open, democratic and tolerant international order, where diversity and minority rights are respected”.
The Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, which in recent weeks have reproached Spain for restricting freedom of expression by virtue of certain laws and rulings, do not seem to take the same view.
The government has committed itself, as the minister formally did, to reform the Penal Code and to reform the criminal offences of insult and threats, and above all to exclude them from the sphere of the expression of opinion in the artistic and cultural sphere. But this should not lead us to understand that we do not have a full democracy. All serious international reports place Spain as one of the most consolidated and full liberal democracies. And these are not superficial studies, nor are they partial.
The Global Spain project was born, or at least it was perceived as such, as a reaction to the discredit generated by the Catalan conflict abroad. Is it still an important task for the Secretary of State?
From the outset, what we have conveyed to the Generalitat and the other administrations with which we collaborate abroad is that if there is loyalty, they will find loyalty, and if there is a lack of loyalty, they will find a response. The reality is that in the time we have been in the ministry, the relationship with the Generalitat has not merited a reaction on our part.
There are no conflicts.
No. Neither with the Generalitat nor with the other administrations that have similar competencies. We have set up a project called Diverse Spain, where we have created a group of experts to reflect on how we can transfer our diversity to our external projection, because we believe it is a great asset in a world where societies are becoming increasingly monolithic and nationalistic. We want to explain Spain as a model of integration of all this diversity.
In this context of more monolithic and nationalist societies, a new battlefield is emerging: disinformation.
We have a problem. It is very interesting to study the objectives of these campaigns because in their most systemic dimension they do not seek to advance a specific agenda or message. Basically, what they seek is to erode institutional legitimacy, especially the intermediary institutions, the political parties, the media, the companies. They do not seek to advance a specific narrative, but rather to convince us all that we are incapable of constructing objective truths. They seek institutional breakdown. What has happened during the pandemic? During the pandemic there has been a very significant increase in disinformation aimed at questioning the capacity of democratic countries to manage the crisis. We have a European strategy to respond to this disinformation in which we believe it is important for society to know its origin and this makes the role of the media increasingly relevant, as they organise the public debate with editorial criteria, truthfulness and responsibility.
The pandemic has led to a restriction of mobility and the generation of opportunities for citizens from other countries who see Spain as a place for their future. To what extent does the foreign strategy take into account these communities living among us?
The external action strategy mentions that there is an increasing link between the global and the local. Part of our strength in international outreach is built on the strength of our social contract and the perception of our own citizens and residents of the country in which they live.
And this is where the attraction of human capital comes into play.
This is an important issue because in the knowledge economy, in the digital economy, training, attracting, and retaining talent is vital. If you look at the big nodes of technological innovation and knowledge creation, they are highly diverse spaces.
Cities play an important role in this task.
A major role. Because this knowledge economy tends to concentrate. And this is where we face a challenge because we have to place Spain among the hubs of innovation, but at the same time avoid the emptying of the periphery. Brookings produced a report in which it highlighted that 90% of technological employment was concentrated in just five American cities. How can this be resolved? We think that what we have to ensure is that companies can scale, that a start-up created in a university or business environment in Barcelona or Granada has the tools to scale on equal terms and reach the market of the 27 countries of the European Union. And we have to make these channels possible. That is one of our missions.