AAntonio Pérez-Hernández y Torra, ambassador of Spain in the Dominican Republic, exposes the important ties between both nations, reveals cultural initiatives and how favorable trade has been under the Economic Association Agreement (EPA), among other important details .
• Mr. Ambassador, what is your opinion of the progress of political and cultural relations between Spain and the Dominican Republic, given that in 1948 it decided to advance its diplomatic mission with an embassy in this part of the island of Hispaniola?
Spain and the Dominican Republic have long enjoyed excellent relations based on the same history, the same language and the same culture. We greatly appreciate and value the affection towards Spain that is felt here. Spain fully supports a country like the Dominican Republic, which has become a benchmark for political and social stability, economic growth and good management of COVID.
The DR is a priority partner for Spain in the region and internationally, and there is great agreement on the major issues on the international political agenda. The circumstances now exist to give our relations a new impetus and take them to an even higher level.
• We understand that the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government will be held in this country in March of next year. What type of support can we expect from Spain in such an important forum?
Spain shares with the DR the belief in the importance of the Ibero-American community and in the value of the process promoted by the Ibero-American Summits. The fact of exercising the Pro Tempore Secretary and hosting the next Summit clearly demonstrates the Dominican commitment to this process. The DR and Spain are already collaborating in the preparation of the XXVIII Summit, which, on the other hand, is proving to be an important opportunity for the DR to increase its visibility in the region.
• Spain is a great investor in various areas in the country’s Dominican economy, but its participation may be greater. What do you think can be worked on to achieve a greater increase?
Spain has been one of the first countries to believe in the DR and to invest in this country. Spain is the first trade partner of the EU in the Dominican Republic and its fifth partner worldwide. We are the third or fourth investor in the country, and the accumulated investment stock amounted to 1,597 million euros in 2019.
Spanish companies are very present in the tourism sector. In 2019 there were 29 Spanish hotel chains installed in the DR, owners of 98 hotels with more than 46 thousand rooms. Spanish companies account for 56% of the total Dominican tourist offer. Also present in many other sectors such as health, energy or services. They are companies with long-term investments and a vocation for permanence. They have the will and concrete projects to continue investing in the country. This atmosphere so favorable to investment will be maintained in the coming years, to the extent that transparency and legal certainty continue to be guaranteed.
• Given the important work of Spanish companies in social, technological and sustainability issues, what can we do as a state and business policy to emulate that experience?
Indeed, Spanish companies, as we see in many regions of the country, have a high level of social and local involvement, create jobs and provide the highest standards of sustainability, technology and efficiency in the sectors in which they invest. The democratic stability in the DR, its sustained and vigorous economic growth, its strategic position, its monetary and fiscal stability, its extensive network of free zones and the facilities for doing business provided by the authorities are the factors that most influence, according to what they tell me. Spanish and European entrepreneurs, when deciding to invest in the country.
• Spain has been a good contributor in reducing socioeconomic and territorial inequity, and gender equality; governance and institutional strengthening. Is it contemplated to expand this cooperation?
The Dominican Republic continues to be a priority country for Spanish cooperation, which has been present in the country for more than 30 years. During those years, official development aid worth 500 million euros has been provided, and we intend to remain committed to the country. The axes of our cooperation revolve around three elements: the reduction of socioeconomic and territorial inequity, gender equality; and governance and institutional strengthening. There are currently 75 cooperation projects underway for a value of 42 million euros. And we have made another 100 million euros of reimbursable cooperation available to the country to support three large structuring projects. In the emerging agricultural sector, 20 M in Prorural Inclusivo y Resiliente, and 10 M in Prorural Joven. 30 M to seek innovative solutions for solid waste management in the city of Santo Domingo, which includes the closure of the La Duquesa landfill. And 40 M to improve access to drinking water and sanitation in several cities on the East Coast of the country.
• Tell us about your plans for Spain’s cooperation with the DR in cultural matters. We all know the strong ties of both nations.
That’s right, Spain and the Dominican Republic share the same culture. In the Colonial Zone we have a very active Cultural Center that all Dominicans know.
There are two initiatives that we are promoting now and that I want to underline. We have organized a series of conferences at the Cultural Center that will be attended by very important figures of contemporary Spanish culture to share their experiences and knowledge with the Dominican public. The first of these conferences will take place this week, by Borja Villel, Director of the Reina Sofía Museum. Soon we are going to publish a book, written by the main academics and intellectuals of the country, in which we will collect how much Spain and the Dominican Republic have shared throughout history in the most diverse sectors, a work that we are sure will become in reference text for the future.
• In Spain there is a hard-working Dominican community that increasingly moves from the service area to diverse professional lines. What do you think of these ties, since the Dominican diaspora is the second in remittances?
What unites us most, by far, is the fact that we have national communities, Dominicans in Spain and Spaniards in the DR, that are very active and perfectly integrated in their host countries. Our countries would be different and poorer without the contributions that these communities have made and are making in all areas, economic, labor or cultural.
• If you can comment on how important the EPA agreement has been as part of these relations for development, trade, culture and European political management before the CARIFORUM and the 77 ACP countries.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), signed in 2008, has had very positive effects on relations between the EU and the DR. Bilateral exchanges have increased by 160% since then and Dominican exports to the EU have more than doubled in that period. They have also diversified, and the DR no longer only exports agricultural products to the EU, but also industrial ones. Despite this very favorable balance, there is still room to take advantage of the opportunities of the EPA more thoroughly. We want more Dominican and European operators to use the EPA preferences in their commercial operations, so that our exchanges grow even more in quantity and quality.