Interview: Enhance China-Europe exchanges, urges Catedra China's president emeritus

(Xinhua) 10:20, December 06, 2023

MADRID, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Marcelo Munoz, president emeritus of the non-profit association Catedra China, believes it is vital to increase bilateral cultural, economic and personal exchanges between China and Europe.

In an interview with Xinhua, Munoz, also dean of the Spanish businessmen and businesswomen in China, said that "the European Union must open itself much more to relations and cooperation with China and must put aside its misgivings, reluctance and resistance to maintain a frank, sincere and continuous dialogue."

The 24th China-EU Summit has been slated for Thursday in Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Chinese Premier Li Qiang, President Charles Michel and President Ursula von der Leyen will jointly chair the summit.

Munoz considers it vital for the EU to lose the "tutelage" of the United States and pursue an autonomous relationship with China as soon as possible" as "friendly collaboration between the European Union and China" would be "very beneficial" for both sides and for the world as a whole.

Munoz considers cultural relations between Spain and China to be "good," but highlights that Chinese citizens find it difficult to get visas to Spain. Also, there are "only just over 15,000" Chinese university students studying in Spain, he said, despite Spanish being "the second most spoken native language in the world."

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Spain also needs to increase, given that Spain is "one of the leading tourist destinations in the world" with an "enormous wealth" of attractions.

One way to increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting Spain would be for Spain to follow China's lead and reciprocally "end visa requirements" for Chinese visitors.

"This would immediately result in an increase in personal exchanges, especially for millions of Chinese tourists who want to visit Spain," Munoz said.

Under a visa-free entry policy effective from Dec. 1, ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia are now able to enjoy visa-free travel to China for up to 15 days.

A very positive aspect of bilateral relations is the "increasing number of visits to Spain by groups of Chinese leaders at the state, provincial and even municipal levels." Spanish leaders are also making more visits to China to "get to know the country better" and "debate its policies and position in the world of the 21st century."

"I want to highlight that, among these exchanges, we are also including those of groups of young Spaniards, who are being invited to get to know China up close, who are the ones who will have to promote better relations between our two countries in the coming decades," he said.

According to Munoz, Spain, in its capacity as holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2023, should push for the ratification of the "investment agreement, signed three years ago, which would greatly benefit both parties and would contribute to overcoming many prejudices and reluctance in relation to China."

He said he also wanted Spain to "pressure the leading organizations of the European Union so that Europe adheres to the Belt and Road program," and to "resume negotiations" to make the port of Algeciras (in south-west Spain) a trade hub for products for "all of Europe and all of Africa," thus "taking advantage of the fact that the ports of Barcelona, Valencia and Algeciras will be terminal ports for several major corridors of the great Euro-Asian connectivity project."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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