The headlines in the Spanish media this morning all refer to the lunch hosted by President Bush and his wife yesterday in their Texan ranch, and attended by the Spanish king and queen and George Bush senior and his wife. According to all reports, the lunch was a private affair prevailed by cordiality and respect.
Goerge Bush said to reporters that “Spain is a great country and a good friend” a comment widely quoted last night on Spanish television and in the papers this morning.
How to improve relations between the Spanish and US governments is one of the most debated themes in Spainsh politics at the moment. Attempts made by the Socialist government to approach the Bush administration have largely been ignored so far, and policital commentators see the King’s visit as a crucial step towards improving the situation.
Bush never did return Zapatero’s famous telephone call (he sent a letter instead), which tends to underline the divide between the two presidents, as do other episodes like the US president’s audience with ex-Spanish president Aznar last week and Aznar’s repeated accusations made infront of US audiences, of government-led anti-americanism in Spain and Europe.
The Socialist government’s clumsy handling of the visit to Spain of Venezuela’s controversial president, Luis Chaves (who on several occasions during his visit and infront of reporters strongly criticised Bush and the US government’s foreign policy) will hardly have helped its case either.
Meanwhile, the recent gestures made by Bush administration towards the German and French governments and vice versa (earlier this week, and after negotation with the US government, both France and Germany agreed to pardon 80 per cent of Iraq’s debt), suggest that all three governments want to repair their governments’ relations and look ahead which, in turn, tends to make Spain seem even more isolated.
Zapatero has admitted that he sent a message to Bush via King Juan Carlos, but has refused to reveal its contents. He told reporters that he was sure that the meeting between Bush and the Spanish royals would go very well “because of the King’s personality and because of the good relations which have always existed between the two countries“. He didn’t say anything about the personality of Bush.
It remains to be seen whether or not yesterday’s lunch will mark the beginning of a thaw in Spanish-US relations. Most of the media over here,whatever their opinion of the US government, seem to hope it will.