Mediterranean Dialogue
Interview with Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe

Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe
Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe

Casa Árabe is one of the strategic partners of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Spain and the strategic center for Spain's relations with the Arab world. A place where different private and public actors and institutions of business, education, science, politics and culture enter into dialogue, establish lines of cooperation and carry out joint projects. Today we had the chance to interview Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe. 

“The Euro-Mediterranean Barcelona Process is a very appropriate platform for dialogue and cooperation”.

Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe
Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe

Within the framework of the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, what in your opinion are the greatest challenges for the EU in the Mediterranean region?

What happens in the countries of the Southern Mediterranean is of utmost importance for the countries of the EU in today's increasingly interconnected world. Our security, our economy, our environment or achieving orderly migration are some of the elementary challenges for the EU that depend largely on the situation of our southern neighbors. Therefore, the reasons for the cooperation with these nations and for the interest of the EU in what is happening in these countries are not only the solidarity and humanism that underlie the values of the European Union, but also the interests of the Union in this region that cannot be neglected.

The so-called "Arab Spring" is a spontaneous reaction of the people of some of these countries who are demanding greater social justice, an end to the rampant corruption that plagues many countries in the region, and political reforms that will allow their demands to be realized. Therefore, these are just and timely endeavors that would give the people a good fundament on which to move forward in their development. On the contrary, I believe that clinging to the mistakes of the past, which are denied by the protesters, will only exacerbate the explosive situation that has led to the current uprisings. It is worth mentioning that despite the pessimism of many experts over the past decade regarding the results of the "Arab Spring," the spirit of the "Arab Spring,” - far from having disappeared -  is still very much present in the region as evidenced by the vitality of the revolts in Algeria, Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon and the demands of many opposition figures in several of these countries.

For the reasons outlined here, I believe that the EU should support the reform processes demanded by a large part of the populations of these countries by helping the respective governments to move further in this direction. The framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Barcelona Process, with its regional cooperation programs, is a very appropriate platform for the necessary dialogue and cooperation.

Casa Árabe, Madrid
Casa Árabe, Madrid.

What are Casa Árabe's main initiatives to promote dialogue in Mediterranean countries?

Casa Árabe works in two directions:

- First, to show the reality of these countries in all their dimensions; political, economic, cultural, social, etc. This is our main activity, through which we arouse interest and draw the public's attention to what is happening in these countries. This is important because thanks to our work, many citizens are interested in the Arab countries, thus promoting solidarity and interest of public and private institutions for these nations.

- The organization of activities that specifically promote dialogue between actors in the political, social, cultural, economic and academic sphere of the Arab and other countries.  For this purpose, we organize numerous seminars, various types of meetings, round tables, etc. throughout the year.

In recent years, Casa Árabe has organized more than 300 activities per year, a number that dropped to 237 last year due to COVID.

Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe
Pedro Martínez-Avial, General Director of Casa Árabe

Spain has established a system of "casas" that represents a strategic point in Spain's relations with the world. Do you think that this model of cooperation could be a reference for other EU member states?

Each country has its own interests, traditions and ways of cooperating with other nations.  The network of Spanish "casas" that integrates public institutions has its origins in the experience of the “Casa de América”, which was founded twenty years before the others and became a reference point for the Americas. Therefore, it was a proven model and consequently a sure success. In my opinion, the model works particularly well when the "casas" focus on a region in which a country has significant interests, which is certainly the case with regard to Casa de América and Casa Árabe. There are other countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, that have a successful network of very prestigious private institutions that operate a similar model to our network of casas with great success. However, there are different formulas that respond to the peculiarities of different countries and it is therefore difficult to give advice or recommendations on this matter.