FHB interview with JOSÉ PASCUAL MARCO MARTÍNEZ, Ambassador of Spain to the United Kingdom, Honorary President of the British Hispanic Foundation
It is the many parks and hidden spaces which make London “such an amazing city”. As he told us in an interview days before the death of Elizabeth II. For José Pascual, Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, his current posting is a childhood dream come true as he continues to work to ensure that the UK remains one of Spain’s key partners.
(Translated by ALEX HOSSBACH)
Following your predecessor´s retirement, your current position had been vacant for almost six months. Would you say this has made your arrival all the more special?
It has been a real honour as it marks the culmination of a long career. No effort will be spared when it comes to reinforcing the bilateral relationship. Personally, I have always been greatly attached to the UK ever since I first visited when I was twelve years old. I have also been in close contact with the UK professionally over the past several years.
With regards to my remit as ambassador, even if bilateral relations are excellent, my objective is to create a solid institutional framework which can compensate for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union – as laid out and directed by the Spanish government.
In any case, this ambassadorial post is particularly relevant given the present circumstances. Is managing the effects of an event such as Brexit an interesting prospect for a career diplomat?
Brexit has undoubtedly been a unique event for us all. No one could have imagined having to handle the withdrawal of one of the EU’s most important members. In fact, many of us would have preferred for none of this to have happened in the first place. However, it was a sovereign decision taken by the British people and on our side we simply did what had to be done. In our case, designing a new framework which sets the scene for a stable and orderly relationship and which allows both countries to remain close partners across all sectors.
As Director General for Common Policy Coordination and EU affairs at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid, I had already been working to that end and am therefore familiar with the details of a negotiation process which still has many details in need of ironing out – a collective effort to which I will now be contributing to in my new capacity as Ambassador. In this sense, Brexit has undoubtedly steered the UK away from its previous path within the European Union. Nonetheless, our aspiration is to ensure that both countries remain key partners.
After a long and intense diplomatic career across Pakistan, Nicaragua, Melbourne, Turkey, South Africa, Congo or the EU – would you say your initial career expectations have been met?
As a career diplomat, I am first and foremost a civil servant and as such must work to promote our national interest wherever I may be. Becoming a diplomat was my main goal since I was young and I must say that at least in this sense, I am extremely grateful for having enjoyed and learnt so much in all my diplomatic placements spanning all five continents. As I mentioned earlier, this last posting in London is also to a certain extent the culmination of a dream which first came to me as a child whilst visiting London with my mother.
How has the pandemic affected relations and day-to-day life between the British and Spanish people?
The UK has had to face a similarly difficult context in the wake of the pandemic, which has without a doubt negatively influenced not just society at large, but the individual lives of millions of people, in one way or another. Though if I may, I would like to highlight the swift deployment of the UK’s vaccination programme, as well as the immense contribution British scientists have made to finding a long-lasting solution to this crisis. All I can do is hope that we can once again count on the millions of British tourists which have enjoyed their holidays in Spain in the past. Likewise, I hope Spaniards will also be able to freely come and visit the UK’s amazing cultural heritage, history and culture.
Have you had a chance to think about what the Embassy’s main priorities will be?
Our main priority is for the bilateral relationship to remain unaffected by the impact of Brexit, be it from an economic, cultural or academic point of view., etc…
Have you managed to find any favourite spots in London which you might recommend?
I have grown particularly fond of the three parks closest to the Embassy: Hyde Park, Regents’ Park and Saint James’ Park. They offer a breath of fresh air in the heart of London and I have had the chance to go for several walks since my arrival. All of London’s neighbourhoods are interesting and I have recently taken to exploring them in depth either by foot or by bike during the weekends. London is an amazing city.