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Opening of the Year of Russia in Spain and the Year of Spain in Russia

February 25, 2011, St Petersburg

Dmitry Medvedev and King Juan Carlos I of Spain opened the Year of Russia in Spain and the Year of Spain in Russia.

The reciprocal cultural projects will include tours by world-famous Russian and Spanish performers, concerts, exhibitions, conferences, and investment forums.

President Medvedev and HM Juan Carlos I visited one of the first events taking place as part of the project: an exhibition of paintings from Spain’s Prado National Museum at the State Hermitage Museum. The paintings on display include works by Hieronymous Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velasquez, and Francisco de Goya. Paintings from the State Hermitage’s collection will be exhibited at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Your Majesty,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we are opening the Year of Russia in Spain and the Year of Spain in Russia. This is the first time our countries are carrying out such an extensive and multifaceted project together. It gives me great pleasure that King of Spain Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia are taking part in the opening ceremony today. This is a great honour for us.

The relations between Russia and Spain today are not just dynamic and developing, not just strategic in nature, as we often say, but are based on the experience of centuries. It was almost 500 years ago now that Emperor Carl V and Grand Prince Vasily III exchanged letters declaring their friendship and alliance. Our countries established diplomatic relations in the seventeenth century. The portrait of Pyotr Potemkin, the head of Russia’s embassy at that time, was painted by the artist Juan Carreno de Miranda and hangs in the Prado Museum now. This is also evidence of those events. Peter the Great instructed Russia’s first permanent envoy to Madrid to do everything possible to develop ties with Spain.

We value our friendly and trusting dialogue with Spain. We share similar views on the main international problems and modern threats (and a large part of the talks with His Majesty today were devoted to these issues), and this helps us to unite our efforts to find solutions. These threats are clear and our action must be coordinated too: the threats we are fighting are terrorism, extremism, and xenophobia.

Our countries are developing multifaceted technological cooperation and are expanding their economic ties too. Not long ago, in December last year, we signed an important document in my view, on establishing a partnership for modernisation. Russian business can learn from our Spanish friends, from Spanish companies. The reciprocal years we are holding in each other’s countries include a whole range of forums in which businesspeople and scientists will take part. We just held the biggest of these forums together with His Majesty in St Petersburg and had a very constructive exchange of views on future projects we can develop.

There are a large number of different events that await us this year. They include Spain’s experience in urban development and infrastructure construction, which will be the subject of an exhibition in Moscow in February and March this year. In May, Spain will host Space Week – an event devoted to Russia’s achievements in space and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s space flight.

We will see our Spanish friends in St Petersburg again in June to take part in the International Economic Forum. We are expecting a big Spanish delegation headed by President of the Government Zapatero.

Our common successes in politics and the economy owe much to our humanitarian ties. To be frank, they owe much to the mutual sympathy between our peoples and to our past. I have no doubt that the events taking place now will give a big new boost to developing these ties. Our peoples feel genuine interest for each other’s cultures. It is symbolic that a monument to Russia’s great poet, Alexander Pushkin, was erected in Madrid, and a monument to a great Spaniard, Miguel de Cervantes, stands in Moscow.

Here at the State Hermitage today, we are opening an exhibition of works of art from the world-famous Prado Museum. This is the biggest and most important exhibition our Spanish friends have ever organised outside Spain. Russian art lovers will see here works by Goya, Velasquez, Murillo and other famous artists. We are very grateful to you for organising this exhibition here. The Hermitage will exhibit some of the finest gems in its collection in Madrid, and not just paintings but also archaeological items, sculptures, and decorative arts. 

A huge number of events will take place this year: 350 business, scientific, public and cultural events. If His Majesty and I went to all of these events we would probably have no time for anything else the whole year long, and would be constantly travelling to each other. Fortunately, we have colleagues who will help us to hold these events. I hope that they will take place at the best level.

Once again, we are very happy with the event taking place here in St Petersburg today. I am sure that all of these events will be of real interest to our people, because people here love Spanish culture and history and will most certainly be eager to take this opportunity to broaden their knowledge.

I hope that the holding of these reciprocal years in each other’s countries will open up new horizons for cooperation in the economy, in our humanitarian ties, and in developing our academic and cultural contacts, and most importantly, will bring our countries closer together.

I wish all of the events success and thank you for your attention.

February 25, 2011, St Petersburg