Gorbachev Trip Opens New Era in Soviet-Spanish Relations
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ If Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev needs a break from economic headaches at home, he’s likely to find it in the warmth of adoring Spaniards during a three-day visit that begins Friday.
He also comes in search of real economic help - reciprocal agreements are ready for signing, and Madrid is offering state-guaranteed credits of up to $1 billion for the purchase of Spanish consumer and industrial goods.
The first Spanish visit by a Soviet head of state aims to put relations between the two countries on an equal footing with Moscow’s ties to other major Western nations, Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez said.
″The Gorbachev visit is very important because it comes at a time of great changes in the world, especially in Europe,″ said Juan Antonio Yanez, adviser to Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.
″And it’s a time when the Soviet Union finds itself at a crucial moment in its economic and political development,″ he said.
Gorbachev is to be accompanied by his wife, Raisa, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevarnadze and a number of top economic, political and cultural advisers.
Soviet historian Svetlana Podzarskaya, who is accompanying Gorbachev, told Spanish reporters in Moscow that both sides feel an urgency to deepen relations.
″Spain and the Soviet Union remained outside the European process of economic and political development for many years for political reasons,″ Podzarskaya said.
″Now, we both have entered. Spain did it earlier and with more success,″ she said, referring to Madrid’s 1986 entry into the European Economic Community. ″We’re just starting along the path.″
The Soviet leader’s popularity is running particularly high in Spain in the wake of his recent Nobel Peace Prize, and opposition politicans from conservatives to traditional Communists are jockeying for photo opportunities with Gorbachev.
Officials at two Madrid universities awarding him honorary degrees are battling for the right to host the joint awards ceremony. The Soviets suggested a neutral site.
Gorbachev is to sign a key joint political statement underscoring the two countries’ commitment to broad European unity and cooperation and strengthening of world security.
″We go to Spain in acknowledgement of Spain’s creative and growing role in the development of European and non-European policy,″ Gorbachev told reporters in Moscow on Monday.
″There is a deep reserve of good feeling among Spaniards toward the Soviet Union,″ Madrid University International Relations Prof. Roberto Mesas said.
″Spaniards, particularly on the left, remember the Soviets’ political and military support for the democratic 1931-39 Second Republic during the 1936-39 Civil War.″
The war was sparked by a military rebellion led by Gen. Francisco Franco and resulted in nearly 40 years of right-wing dictatorship under Franco that ended only with his death in 1975. Political parties were banned, and Communists in particular suffered from the repression.
A year after Franco’s death, the Communist Party was legalized. In 1977 Spain held its first democratic elections since 1936 and restored the diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union cut for four decades.
″People recall warmly the Soviet military support for the elected government during the Civil War at a time when the French and British appeared to take a non-interventionist stance that condemned Spain to dictatorship,″ Mesas said.
Key accords to be signed during Gorbachev’s visit include one on reciprocal investment guarantees and another on joint development of tourism, a key Spanish industry and the nation’s chief foreign currency earner.
Other accords will set up regular meetings between government ministers and officials, top military brass and cultural officials as well as the establishment of culture centers.
Gorbachev is to meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, who made a state visit to Moscow in 1984. The Soviet leader will also meet with Gonzalez and speak before a group of parliamentarians.
He also isto visit Barcelona to promote investment and view the site of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.