European Summit: The magic of the Alhambra raises Spain's profile as an international host | International

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The more than 40 leaders from all over Europe attending the meeting of the European Political Community in Granada and their companions were literally left with their mouths open on Thursday afternoon when they crossed the threshold of the palace of Charles V (built in 1536) and immersed themselves and slowly cross, in solitude, its impressive circular patio surrounded by 32 Doric columns; with the spectacular light of the Granada sunset falling on their heads through the large annular vault that covers the patio. It was just the appetizer of a successful night of organization, diplomacy and protocol. A sample (the most notable due to its significance and number and importance of attendees) of the work being carried out by the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU during the semester from July to December: 25 meetings of heads of State, Government and ministers in many other Spanish cities, from Vigo to Córdoba passing through Logroño, Mallorca or Cáceres. In each of them, the most emblematic buildings in the history of Spain, the best gastronomy with roots and stars, and a perfectly oiled logistical, protocol, sensitivity and security mechanism. And flying over this exercise of public relations at the highest level, the political content of the Presidency, designed by the team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which coordinates the agenda of each ministry in moments like these: when the formal foundations of the future of the EU on issues such as enlargement, fiscal rules, migration and asylum, or social and energy issues.

After crossing the Renaissance courtyard, the official reception of the European guests to Granada came from the President of the Government and his wife, Begoña Gómez, to go together to the Patio de los Leones (from the 14th century), right in the heart of the Alhambra, in order to officially greet the Kings and take a family photo. Don Felipe (who had just met with Zelenski minutes earlier) and Doña Letizia chatted kindly—even affectionately—with everyone in English. They demonstrated that they mastered their craft and were wizards in international relations. A kind word for each one. A topical comment. Gesture language. Affectionate with Macron (the last to arrive) and courteous with Meloni. Endearing with everyone. Next, stepping into the albero, I walked to the dreamlike gardens of Partal, among palm trees, with the sound of the water and with Granada silhouetted at sunset, where the singer Marina Heredia, surrounded simply by two guitars, a cajon and two more singers, sang Granada and Lorca before the undisguised emotion of the European leaders. To end the night, a gala dinner at the Parador de Granada, next to the Alhambra, an old convent built by the Catholic Monarchs, where they tasted an Andalusian menu by chef Paco Morales, with two Michelin stars, and whose restaurant is one of the 50 best in the world. The cocktail was perfect. Even superior to the reception for the NATO summit at the Prado museum in Madrid, in June 2022.

The Alhambra has been our Versailles. If Macron paraded through the grandeur From the grandiose royal palace where Marie Antoinette welcomed her guests during the European Council in March 2022 and prepared almost thirty informal meetings of Union ministers throughout France, the Spanish presidency has not been left behind. The design has been precise and, the substance, deeply political. Behind all the spectacular continent of meetings is the coordination office for the Spanish presidency of the EU. It was created in October 2021, under the direct dependence of the director of the president's cabinet, Óscar López, and founded from scratch and directed by another person who is completely trusted by Pedro Sánchez, the veteran diplomat Aurora Mejía, his sherpa at European summits. Two other women have had a lot to do with different aspects of the organization: the General Secretary of the Presidency since March, Judith González Pedraz (who in Granada has directly managed the parallel agenda of the companions of the European leaders), and the main commissioner María Marcos Salvador, general director of the Security Department of the Presidency of the Government, who was in charge of the security of the president's guests.

Thoughtful design

Beyond the summit, it is not an exaggeration to say that each of these 25 meetings of the Spanish presidency is designed to the minute. Weeks before they begin, a restricted meeting called “minutes” takes place in the Madrid Río Office in which those responsible for each of the issues of each summit are broken down inch by inch, starting days before the arrival. of the guests until beyond their departure. Where they enter and exit; whether they give statements or not; their caravans; your food intolerances; how to ensure that they do not meet with journalists; the attention to his assistants; the distribution of the different levels of accreditation; the delivery of gifts with products from the region; your special needs. All with projected 3D images of the summit venue, the airport (which is shielded for the occasion), roads, streets and alternative routes and a GPS control of each vehicle of the head of the delegation. They are tense meetings, where weak points that need to be corrected come to light.

Spain has become an expert in organizing international summits. They are an example of effectiveness.

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There are still three months left in the presidency, and as a diplomat from the Office team states, “the semester is an exercise in diplomacy, it is positive and an opportunity for Spain. They are going to see the best in us and we are going to treat them well. And that greases diplomacy at a crucial moment for Europe.”

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