Presentation

Political relations

French-Spanish dialogue is exceptionally extensive and marked by close mutual trust, as seen in the State visit of the King of Spain to Paris on 2, 3, and 4 June 2015 and the three last bilateral summits, annual French-Spanish meetings presided by the President of the French Republic and the Head of the Spanish Government. The most recent French-Spanish summits were held in Madrid (27 November 2013), Paris (1 December 2014) and Malaga (20 February 2017). The relationship is driven by very effective law enforcement cooperation, which has helped to weaken ETA over the long term, and concrete cooperation projects in interconnections (energy and transport), which is a crucial field for our two countries. Our positions also converge on all of the European issues and we share similar concerns and priorities regarding the main international topics.

At the 25th bilateral summit held in Malaga on 20 February 2017,the President of the Spanish Government, Mariano Rajoy, welcomed President François Hollande, accompanied by six Ministers and three Ministers of State. Recalling the ambition of the European project and the current challenges the European Union must face, the final declaration of this summit set out France and Spain’s shared priorities. They include restoring growth through investment, strengthening the European basis of social rights, completing a Banking Union, fighting terrorism with better external border control, shoring up European defence policy, and migration policy.

Visits

In December 2014, for the French-Spanish Summit held in Paris, Mr Hollande met with Mr Rajoy, who came with seven Ministers and two Secretaries of State. On 4 March 2015, the French President, Spanish President of the Government, Portuguese Prime Minister and European Commission President met in Madrid to chair a Summit on energy interconnections. Lastly, from 2 to 4 June 2015, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia were received in Paris for their first State visit. At the Malaga summit on 20 February 2017, the bilateral relationship was relaunched after ten months of being on hold in the absence of a fully functioning Spanish Government.

Economic relations

France is Spain’s leading economic partner with an annual trade of more than €60 billion.

Over the first ten months of 2016, France posted a trade surplus of €600 million, consistent with 2015 and 2014. French exports were stronger than its imports. France’s market share in Spain has grown to 11.3% due to robust sales of transport equipment and reached 2008 levels. Trade in equipment between the two countries is definitely on the rise. In this sector, French exports (€7.4 billion) are more robust than imports (€6 billion). Likewise, Spain’s market share in France is growing (6.4%, the highest in 10 years) mainly due to France’s revitalized automobile industry.

Our companies’ positions have remained stable since 2010 at around 11% of market share, after a significant drop recorded in the early 2000s. As a result, in 2016, France was Spain’s second-largest supplier behind Germany and its number-one customer, while Spain was France’s second-largest customer behind Germany and ahead of the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Investment has been significant in both directions: France remains the third-largest investor in Spain (behind the United Kingdom and the United States), with more than 2,000 subsidiaries employing more than 300,000 people. French companies in Spain stand out on account of their key positions in certain markets such as market retail, the automobile industry and telecommunications. Spanish companies are working in more than 1,300 sites in France and employ more than 55,000 people.

Lastly, concerning the financial sector, French banks are the leading holders of Spanish public debt (5.4 %).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Despite the crisis in Spain, there is a great deal of cooperation between our two countries seen daily in a wide range of exchanges in the fields of education, language and culture. Emblematic of this dynamic cooperation, a branch of the Pompidou Museum was inaugurated in Malaga on 28 March 2015.

The French cultural network in Spain is working throughout the country, with six Instituts Français or branches (Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville, Valencia) and twenty Alliances Françaises. While French is the second leading foreign language taught in Spain, it is still vulnerable: learning a second foreign language in school is not compulsory.

Nearly two million French people are learning Spanish and 1.3 million Spanish people are learning French. The French school network in Spain is the largest in Europe and third-largest globally, behind Lebanon and Morocco. Spain also has 342 bilingual sections with 27,000 pupils. Moreover, France is the second-leading destination for Spanish students in exchange programmes (more than 6,000 in 2013-2014, on a par with the UK).In 2008, an agreement on a dual certification at the end of secondary studies (known as the Bachibac Agreement) was signed by the Education Ministers of the two countries. It provides for the arrangements for the creation of a curriculum for students to obtain both the French and Spanish baccalaureates. The intergovernmental framework agreement on linguistic, educational and cultural schemes in schools, signed in Madrid on 16 May 2005, consolidated French bilingual sections. An agreement on French and Spanish university networks was signed on 20 February 2017.

Scientific and technical cooperation is based on agreements between the major French research and development institutions such as the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), and the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) and their Spanish counterparts in international scientific cooperation programmes, European laboratories (LEA) and joint participations in European and international research groups (GDRE-GDRI). Moreover, the French National Space Agency and its Spanish equivalent, the CDTI, signed a cooperation agreement at the bilateral summit in February 2007.

Other cooperation

Police cooperation, and particularly counter-terrorism, continues to produce very good results. The weakness of ETA is the result of arrests in both France and Spain. On 20 October 2011, an ETA communiqué announced a definitive end to its armed activities after 43 years of violence, without however enacting its dissolution. In addition, with concern for collective memory and history, France and Spain signed an agreement on the transfer of sealed ETA-related judicial proceedings to Madrid at the bilateral summit of 20 February 2017. The fight against Islamist terrorism is another thrust of our internal security cooperation.

In cross-border cooperation, interconnections are a key political and economic question for Spain:

  • Rail infrastructure: On the Mediterranean side, the 44-kilometre high-speed rail link between Perpignan and Figueras is a key section of the Madrid-Barcelona-Paris route and was inaugurated in January 2011. Perpignan and Figueras are thus linked by a direct, 8-kilometre cross-border tunnel at Le Perthus, which has enabled a 70% increase in traffic. The Perpignan-Barcelona high-speed line was inaugurated in December 2013. On the Atlantic side, the Dax-Vitoria high-speed line is in the final stages of construction on the Spanish side.
  • Electrical interconnections: An extra-high voltage cable between Baixas and Santa Llogaia, doubling electricity generation capacity, was inaugurated by the French Prime Minister and the Spanish President of the Government on 20 February 2015.An extra-high voltage submarine cable is being studied for the Bay of Biscay.
  • Gas interconnections: Spain has a structural gas surplus and needs to re-export the gas it imports from the South and from its six LNG terminals (of the 16 in Europe) towards the North. That is why, on the Atlantic side, work is currently underway to reinforce the Larrau and Biriatou pipelines (in Navarre and the Basque country) to bring capacity up to 7.5 Gm³ annually, or the equivalent of 20 % of Spain’s consumption. That is three time the exchange capacity in 2010.
  • Maritime highways: Funding of the Nantes-Gijon (Austurias) maritime highway, suspended in September 2014, has still not been provided. A second maritime highway from Vigo (Galicia) was launched in early 2015 to serve Algeciras, Saint-Nazaire and Le Havre.

Updated: 5 May 2017

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