Address by President Nelson Mandela at the banquet in honour of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Spain

15 February 1999

Your Majesty, King Juan Carlos;
Your Majesty, Queen Sofia;
Deputy President Mbeki;
Your excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen

Any newly married person should be forgiven for feeling a little jealous when their spouse, within the first six months of their marriage, leaves them to visit another place, not once but twice. I must confess that I was no exception last year. But I felt relieved when I knew that Ms. Machel was in the trustworthy hands of Your Majesties, the King and Queen of Spain, and especially by the knowledge that she was being honoured with the prestigious Prince of Asturias International Co-operation Prize.

I myself have fond memories of my own visit to Spain in 1992, to receive the same award as an expression of Spain's commitment to co-operation with the people of South Africa.

Today it is our privilege and honour to welcome Your Majesties to South Africa. The time has come for us to show our gratitude and return the hospitality that we experienced in Spain. I should add that my wife and I are delighted that your Majesties arrived in romantic Cape Town on St Valentines Day. We hope this city brings you the same joy as thousands other couples enjoy.

In South Africa you will find a country still in transition. This is a process that is not unfamiliar to the people of Spain.

The affinities of Spain's experience and South Africa's, were reflected in the joint award in 1983 to Your Majesty and myself of the International Simon Bolivar Prize, as representatives of our two peoples. it symbolised also the international community's commitment to justice and freedom from which both our peoples have benefited.

That award was also a sign of the world's recognition of His Majesty's courageous adherence to democratic principles. Your Majesty's unstinting efforts in promoting democracy in your country and human rights around the world have helped boost ties between South Africa and Spain.

South Africa was able to learn much from Spain's experience. And we sincerely hope that all those involved in the Basque peace process will find encouragement in our own humble experience that even long-standing and seemingly insurmountable differences can be resolved through negotiation. Spain's efforts to find peaceful solutions and eradicate violence as a means of resolving political differences, are an example to the world.

As South Africans set about rebuilding their country; participating in the development of Southern Africa and the rebirth of Africa; and defining our place in the world as a developing country seeking equitable partnership with the North, our expanding relationship with Spain is of great importance to us.

The fact that Spain is now our 12th biggest trading partner is heartening. But it does not do justice to the potential that can be realised. The prospects of doing so have grown with the recent declaration of Spain's commitment to developing long term trade and investment relations in the Southern African region.

We welcome and appreciate that commitment, as we do your country's assistance to South Africa, in particular in education, training, transport, tourism and culture.

Our relationship with the European Union will be strengthened when then protracted trade talks are sealed in a formal Agreement. Like the outcome of all negotiations, the package is a compromise for the mutual benefit of all parties, and we hope that all EU members, including Spain, will support it as the EU's General Affairs Council finalises the agreement.

As an African country, we value Spain's interest in contributing to the entrenchment of peace in democracy in Africa, including through assistance to the development of Southern Africa's peacekeeping capacity by support for Exercise Blue Crane in April this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to conclude by thanking Your Majesties and the Spanish people for your continued interest in the well being of our nations. Our efforts to attain sustainable growth and entrench democracy are strengthened by your support.

I trust that you will enjoy your visit. We have no doubt that it will further enhance the warm and mutually beneficial relationship that already exists between our two nations.

I ask you to join me in a toast to His Majesty, King Juan Carlos and Her Majesty, Queen Sofia, to the people of Spain, and to friendship between our peoples.

Source: South African Government Information Website