Local newspaper Clarín announced today that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is set to visit Argentina between April 9 and 11 to meet with President Mauricio Macri.
The visit is important not just because Rajoy is essentially Macri’s window into the EU; but because the two leaders’ relationship (Macri’s European “best friend”, according to that same Clarín article) marks an important change in Argentine-Spanish relations.
Ramon Puerta, Argentina’s ambassador to Spain, explained that Rajoy is reciprocating Macri’s visit to Spain in February 2017. “This is a visit of great pride, and in 2019, King Phillip VI [of Spain] will visit,” said Puerta. The King will be coming to Córdoba, Argentina, in for the Eighth International Congress of the Spanish Language.
Macri’s visit to Madrid in February last year was a major shift from Spain’s relations with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Back in 2012, Kirchner nationalized the Spanish holdings of state-owned oil company YPF, something that the Spanish government called “a hostile move.” The relationship between Argentina and Spain became so tense that when Rajoy visited Argentina in 2013, it was Macri (then mayor of Buenos Aires) who greeted him, rather than Fernández de Kirchner.
As a result, Macri’s visit to Spain last year was a pretty big deal. During the meeting, Rajoy showered Macri with praise, calling him “an ambitious political reformist” and saying that “our relations, following this visit and after some difficult years, have returned to their traditional vigor.” Adding to this, the two leaders signed a ‘strategic partnership’ deal, establishing the two nations as diplomatic and economic partners, notwithstanding the two presidents’ mutual political support during elections.
Macri and Rajoy tried to capitalize on their alliance by trying to form a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur last year. The agreement ended up not panning out, but there was one big trade win for Argentina from the Spanish ally: Spain ended up being the main supporter of Europe reopening their doors to Argentine biodiesel in September 2017. (Which, after what’s going on with Argentine biodiesel in the US, is excellent news.)
After the April meeting with Spain, Macri has more diplomatic visits scheduled, including a visit on behalf of the Norse monarchy and one to another one of his allies, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, before he leaves office. It seems that for the Macri, there’s no time like the present to get busy.