It has taken two years and 23 days, but finally Mariano Rajoy will on Monday fulfill one of the dreams he brought with him to La Moncloa prime-ministerial palace: being greeted by the president of the Unites States in the Oval Office.
Barack Obama invited Rajoy’s predecessor, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, for a visit in 2009, just nine months after becoming the first black president of the United States. This was after George W. Bush had left Zapatero waiting for four-and-a-half years owing to his profound irritation over Spain’s withdrawal from the Iraq conflict. Rajoy, meanwhile, has muted the NSA spying scandal and bowed to several of Washington’s demands, including the stationing of a rapid reaction force of 500 US Marines at the naval base of Morón, Seville province.
“US presidents are only interested in speaking to two types of leader,” say diplomatic sources. “Those that cause problems and those that can help to solve them. As Rajoy doesn’t fall into either group it has not been easy to find a space in the agenda for him.”
Rajoy’s key goal in Washington is to sell the message that Spain has begun its recovery from the economic crisis. The agenda of the meeting, which is scheduled to last an hour starting at 2.15pm local time, is open but the two leaders’ teams have noted the following themes: Spain’s economic situation; relations between the US and EU; bilateral relations; the situation in the Maghreb and the Mediterranean, and Latin America.