The Spanish royal family will visit the United States on April 21, the White House and Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Tuesday. The broad plan for the trip, which comes at the invitation of US President Donald Trump, was confirmed last Friday following a phone conversation between Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to diplomatic sources.
This is the second time that King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia have been invited to visit the White House in less than two years. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), has not yet been extended an invitation.
The last time a Spanish royal made an official state visit to the US was in 2000
The royals have visited the White House on two occasions: in September 2015, at the invitation of then-US president Barack Obama, and in June 2018, with President Trump at the end of their tour of Louisiana and Texas. Neither occasion was an official state visit, which normally includes an official dinner at the White House and a visit to Capitol Hill, among other activities.
The last time a Spanish royal made an official state visit to the US was in 2000, when the former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, was invited by then-US president Bill Clinton. Juan Carlos, the father of Felipe VI, also made an official visit to Washington in 1976, at the beginning of Spain’s transition to democracy, and in 1981, at the invitation of then-President Ronald Reagan.
It is not typical for the king to visit the White House for a second time, with the prime minister yet to be extended the same courtesy. But this invitation came directly from Trump, who also set the date of the visit.
The president and the first lady, Melania Trump, were delighted to receive the Spanish royals at the White House in 2018, going to great lengths to welcome them and singing their praises.
The royals’ visit is a sign of the Trump administration’s changing attitude toward Spain
The 2018 visit was organized under the government of former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was invited to the White House in 2017. In the end, however, it took place just two weeks after Sánchez became prime minister, after he won a vote of no confidence he had filed against Rajoy in Congress.
The royals’ visit is a sign of the Trump administration’s changing attitude toward Spain. The US president has gone from criticizing the Spanish government for its modest military spending – which is one of the lowest of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – to thanking it for its cooperation in defense and security. This turn comes in large part as the United States seeks to increase its military presence at the US naval base in Rota, in Spain’s southern province of Cádiz.
The conversation between González Laya and Pompeo on Friday, which was requested by the US secretary of state, was presented as an introductory call following the former’s appointment as foreign affairs minister. But its purpose was much broader. Pompeo told González Laya that the US would like to work more closely with Spain and expand the countries’ current ties, the foreign minister told EL PAÍS in an interview last Sunday. She will meet with Pompeo in person during a security conference in Munich, Germany, that will be held between February 14 and 16.
Beyond the question of trade, which has been hit hard by the US tariffs on Spanish agriproducts – including wine, olive oil and cheese – the bilateral relationship between Spain and the US is also defined by the US’s military presence at Rota and at the Móron air base, in southern Spain.
English version by Melissa Kitson.