The Mediterranean dimension is one of the essential elements shaping the identity of our country. Very evident social, cultural, economic, political and security interactions make the Mediterranean an area of vital importance for Spain.
Spain has a long experience of development cooperation with the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, corresponding to the high priority they are given. Indeed, the Cooperation Act states explicitly that the Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East are "areas of preferential attention".
Cooperation with these countries has increased considerably in recent years due to the increased funding being channelled through the instruments of cooperation, particularly multilateral agencies, as well as the growing importance of decentralised cooperation.
Nevertheless, the striking achievements in development in some of these countries and their evident advances in modernisation do not conceal the humanitarian dramas to which Spanish Cooperation in the region must respond, complying with our duty of solidarity and responsibility. We were the first country to assist the Saharawi refugee population, and the Spanish government, regional and local authorities and civil society have all been strongly involved. We are continuing to assist the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people, especially their refugees, and we are working actively in peacebuilding. Finally, Spanish Cooperation is providing Iraq with very valuable support in its process of normalisation.