First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS
At the end of March, I undertook a two-day visit to the Basque Country to discuss areas of collaboration, consolidate relationships and discuss renewing the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Basque Country. The Basque Country is one of Wales’ priority regional relationships and we have connections based on our shared industrial and linguistic heritage and longstanding and extensive links at government and institution level.
My programme featured meetings with the Lehendakari and a range of Basque Government Ministers covering portfolios including Economic Development, Culture, Language and Education. I attended and spoke at an event on future generations, met with prominent inward investors and had the opportunity to meet students from the University of the Basque Country.
My programme started in Vitoria-Gasteiz with a meeting with the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, to discuss current areas of collaboration between the Welsh and the Basque Governments including in the economy, culture and innovation sectors. We also discussed renewing the MOU that is currently in place and potential new areas of focus for a future agreement between both Governments.
I met with the Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment and senior leaders from two inward investors – CAF and Gestamp - to hear more about their operations in Wales. This was followed by a meeting on language policy and opportunities for collaboration and shared learning with the Minister for Culture and Linguistic Policy.
The following day, I gave the keynote speech at the Metropolis of the Future seminar in Bilbao. I used this opportunity to promote Wales’ focus on our future generations and healthy ageing to an international audience. This was followed by a visit to a marine energy test area run by Biscay Marine Energy Platform to see how marine energy is being harnessed. This was an opportunity to outline how Wales’ marine energy sector is being developed and areas for collaboration.
My final engagements focussed on education. I had a meeting with the Basque Government’s Minister for Education to discuss collaboration opportunities in the education sector. I then accompanied him on a visit to the University of the Basque Country where I attended an event with university students. During the event I was able to speak about the Taith programme and take questions about the opportunities that the programme can give to students.
The visit was wide-ranging and re-affirmed our two countries commitment to working together and the opportunities that our close relationship can bring. We will continue work on a new MOU with an aim to have it signed early next year taking our relationship even further forward.