Read in Catalan

The Spanish government's international PR unit, Global Spain, has launched a "reputational action cell" within the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to detect and anticipate risks and opportunities affecting Spain's reputation around the world and respond to them quickly.

For this purpose, since the end of November 2018, it has had in operation a network consisting of a diplomat at each of the 215 Spanish embassies and consulates around the world, who have the task of being alert to situations that could constitute risks or opportunities for Spain's image in the world. Although no specific "risk" has been specified, this initiative is conceived to ensure the primacy of the Spanish state's narrative on the Catalan independence trial.

According to sources at the Secretary of State of Global Spain consulted by Europa Press, the mission is to ensure the "reputational vigilance, protection and projection" which is the special job of the PR unit led by Irene Lozano. At the same time, the construction of the network aims to create a critical mass of diplomats specialized in public diplomacy, not addressing foreign governmental authorities but rather targeting civil society, economic and cultural fields, and key individuals. According to the sources consulted, this is a "specialized radar" to detect all kinds of situations that may affect Spain's reputation, for better or worse.

A good example of this activity is the appearance of the Spanish Consul in San Francisco, Diego Muñiz Lovelace, at a conference given by Catalan president Quim Torra last January at the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute, in the framework of Catalonia's internationalization of its independence process.

This broader network is supported by the second, tighter element: the reputational action cell. This is a small group, around half a dozen people, who meet two or three times a week. It is coordinated by the Secretary of State of Global Spain, and consists of one member from Josep Borrell's close team at the foreign ministry; a member from Spain's Directorate General of Communication and Diplomatic Information; a representative of the Secretary of State for Communication (under the prime minister's department) and another from Spain's General Directorate for the UN and Human Rights, which is considered an important area in this field. Figures from other government areas also take part as required.

Among the issues the action cell has on its agenda - apart from the obvious one, the crisis with regard to Catalonia - are international events that could affect the reputation of Spain, such as Dubai's 2020 Expo, and initiatives such as the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the planet by the explorers Magellan and Elcano.