Obama Meets With Spanish Prime Minister, Hails His 'Great Leadership' On Economic Reform

The "great leadership" shown by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has stabilized the Spanish economy and has put it on the road to growth, although challenges remain, U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday during the Spaniard's first visit to the White House.

The president emphasized the efforts Spain has made to put the crisis behind it, although he added that there is still much to do in Europe noting that there are some measures that have had to be implemented that are necessary but not "popular."

Rajoy came to power in Spain at a very difficult time for the European and Spanish economies, Obama said.

He congratulated the Spanish premier on the significant advances that Madrid has made to stabilize the economy, achieve growth, reduce the deficit and work with the financial markets "thanks to your great leadership."

Even so, the president said, challenges such as unemployment remain, adding that he and Rajoy had committed themselves to continue working jointly to achieve greater stability and create jobs.

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One thing that could contribute in that regard might be the free trade treaty that the European Union and the United States are going to negotiate, the president said.

Obama said his conversation with Rajoy reflects the great friendship and the alliance that exists between the two countries.

In that context, he expressed gratitude for Spain's cooperation in military operations against terrorism.

Rajoy stressed the great advances made by the European economy and the fact that today the survival of the euro and whether or not Spain needs to ask for a financial bailout are no longer in doubt.

Monday's encounter came nearly two years after Obama invited Rajoy to visit Washington and followed a series of meetings between the leaders at which the state of the Eurozone and Spanish economies was the main topic on the agenda.

Rajoy arrived in Washington on Sunday with a delegation that includes, among others, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Gonzalo de Benito, Secretary of State for Communications Carmen Martinez Castro, Cabinet chief Jorge Moragas and Economic Affairs Office director Alvaro Nadal.

The Spanish prime minister's first official event was the placing of a wreath Monday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

Rajoy went from the White House to the International Monetary Fund for a meeting with Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

The prime minister will end the day with an event at Spanish Ambassador to the United States Ramon Gil Casares's residence, where he will present the Great Cross of Isabella the Catholic to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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