Shipbuilder Navantia’s work to deliver three Hobart Class destroyers to the Royal Australian Navy was among the key topics of discussion in a bilateral meeting between Canberra and Madrid.
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón for bilateral talks in Madrid — the first bilateral visit to the Kingdom of Spain by an Australian prime minister.
Among the subjects raised by the pair was “longstanding” defence industry cooperation between Spain and Australia, with the joint statement noting each nation had “contributed significantly” to their respective naval capability.
Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Sanchez specifically lauded shipbuilder Navantia’s design and construction of 60 per cent of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface fleet by tonnage since 2006.
This included the recent delivery of three Hobart Class air warfare destroyers — HMAS Hobart, HMAS Brisbane, and HMAS Sydney.
Navantia recently offered to develop a further three destroyers to the RAN by 2030, doubling the size of the fleet to six.
The program would cost an estimated $6 billion – $2 billion for each vessel.
Navantia Australia managing director Israel Lozano Barragan told The Australian the additional Hobart Class destroyers could be built locally, in Spain or via a “hybrid model” across both countries.
This, he said, would depend on the capacity of South Australia’s Osborne Shipyard.
Ahead of Prime Minister Albanese’s meeting with Prime Minister Sanchez, he was asked if acquiring three additional vessels would form part of the discussions.
“I would expect that will be one of the topics that will come up today,” he said.
“Australia has a close relationship with Spain. This will be Australia’s first bilateral meeting at the leadership level between Australia and Spain.
“I look forward to constructive discussions. And I’ll have more to say about that in about two hours. So, I’ll see you all then.”
However, the joint statement has made no specific mention of plans to bolster the Hobart Class fleet.
During their meeting, the leaders also condemned Russia’s “unilateral, illegal and immoral war of aggression” against Ukraine.
“The invasion is a gross violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations,” the statement noted.
“Spain and Australia reaffirmed their strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory.
“Spain and Australia agreed to continue to work together and with partners, to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its actions.”
Prime Minister Albanese went on to welcome European engagement in the Indo-Pacific, including Spain’s appointment of an ambassador for the Indo-Pacific and the EU’s Joint Communication on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
“Both countries agreed to explore further opportunities to work together in the region, including by supporting greater investment in infrastructure and clean energy,” the pair added.
“As important partners in multilateral fora, including the United Nations and the G20, Spain and Australia agreed to increase collaboration and to work together to counter threats to the rules-based order and preserve the integrity of the multilateral system.
“The two countries will cooperate to promote human rights, gender equality, sustainable and inclusive development and climate action as shared priorities across the multilateral system.”