Spain's King Juan Carlos said Monday that the Casa de America should serve as a "meeting place and forum for debating economic and business issues" important to both sides of the Atlantic, as he presided over the start of the institution's 20th anniversary celebration.

The monarch considered it "highly advisable" to develop a "forceful economic diplomacy" amid the recession battering Spain.

The Casa de America, according to Juan Carlos, has contributed over the last 20 years to consolidating an Ibero-American Community whose members share "political and economic interests."

Also present at the meeting were Ibero-American Secretary General Enrique Iglesias, the ambassadors of Ibero-American countries, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Madrid regional president Ignacio Gonzalez, capital Mayor Ana Botella and the director of Casa de America, Tomas Poveda.

Garcia-Margallo noted that the Casa de America's 20th anniversary coincides with next month's Ibero-American Summit in the southern Spanish city of Cadiz, which "plans to launch a renewed relationship between Spain and Ibero-America for the 21st century."

"Today's Latin American democracies are progressing and getting stronger, and the economy is growing more than in Europe," the foreign minister said, adding that if the Old World, with Spain as part of it, "makes no effort to increase its presence in Latin America, we will lose a great opportunity."

King Juan Carlos also said that the Cadiz Summit will be "a wonderful chance to give renewed impetus" to the annual meetings of Ibero-American leaders.

Before the meeting in Cadiz, Spain wants "to strengthen relations" with those countries and stress the interests they share, the monarch said. EFE