The Spanish government inaugurated Monday a special commission to coordinate the upcoming commemorations of key events in Spain's presence in the New World.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo presided over the first meeting of the commission, whose purpose is to organize ceremonies marking the anniversaries of such events as Spain's discovery of Florida and of the Pacific Ocean.

Also on the agenda is the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, the first city in what is now the United States, and the passage of 300 years since the birth of Friar Junipero Serra, founder of the Spanish missions in California.

Garcia-Margallo noted the role of the commission in awakening "appreciation for the immense historical and cultural legacy" shared by Spain and the United States.

This is an opportunity to establish closer relations "through a deeper awareness of our common history and by establishing a network of economic, trade, cultural and educational ties," the minister said.

The commission will serve to "provide coherence to all projects" of Spain's foreign, defense, culture and economy ministries, as well as those of organizations like the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, the Cervantes Institute and the Royal Academy of History, among others.

The organization will have a counterpart in the U.S. government's St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission.

Garcia-Margallo referred specifically to that American "counterpart" by noting "the importance of Hispanics to the economy and political structure of the United States," which undoubtedly signifies an Atlantic support and orientation for Spain's foreign policy. EFE