At specific moments in our history,
like the one in which we are, to resist is to progress. President of the European Parliament, Vice-President of the European Commission, Commissioner, honorable Members of the European Parliament. It is an honor, a real honor, to address you all and contribute Spain’s vision to the inspiring debate on the future of the European Union.
I am calling it “inspiring” in absolute conviction and based on my own experience. In 1985, when Spain signed its Act of Accession to what was then the European Economic Community, I was 13 years old. Even though that was a long time ago, I can still clearly remember that day. I can remember the excitement felt by those who had suffered, for decades, Spain’s lack of democracy and of freedoms. I can remember the excitement felt by an entire generation of Spaniards, my parents’ generation, men and women, for whom Europe meant, after many years of dictatorship, freedom
and rule of Law, progress and cohesion. For Spain, that moment meant many things but, above all, a guarantee guarantee that there would be no going back. That we were, at last, at peace with our history. That no one would ever again take away our democracy again. Since then, subsequent generations of Spaniards—including my own—have seen our internal borders become a thing of the past, and have built fresh bonds of solidarity and affection with other peoples. Always with respect for values that we now identify as European: legal certainty, respect for the Welfare State and the rule of law, dialogue and tolerance, feminism and equal
opportunities, fraternity and harmony, environmentalism and inter-generational solidarity. So yes, you can consider me a proud and ardent Europeanist. Proud of what that term represents, precisely now, when some are wielding anti-Europeanism as a would-be electoral asset. Thank you, President Tajani for giving me the opportunity
to address this Parliament. Placing it at the heart of this debate is particularly apt, precisely now when we are about to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first European elections. The EU cannot be understood without considering the primacy of democratic values. Members of Parliament, First of all, I would like to refer to yesterday’s vote British Parliament.
I respect it, how could it be otherwise?, as the president of the government of a member state, I respect, but I cannot but lament the rejection of the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union This agreement was negotiated over a period of a year and a half. I would like to pay tribute to the chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, for his extraordinary work to maintain the unity of the 27 member states. An agreement, as I said, that has been negotiated for a year and a half that I think it is the best possible agreement. It is the option that best protects the interests of the United Kingdom but also all of the member states of the Union and, therefore, the whole European society; It is the option that best protects the rights of citizens and of economic operators. An agreement comprising a balance of concessions reached through tough negotiations, and which seeks an orderly withdrawal. It is up to the Government of the United Kingdom to make whatever decisions it deems necessary concerning the way forward. We are doing our part; the Member States and the European Commission are adopting the necessary measures to minimise the impact of a possible no-deal withdrawal. Members of Parliament, I have always maintained both in the Spanish Parliament and in several interviews that Brexit is deeply regrettable. For the British people and for the European Union. No one wins. We all lose. Especially the British. And in particular, those who most need their government’s protection. Those who are most vulnerable. But it is a sovereign decision that we must respect. Therefore, I hope that the United Kingdom chooses to maintain the closest possible relationship with the European Union. It is their decision, but our principles are clear: the integrity of the internal market, the indivisibility of the four freedoms, and the EU’s decision-making autonomy. In the framework of these three principles, we will always be able to agree. Members of Parliament, I would like to talk about the need to mobilise Europe. I would like to talk about the need to re-legitimise Europe to stand up to new challenges. But also to stand up to those who want to destroy Europe. Let’s be clear, there are inside and outside important actors that wants to destroy Europe. As a leader of the social democratic family, I know you are expecting me to talk about a social Europe a protective Europe. And I will, make no mistake. Social Europe is the Europe of convictions. However, precisely because of this moral conviction—and because it is necessary to bring the idea of Europe in line with our citizens’ expectations—if you ask me about the core idea of my speech, it is a wide-ranging call For Europe to be able to protect us, we must protect Europe. In this historic moment, Protecting Europe means building a rights-based Europe that protects those who are vulnerable; it means promoting a Europe of opportunities for our young people and for the long-term unemployed, that might not necessarily be 60 years old, as in countries like mine, but 35 years old and are suffering long-term unemployment; it means advancing towards a social Europe that strengthens our businesses and industries, while safeguarding labour rights in the face of the precarious working conditions that are becoming rife in our countries’ labour markets. Protecting Europe means guaranteeing citizens’ security and defence, using means that will make the EU a global player, able to defend its values. Protecting Europe means reasserting our commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and completing the Economic and Monetary Union. Only by doing so, with a Europe that is reconciled with its citizens; – with an autonomous Europe that can defend its social welfare model;
with a Europe that completes its economic and monetary architecture… will we be able to successfully address the challenges that will mark the coming decade. This is no time for hesitation. To Europe’s enemies: our conviction and determination will overcome authoritarianism. No matter how harshly some use exclusionary discourse; no matter how questionable their methods and lies; this is the time to show conviction and determination in in the defense of the common project that Europe is. Today, a true battle is being waged in the field of ideas. This is for sure an scenario in which that battle is being waged, like in many other national parliaments, Regression versus progression. We know that the future was never won by taking steps backwards. Therefore, we must stand our ground in defending the European model. Europe can only offer protection if we all, not only the member states, not only the European Parliament and the national parliaments, not only the civil society but the all citizens, protect Europe. To those of you spreading regressive messages from this Parliament: Europe, I tell you, Europe is not, nor will it ever be, a threat to the extraordinary diversity of our countries, our languages, and our cultures. Europe is exactly the opposite. Europe means multiplying, never dividing, identities. Being European does not make one less Spanish, on the contrary. The European Union has never been, nor will it ever be, a mere geographical expression. It has been, it is, and it will be, a community of values. The values of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. These are the values of open and optimistic societies; of those that innovate and create, because they see the future as an opportunity and never as a threat. Societies that link competitiveness and development to social commitment with something fundamental that define us as European, as it is the social cohesion and the welfare model. A commitment like the one that binds us to the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals, the true Global Social Contract of the coming decade, and of which Europe is the principal activist and ambassador. Members of Parliament, It is clear that there is social disenchantment in the context of globalisation. We have seen the streets of our villages, our citiez, across the continent. This disenchantment, which is fuelled by extremist discourse, stems from a paradox: on the one hand, globalisation has redistributed wealth among the planet’s regions. It has reduced global inequality. But on the other hand, it has increased inequality within our own societies. And if we think about it, the rise of anti-Europeanist speech owes a lot to this phenomenon. However, globalisation is not a natural disaster that we are helpless against. Goethe said that parents should give their “roots and wings”. Likewise, the European Union must provide provide its citizens with “roots”—anchorage and protection—and “wings”—empowerment—so that they may prosper by seizing the opportunities of a globalised world. We, ladies and gentlemen, are facing a change of era, and on 26 May a new political cycle will open up in Europe. It must be our priority to regulate globalisation to ensure the continuity of the European social model. We must consolidate the foundations of the Economic and Monetary Union, completing it as the necessary basis for a Political, Social and Environmental Union. A decade after it began, many of our fellow citizens are still suffering from the consequences of the crisis, in the form of wage inequality, social exclusion, unstable employment, wage decrease. This crisis associated the idea of Europe with austerity. Austerity for those who had always been austere out of necessity, versus those who had never been austere and were responsible for the financial crisis that hit all European societies. The consequence was inequality, especially intergenerational, inequality young people suffer in our continent, and of course, gender inequality as women are those who are suffering the most the inequality and precarious labour conditions, as well as the weakening of the welfare state. This narrative created a divide in society, but also a divide among EU nations. Between north and south, east and west, between debtors and creditors. The time has come to bring that period to a close, and to re-legitimise Europe where this is most needed: among its citizens. To achieve this, we must champion the social Europe, the rights-based Europe. Social and territorial cohesion is a crucial pillar—a pillar that is unique in the world of European societies. To regain legitimacy, the EU must promote a new social contract. European protection must make globalisation a source of opportunities and not only of threats. It is essential to strengthen social cohesion, with clear and measurable goals for employment, social justice, and the sustainability of the welfare state. We must strengthen this perspective in the EU’s economic coordination procedures, as well as in its cohesion policy. That is, ladies and gentlemen, the philosophy of the proposal of the Spanish government at the European Council, for the introduction of a European unemployment insurance, a genuine social safety net for the people, with which we can provide meaning to concepts, as important for those who believe in the Union, such as solidarity and European citizenship. This is a path we must actively promote while working in parallel to complete the Economic and Monetary Union. Along the same lines, it is imperative that we conclude the task entrusted to us by the European trade unions: the Work-Life Balance Directive; we must also follow through on the Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions in the European Union. And we must ensure that everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity, age or gender, has access to the job market in our continent. The European Union has to engage in the battle against job insecurity. When a person’s job is precarious, they inevitably face uncertainty in the other areas of their lives. We cannot allow the idea to take root that the young people of today are condemned to be worse off than the preceding generation. It is absolutely essential, and this is Spain’s government position, that we stand firm in our commitment to the Youth Guarantee. Ladies and gentlemen, Seven months ago, Spain formed the cabinet with the largest number of women in the OECD. This is a milestone on the road to real and effective equality between men and women, in which there is still much ground to cover. This is a road we would never have been able to follow without Europe as an inspiration and impetus. Today, in this Chamber, I want to express my gratitude for the commitment shown by women from all over the continent to an ideal which already forms part of the European acquis, as feminism is. Spain refuses to take even a single step backwards on gender equality. Instead, we will continue to take broad strides forward. But we need Europe on board. That is why today I want to propose the adoption of a binding Gender Equality Strategy for the European Union. A strategy to combat the gender gap, and the higher unemployment rate and job insecurity still suffered by women. Europe’s voice must lead this battle, in what is already the century of women. We need to move forward on the compulsory application of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights; on equal opportunities in job market access and fair working working conditions, as well as on social protection and inclusion. For these reasons, I would like to reaffirm my support for the Regulation establishing a European Labour Authority, to safeguard workers’ rights in the job market.
Europe must find a way to broaden its equal equal opportunities agenda, and guarantee equal opportunities in access to education, up to and including the very highest levels. Together, culture, science and research can protect us against those who threaten to destroy the European dream. Ladies and gentlemen, to ensure the safety of our citizens and strengthen our role in the world, as a true global player, we need to move forward decisively with the Europe of Security and Defence. The Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative was launched just over a year ago. After a standstill that has lasted decades, we are taking the first steps towards creating our own defence capabilities. This is the right moment to embark upon this decisively. To move forward, openly, towards creating true armed forces for Europe. The European Union, ladies and gentlemen, needs to show the world that it exercises soft power by choice, not out of weakness, but out of conviction. The capacity to deploy forces jointly beyond its borders, and the political will to do so, are essential to the EU being a credible international power. The European Union is an attractive paradigm for the world in many respects. We forgot it often. It is precisely because we are a union that we can aspire to a role of international leadership. We represent the possibilities of a multilateral order that it is now being questioned by important global powers, a multilateral order based in the rule of law and common accepted rules. Spain is willing to contribute to this leadership; to contribute decisively, thanks to our privileged relationships with Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East.
However, when it comes to the greatest challenges facing the world today, Europe’s influence is much weaker than in other spheres, in which the EU has exclusive competency. Here I would like to reflect on something. We need to become a true global player. Today, we are not. To do this we must jettison the rule of unanimity; not only in the area of external policy, but also in that of taxation, multiannual budgeting, and the verification mechanism regarding the rule of law and human rights. Protecting Europe, today more than ever, means equipping it with efficient decision-making tools. It means committing to a new sovereignty, the sovereignty you represent, something as important as the European sovereignty. Thirdly, we must complete the architecture architecture of the single currency and move forward on the Multiannual Financial Framework. Fifty years ago, in The Hague, the heads of State and of government of what was then the European Economic Community laid the foundations of the Economic and Monetary Union. Coincidentally, it has been in the last year of each decade that substantial progress has been made in this regard: in 1969, The Hague Summit, in 1979, adoption of the European Monetary System, in 1989, Delors Plan to achieve the Economic and Monetary Union, in 1999, the official implementation of the euro. Between 1999 and this year, there has been just just one conspicuous gap in this almost perfect sequence: 2009; when the the international financial crisis revealed the flaws in the euro’s architecture. Nothing illustrates the impact of the crisis more clearly than this broken sequence. Let us make 2019 a year of progress, a year in which we move forward. In my opinion, in spite of the difficulties, specially in painful moments as during the crisis, the euro is a success story that contributes economic and political benefits to the European project. But without the necessary reforms to strengthen our single currency, the Economic Union will remain incomplete and exposed to instability. This is not just a matter of strengthening the financial system, through a Banking Union based on three common pillars, You know that very well and have defended it, but also to, in the medium term, to ensure greater fiscal integration, bolstered by stabilisation tools to mitigate the adverse effects of future crises on economic activity and employment of the future crisis. In my opinion, re-legitimising Europe in this sphere is crucial. And for this to happen, citizens must feel that they are participants in the reforms, they must feel they are at the heart of those reforms: the reforms must protect citizens’ savings, and protect them a against inflation and unemployment in the event of an economic crisis. A common currency is a key pillar of a shared political project as the European Union is. The reform of the Economic and Monetary Union must ensure that social protection and inclusion form part of the very fabric of our common economic policies. The time to act is now, while the economic conditions are right. The EU’s policies must provide for all events— never again can we allow events to shape our agenda. We must complete the structure of the euro before the next crisis weakens our currency and our Union. Let us learn from recent experience and move forward decisively. We cannot afford to pay the price of inaction. For our institutions, but specially for those we represent, in this and many other national and international fora. As regards the new Multiannual Financial Framework, we have new challenges to overcome. But we must also consolidate strategic initiatives, such as the Common Agricultural Policy or the cohesion policies, very important for countries like Spain; urban Europe cannot turn its back on rural Europe, if you allow me to summarize this way my thoughts. Reducing the budget means accepting the idea of a Europe Europe that is pulling back. Let us ask ourselves who would benefit from the message this would send out. From the Spanish government point of view, the Commission’s proposal contains positive aspects, very positive, such as the level of expenditure, the external dimension of the migratory policy, to which I will refer later on, or the strengthening of technological innovation and development programmes. Europe needs to be sovereign in innovation, and reduce its dependence in the spheres of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cybersecurity and automation. Only by pooling our capacities and resources can we compete successfully. This is why the proposal to duplicate the funds of the Erasmus Programme is especially timely and therefore, supported by the Spanish government. But we must also advance along other lines. There needs to be a European response to phenomena we believed had already been eradicated from our societies, and that are fuelled by the rise in inequality, such as child poverty.
The Europe of Opportunities starts in childhood. This is why I am voicing my support, as the president of Spain’s government, for the promotion of a Child Guarantee to tackle the earliest form of social exclusion. Members of Parliament, our proposal—even with its shortcomings—is a good starting point. But the time for decisive action is now. Our Union is worth much more than 1% of the European Gross National Product. Prudent spending and ability to tackle all the priorities derived from the transnational challenges we are facing. We all win with a judicious, forward-thinking EU Budget, one that creates synergies and economies of scale. To protect Europe is to advance in the construction of the social Europe, the Europe of defence, the Europe of the Economic and Monetary Union. A Federal Europe that will regain legitimacy if it regains the goodwill of its citizens. A Europe that needs to confront rhetoric of an aloof Europe with measures that bring Europe closer to its citizens. And a Europe that finds its guiding star in the values that define it. Members of Parliament, I would like to return to this idea in the last portion of my speech—regarding the challenges faced in the areas of climate change and migration. In both spheres, I appeal to incontestably European values. With a genuine desire to reach consensus, beyond the ideological differences, consensus that brings other together against those who benefit most from division. These are the battlegrounds chosen by those who do not believe and never will, in Europe. They are the conceptual framework within which they attempt to undermine the foundations of liberal democracy.
It is here, once again, that I stress the need to protect Europe. To safeguard and defend the European model; but also to defend European values. In the area of climate change, recent international forums have reflected the gains being made by sceptical, resigned or even belligerent positions. Our approach in this sphere must combine a global commitment and future opportunities. The energy transition can and must be a conduit for modernising the economy in our countries. But it must also be a means of achieving greater cohesion, by promoting interconnection of energy networks, to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. This issue has the potential for devastating consequences., you have debated them many times in this forum. The very magnitude of this challenge can only reinforce our belief in the value of political union. Neither authoritarians, nor the most exclusionary nationalists, can deny the evidence that borders can do nothing to ease this challenge. And that is why their campaigns are based on irrational denialism. Climate change can be combatted through reason and science. Both reason and science are on our side. On the side of Europe; Europe, which must speak out, even as other important international actors are in retreat. The terms I will use are similar for the second area mentioned, the question of migration. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an area in which joint, coordinated action, in collaboration with countries of origin, transit and destination, is fundamental. Spain considers this approach crucial. Especially since we are the Union’s external border. We are therefore very mindful of the key role played by important countries in the European continent but in particular for Spain, by the Kingdom of Morocco in this regard, in both cooperation and control. And it is Morocco’s role that I wish to underscore in this Chamber. We must champion a parallel, global approach to this matter. The Marrakech Conference is or was the first step towards multilateral management of migration issues. Unfortunately, Spain is together with a few other European countries, one of the signers of this global pact. I am well aware, as you all are, of the power this debate has to divide our societies. But we cannot begin with a negative approach, focusing solely on irregular migration. Regular migration has positive impacts on our economic development; it plays an essential role in industries with labour shortages; and it helps to mitigate ageing of the population. However, we cannot respond to this challenge without a commitment to a continent, Africa, that is in need of far-reaching social and economic transformation. This medium- to long-term political approach must move in parallel with border controls, which are the duty of all States. A single space, with no external borders, requires a joint migration policy, with reform of the Common European Asylum System at its heart. We need rules that reflect the current situation. Two principles must guide this reform: responsibility and solidarity. The complexity of negotiations must not lead us to lose sight of the original intention of the reform: fulfilling our duties arising from international treaties of protection to people fleeing from persecution, war and conflicts. Europe’s stature is called into doubt by the emergence, at its heart, of positions that go against basic humanity. Showing solidarity and empathy towards others, will help us us to show the same to each other. Europe does not follow fads. Europe, with its democratic acquis sets trends. And that is our strength. Ladies and gentlemen, our division is our greatest weakness. It only benefits those, as I said at the beginning of my speech, who seek the failure, the collapse, the defeat of our model. A model that crystallises into a singular virtuous triangle: democracy, economic progress, and the welfare state. Overcoming our divisions demands mutual understanding and combats stereotypes. This coming May, we will be faced with a crucial test. We will be faced with those who wield a message that is well known on this continent, ladies and gentlemen. A message that, decades ago, strewed this land with ashes. Then, as now, many believed that their rhetoric and their gestures were harmless. But peace, democracy, , and freedom can never be taken for granted. I witnessed this with my own eyes in Bosnia, in the late 1990s, working for the United Nations in the devastated city of Sarajevo. A savagery hat we thought we had eradicated from this continent’s history unexpectedly reared its head. Fuelled by forces that always prefer hate to reason and harmony. The strength of these forces is not only a threat to our integration project. It also subtly conditions the agendas, and this I would like to underline it, of actors who, in principle, are against these forces.
Today, in this Chamber, I ask Europeanists not to let themselves be led astray by these forces.
I address all of you, asking you to stand firm in the defence of European values, and to be strong in resisting the siren songs of authoritarianism. Because they only have one goal: destroying Europe. That is why I am invoking the need to protect Europe, so that Europe may protect its citizens. In coming years, our integration process, in spite of the differences, will move forward. We will diverge, make progress, and suffer setbacks but there will be more progress than setbacks. We will reach consensus decisions that will not fully satisfy anyone. We must accept that this is the price we have to pay. The European Union is a synthesis of different, even opposing, ideas. Ideas that can challenge each other peacefully to achieve advances in well-being and prosperity, preserving stability in a changing world. In any case and in spite of the troubles, we have a solid foundation: real-life solidarity, which has only grown over the years. We see this every time we are hit by terrorism. This solidarity is the source of true European citizenship. When Spaniards cover their social media profiles with the French flag in solidarity with a terrorist attack in Paris, they are embracing the European flag. When Germans feel the attack in the Ramblas of Barcelona as an attack against themselves, they are embracing the European flag.
Today, when we honour the victims of a horrific attack in this very city of Strasbourg scarcely one month ago, we are embracing the European flag. Europe’s enemies can do nothing against that growing feeling, that invisible —but real—solidarity. A feeling that is putting down strong roots, especially among our young people. They are the ones flying the European flag as a symbol symbol against injustice; against authoritarian movements; against sexism; against racism. Or, simply, to express their disagreement with decisions that go against the spirit of the times and their interests. We cannot afford to forget our history. Taking a conservative stance in the face of uncertainty makes us more vulnerable. Determination and conviction on our ideas will enable us to regain our lost momentum. We are facing a breed of authoritarianism that feeds off fabricated nostalgia. But, in the words of a great Spanish songwriter: There is no nostalgia worse than missing that which never existed. To all of those living on this fabricated nostalgia, and I underline fabricated, I ask: Was there a solid peace when we were separated by borders? Was there economic progress when customs checkpoints limited trade? Did social and citizen rights advance in each State more than they have in recent years in the EU as a whole? Very close to here, on the battlefields of World War One, we can find the answer. This why I want to say, here and now: Instead of regression, progress. Instead of the rhetoric of exclusionary identities, plural identities; identities that do not cancel each other out. The past, a good socialist colleague and an extraordinary vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, told me will never be the future of our societies. The past is a place where we can learn from our successes and from our mistakes. Now is the time to mobilise for Europe. It is the time to protect and defend the values that make our project unique in the world. This is the only way to defeat those who, from the inside and the outside, want to destroy And let us not forget that they want to do this for one reason only: the values that this project defends. The defence of these values must be our response. As we travel this path together, ladies and gentlemen, we need conviction and determination. To combine these ideals with pragmatism, as we have been doing for more than 60 years. Our task, as the heirs and custodians of this great legacy, is to preserve and enhance what we have inherited, to pass it on to future generations of Europeans. If we have learned only one lesson, it is that, at key moments in our history, to resist is to advance. Today, we, the generations represented in this Parliament, have a vital task ahead of us: to protect Europe, so that Europe can protect its citizens. Thank you very much.