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Speech by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero at investiture debate for Presidency of the Government

Lower House of Parliament, Tuesday 8 April 2008

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament,

We are present today in this Chamber, because one month ago tomorrow, the citizens of Spain gave us their support to represent them during the forthcoming four years. When casting their vote, they entrusted us with different missions: To myself and to the Socialist party, they granted us a majority position making us responsible for the Government of Spain; to other political forces, they entrusted the function of acting as the opposition and supervising the Government.

For this reason, I appear before this Chamber today to ask for your confidence, fulfilling the stipulations laid down in our Constitution, and in keeping with the proposal made by HM the King.

I come to ask for your confidence not only to form a Government and preside over it, but also to promote a clear idea of Spain: A prosperous and also decent country; an efficient country; a united and diverse country; a country committed to the cause of peace, and to the fight against climate change and poverty.

I ask for your confidence in order to continue working, over the next four years, for the growth and prosperity of Spain, and to overcome, along with entrepreneurs and workers, the phase of economic slowdown that our economy is experiencing, within a global context.

I ask for your confidence in order to translate this economic growth into social growth, to generate more and better jobs, and to attain definitive equality between men and women-also regarding their salaries.

I ask for your confidence in order to achieve, together, an efficient public administration, one entirely at the service of the public in order to resolve their problems with agility.

I ask for your confidence in order to forge institutions able to guarantee unity, and channel the diversity of a country as united and diverse as Spain.

I ask for your confidence in order to achieve, through unity, the victory of democracy over terrorism, and in order to be able to enjoy a Spain with more security on its streets, its highways, and its workplaces; one that squarely faces crime, unsafe driving, and occupational accidents.

I ask for your confidence in order to attain the levels of education and culture that a great power such as Spain deserves.

I ask for your confidence in order to deepen our commitment to Europe, to defend international law, and to fight on the front lines against climate change and poverty, and in favour of peace.

I ask for your confidence in order to advance this idea of Spain, and to do so by bringing together the greatest possible number of different intentions, governing for all, in dialogue with all, and with respect for all.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

During my 2004 investiture speech, I committed myself to governing with a view to modernization and boosting our economy.

Over the last four years, we have grown more and created more jobs than any other comparable country; we have been faithful to our commitment to budgetary stability; we have been able to save and to lower the public debt: and for all of these reasons, in 2008 Spain has a stronger economy than it did in 2004.

It is true that for some time now, many Spaniards have been asking themselves about the future of our economy, and they feel unsure.  They are aware of the fact that in a globalized world, the effects of a change in the international economic situation are felt in every corner of that world, and amongst us, as well.  They are experiencing the credit crunch, some prices are rising, and some people have even seen their jobs at risk-especially in one sector, that of construction, which today is undergoing a marked adjustment.

The Honourable Members are aware that the available information points towards a scenario for the world economy, and the Spanish economy as well, which will, during the first phase of this legislative term, be different from the one we have known for the past four years.

The strengths of our economy are a good buffer, but they are not a wall that can isolate us from turbulent times for the world economy.  Tied as we are to the rest of the global economy, such factors as the recession that the United States is undergoing, the difficulties in international financial markets and the so-called liquidity crisis, the escalating prices of oil-whose price has quadrupled in the past four years-and of many raw materials and crops on the international markets, have all made their effects felt in Spain.  These factors, here, are added to the difficulties in the housing construction industry, and to the accumulation over the last ten or fifteen years of certain imbalances, fundamentally the current-account deficit and the inflation differential.

This lays before us a horizon, for the first phase of this new term, of growth rates lower than those of the previous quadrennium, and with less favourable employment trends than those of recent years.

This is the short-term scenario for our economy, but it is not a long-term one; rather, it is transitory.  Therefore, the Spanish people should be assured that, once this transitory period has passed, the constants of the past term will be re-established, and, as all of the international organizations are announcing, we shall return to high levels of growth, and, once again, vigorously generate employment.

The impact of the worldwide crisis on our economy will be buffered, because our country is facing this situation with a positive scenario, and with robust basic economic indicators.  Moreover, we have the opportunity to use this challenge to strengthen our capacity for growth, and improve the wellbeing of our citizens.  We shall achieve this if we are able to articulate appropriate policies and responses.

For all of these reasons, the Government, the opposition, Autonomous Communities, local administrations, trade unions, employers' associations, and economic agents in general, all must be up to the task. We should rely on the strength of our economy, and develop economic policies that contribute to growth.  We should be even more rigorous in a new scenario where internal demand will play a lesser role, and where growth factors will depend on increasing our productivity and our competitiveness.

Honourable Members,

This is a going to be a job for everyone, and it is within our reach to get it done.  Therefore, the Government's economic policies will be aimed at strengthening our economy's capacity for growth, and we shall do so guided by three basic principles: First, a sound and cautious fiscal and budgetary policy; second, an economic policy that strengthens the competitiveness of our productive apparatus and steadily reduce our inflation differential; and third, a constant dialogue with economic agents that involves all of us responsible for the future of our country's economy.

Within the scope of budgetary policy, the surpluses accumulated in recent years will make it possible to absorb the impact that a slowdown in the economy could have on public income and the rise in some costs linked to social protection, with no need to raise taxes nor to impose cuts in social programmes.

It will also be essential to continue to capitalize our economy in its three branches: physical capital, human capital, and technological capital.  This is a long-term commitment, basic to accelerating a rise in productivity and, therefore, in our capacity for future growth.

And we shall continue to be committed to macroeconomic and fiscal stability, aware of their importance and of the value that they have contributed to the development of Spain's economy in recent years.

This is the framework within which the Government's long-term economic actions may be situated over the course of this term but, looking at the immediate future, the Government will adopt, the same week that it is formed, measures to face this economic slowdown.

First of all, we shall put into effect a 400-euro personal income-tax reduction for pensioners, salaried workers, and the self-employed.  This will be of great help to Spanish families, and will boost our economy on an aggregate level.

Secondly, businesses will be assisted with an advance on their VAT rebates, which will enable them to lighten their tax burden more quickly.

Moreover, we shall adopt a set of specific measures in the construction industry, which will be the subject of an Industry-wide Conference on Housing in the immediate future:

  • The tax burden of renovating a home will be reduced;
  • Tendering for public works will be speeded up;
  • The rehabilitation of buildings and increasing their energy efficiency will be promoted;
  • The state guarantee will be expanded for mortgage securitization bonds that have as their basis credits for the acquisition of state-subsidized housing;
  • A special plan will be started up for the outplacement of the unemployed from the construction industry, as well as to strengthen the unemployment coverage necessary for workers who need it most;
  • Facilities will be provided for extending mortgage contracts, with no additional cost, for families in especially difficult situations.

However, Honourable Members, this series of short-term measures should not distract us from the medium-term challenges we face, mainly the challenge of increasing productivity and strengthening Spain's productive potential.

These challenges are not new.  We diagnosed them in 2004, although even then we warned that they would require government actions which, besides being energetic, would have to be persistent and therefore should be extended over a prolonged period of time.

The sector of research, development, and innovation will be boosted afresh, since we shall consolidate what has already been achieved with the Ingenio 2010 Programme, with a rigorous assessment of its results, and we shall once again strengthen public investment, whilst also seeking to mobilize private investment in research and development to the maximum.

We shall continue to raise infrastructure investment, in line with the previsions of the National Transport Infrastructure Plan, whilst also keeping an eye on the environmental impact of transport and on its contribution to territorial cohesion and the competitiveness of our companies.

We shall promote increased competition in the service industries, through a demanding and efficient transposition of the European Services Directive, to which other measures will be added to make professional activity more flexible, with selected actions in the areas of transportation and telecommunications.  This rise in competition should promote dynamism and efficiency in these sectors which, besides attenuating inflationist pressure, could enable them to absorb part of the productive resources freed up by the construction industry.

Together with these measures, we are committed to reducing the administrative charges for businesses by 30 percent, with the aim of making their relationship with public administration as smooth as possible, both at the moment of their creation and over the course of all their subsequent activities.

Regarding human capital, we shall intensify our budgetary efforts regarding education, giving pride of place to grants and scholarships, whose numbers and quantities we shall continue to raise, as well as providing the necessary resources to satisfy completely the demand for places for minors aged zero to three years.

The fiscal framework will be brought up-to-date once again with the disappearance of the Wealth Tax and a modernization of the Inheritance and Donations Tax, which is borne, above all, by the middle class in our country.  A second Anti-Fraud Plan should improve the good results obtained during the previous legislative term.

We shall promote, within a framework of dialogue with social agents, new reforms in the workplace, and in the Social Security system.

We shall also promote measures to favour the job-producing activities; we shall continue to promote jobs for women and young people; and we shall articulate policies to reduce precariousness in our job market to 25%, which is our objective for this term.

In other words, Honourable Members, our productive investment and social cohesion plans will be maintained, and we shall do so, moreover, without raising taxes.  Indeed, they will be cut, within the margins that budgetary stability allows over the course of the cycle.  This is an option open to very few countries.

Honourable Members,

Over the last four years, we have laid down the foundation for a change in our economy's growth model which brings us close to the most advanced countries in the world.  The events of recent months not only make this change in our model more necessary-they make it more urgent.  This is a task corresponding not only to the Government, but to all economic agents, and it can only be successful in an atmosphere of understanding, dialogue, and collaboration.  For all of these reasons, we propose to establish a great Social and Economic Agreement which will encompass, of course, the job market, but will also include matters that influence the competitiveness of our production system; we shall convene talks on this agreement immediately with the employers' organizations and the trade unions representing the workers.

This is, Honourable Members, my idea of Spain: A prosperous country, which generates enduring wealth, which is the wealth springing from intelligence and not from exploiting nature, nor from cheap and unqualified labour;  a prosperous country that is also a decent country, because it distributes equitably the wealth that it generates.  Decent, because its citizens show solidarity with those who need it most; decent because here, all citizens, men and women, whatever their condition, enjoy the same rights, not only on paper, but in their everyday lives; and decent because it regulates with rigour and treats with respect those who come here legally to build among us and together with us a better future for themselves and for their children.

Honourable Members,

My idea of Spain is that of a country exemplary for its social policies; a nation admired for its policies on equality between men and women; a society that does away with any form of discrimination.

We should face, realistically, a period of economic slowdown that will extend over the course of the first part of this term, but the Government that I aspire to preside will not sacrifice its social policies, nor will it renounce its commitment to social progress.

Let there be no doubt, Honourable Members: If someone deserves special attention during the period in which our economy is growing less, it will be those who lack a job; it will be those who live on a pension; it will be the disabled; it will be workers with low salaries; and it will be the victims of gender violence.  These will be the collectives deserving special attention from the Government.

It is well known that when faced with an adverse economic situation, there are two paths: one is to look for a way out via social cuts; the other, via solidarity.  I believe resolutely in the second path, that of solidarity.

My idea of Spain is that of a country overcoming its difficulties through unity, a society that does not abandon anyone to their misfortune. No, Honourable Members, there will be no cuts in social rights; on the contrary, we shall continue to expand social rights and policies in our country.

We shall raise the minimum salary to eight hundred euros, from the six hundred euros attained in the last legislative term, and we shall do so in dialogue with employers and trade unions.

My idea of Spain is the idea of a country whose elderly live with dignity.  A decent country respects and dignifies its elderly.  It is also my commitment for this term to raise the minimum retirement pension of someone maintaining a spouse to 850 euros a month, and to raise the widows' pension for those over 65 to  700 euros.

During the past term, we laid the legal groundwork for a fourth pillar of the Welfare State: care for dependent persons.  This term will be that of its full development.  We shall assist 650,000 dependent persons and their families, and we shall continue to show solidarity by providing the resources to make this possible.  A total of 871 million euros has already been budgeted for 2008, and in 2009 it will be 1.2 billion euros. A decent country, Honourable Members, helps those who cannot help themselves, and helps their families.

My idea of Spain it that of a country that does not thwart the expectations of those who need access to basic needs, such as housing.  It is essential, and I take this on decisively, to join the interests of promoters and builders in reactivating the real-estate industry with the interests of hundreds of thousands of citizens who simply want to have their own homes, whether as owners or renters.

Construction of state-subsidized housing, renting, and renovating are the three lines of action to bring both sets of interests together.  I reiterate my commitment to promoting the construction of 1.4 million units of state-subsidized housing in ten years.  We shall continue to promote pro-rental policies, and give continuity to the assistance plan for those leaving home, which this year could benefit 360,000 young people in our country.  And we shall promote the renovation of houses, buildings, and neighbourhoods that generates jobs and respects the environment.

Honourable Members,

In my idea of Spain, those who live in our small towns are not condemned to be second-class citizens, and their rights should be as real and effective as those of citydwellers. Therefore, and to implement the Rural Development Act, we shall promote the 1st National Sustainable Rural Development Plan.

Honourable Members,

Equality is also one of the hallmarks of the country that I want to continue building with you. As well as a constitutional requirement, equality must be a hallmark of a sound and cohesive Spain.

I will present this House with a comprehensive law on equal treatment, which eliminates discrimination in all areas of our society and on any grounds. Honourable Members, we will do away with discrimination on sexual grounds. We will fully integrate persons with disabilities to enable them to work and live normally once and for all. We will stamp out any form of discrimination on religious grounds or ideology in our country. We will add the Equal Treatment Act to other laws previously approved on equality between men and women and to combat gender-based violence, which has placed Spain at the international forefront in terms of rights.

My idea of Spain is also that of a country in which both the left and the right can together make progress on rights and liberties. I count on your support to this end.

A dignified country, Honourable Members, does not tolerate that gender controls the conditions of a person. A decent country does not allow women to stand on a lower rung to men in any walk of life: not at work, not in politics, in leisure or in family life; in none whatsoever.

That is why the fight against gender-based violence, against any type of violation of the rights of women, support for women in work, measures to reconcile work and family life, backing co-responsibility in family obligations and the promotion of women in all areas of social and political life will continue to be our priority goals in the years to come.

The country I want to see cannot tolerate the slaying of one woman a week as a result of male violence. The policy implemented in the last term of office has served to improve the situation of women who are victims of violence and to save lives, but it has not been enough. We must now improve the coordination of our public authorities in swiftly detecting cases, fostering prevention and the protection of women in every corner of Spain. Those who dare to attack a woman should be aware that the whole weight of the law will fall upon them and they will be subject to the contempt and reprehension of the whole of society. Any coward who raises a hand must be aware that the person before them is not defenceless, but that 44 million people will rise up against them.

My government and I will undertake to ensure that women who suffer are aware that we are all on their side; that they need not be afraid, that reporting an offence will not encumber them, it will bring them tranquillity, Furthermore, there is no reason to feel resigned but reason to rebel in the defence of one's dignity and the dignity of one and all.

The government cannot tackle this problem alone. We need the support of the regional governments. That is why our first initiative will be to call a Conference of Regional Presidents to tackle this problem in all its dimensions and with a State vision.

In order to eradicate violence in the long term, we need to work hard towards a society that treats men and women equally. We are thus going to get actively involved in the implementation of equality plans in companies to which end we will count on the support of business owners and workers.

We are going to place special emphasis on the most vexing aspect of labour discrimination: wage discrimination. A dignified country, Honourable Members, the Spain I aspire to, will not allow a woman to earn a euro less than a man for carrying out the same job.

We are going to continue to support women at work, particularly those women aged between 45 and 64. They suffer from added difficulties in finding a job, on many occasions after passing up opportunities in order to attend to their children. We will seek to reduce by at least one third the lack of activity of this group of women. To that end, I propose ensuring that they are aware of the job opportunities available to them, that they can receive valuable training to help find a job and that those business owners who give them a job will receive the appropriate incentives.

My idea of Spain is that of a country that fosters co-responsibility in family life; men and women who share the tasks at home. This government will try to facilitate this: we will increase paternity leave from two to four weeks, we will provide social security benefits for parents with children in hospital, we will ensure that the working day is shorter for those who need to look after their children, but not only until they reach eight years old, as to date, but until they are twelve, and we will help companies to create nurseries until we reach the figure of 300,000 available places, which is the goal we have set so that younger couples can reconcile their work and home life. In the Spain we aspire to, Honourable Members, no-one should feel obliged to choose between a job and a child.

Honourable Members, we must also offer every guarantee to those women who decide, pursuant to the rights afforded to them by prevailing legislation, to choose to voluntarily terminate their pregnancy. The law states what they and their doctors cannot do, but it also states what they can do, with full respect for their privacy and their health.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

There are those who only see immigration as a problem. In my idea of Spain, regulated and orderly immigration is an opportunity. That is why, since 2004, we have been defining labour relations - work - as a key element of migratory policy. It is work that allows immigrants to integrate, that allows them to become one more component of a group that enjoys rights and obligations.

To that end, for the last four years, those who come to live among us need to do this lawfully and through gainful employment. I maintain that this is the case of the vast majority of immigrants and I also maintain that their work contributes to our economic, social and cultural wealth.

The analysis made by experts also supports the argument that immigration has become a structural and not a temporary phenomenon in Spain, which plays a key role in our economic growth and in the sustainability of our social model, to the point that it contributes to help sustain our pension system.

On this issue we will also seek to forge an agreement: an agreement to identify our ability to take people in, an agreement with the countries of origin so that any recruitment can take place at source, an agreement to ensure the legality of the entry of immigrants in Spain and also an agreement to guarantee that those who live here can enjoy the same rights and be subject to the same obligations as any other citizen. That is precisely the immigration policy that we have implemented over the last four years and that we will continue to implement over the next four years, and if possible, with even greater rigour and conviction, through agreements with the regional governments, particularly with those where this phenomenon has the greatest impact. The autonomous region of the Canary Islands is the best example of this.

We will continue to call for and receive support from the European Union. Whoever knocks on the door to Spain is also knocking on the door of the European Union and, for that reason, the protection of our borders also affects the whole of Europe. We will continue to improve entry controls and expulsions and repatriation, we will deploy additional measures to control our borders and we will combat people trafficking networks.

In short, we must promote new formulas that incentivise those immigrants who lose their job to return to their country to definitively realise their life plan. The capitalisation of unemployment benefits accrued and the granting of micro-credits are mechanisms for the government to explore in the immediate future.

We will also step up cooperation with the regional governments and local authorities so that not one citizen is deprived of any right or social assistance as a result of the arrival of immigrants. Whenever new social needs arise, we must provide the necessary resources. Education and healthcare services, and any other necessary service will be reinforced wherever the demand so requires.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

The sustained prosperity of Spain and the consolidation of our welfare system have an essential requirement: the efficiency of our public authorities and the smooth functioning of our public services. This is clearly my idea of Spain: a country with public authorities that are attentive to the needs of our citizens, and which are efficient and flexible.

Honourable Members,

Our constitutional State model of the autonomous regions attributes central government institutions with very significant competences and responsibilities. We should not forget that central government and our social security system account for, and will continue to account for, more than half of all public spending in Spain.

Precisely to continue exercising its responsibilities in the best possible manner, my government will tackle a reform of our public administration services, a reform that will stimulate its ability to respond quicker to the need of our citizens, to drive the rest of the public authorities in joint policies and efforts, and to make proposals and intervene within supranational frameworks that are so essential nowadays.

Honourable Members,

This reform is necessary, firstly in the area of the administration of justice.

The reform of our justice system has become a crucial need that can be delayed no longer. There can be no reason whatsoever, nor interests, nor resistance that prevail over the clamour of our citizens who are justifiably calling for a faster, more transparent, more responsible justice system that is fully in line with our constitutional values. The diagnosis of its deficiencies is clear. We now need to bring into play our political will to correct them and, moreover, with the greatest possible consensus.

To start with, it is necessary to better govern the judiciary, which means ensuring the efficient, independent and responsible work of our judges and courts.

It falls to the General Council of the Judiciary to constitutionally oversee this because that is how our system works. That is its role rather than becoming a stage for a party confrontation that has its place, and rightly so, in other forums, starting with this Lower House. It is of no use wondering who is responsible for the image our citizens have of the justice system and its governing body, but we will all be responsible if we do not tackle these problems together at grass root level.

The first thing to avoid, which we must all do, is the emergence of situations of an institutional stalemate such as we have seen during this last term of office. That is why, as an exceptional measure, we will impose the effective dismissal of the General Council of the Judiciary when its current mandate comes to an end, if this House deems that opportune, and we will encourage, at any event, the election of transparent members, backed by the democratic guarantee of their suitability and capacity.

We will develop the justice council of the autonomous regions, in line with the constitutional principle of the unity of the judiciary. That will make it possible to better assess the problems of the administration of justice in each region.

It is this government's intention to resume, with the broadest parliamentary support possible, the reforms of the Constitutional Law on the Judiciary and of procedural laws that were not pushed through in the last term of office. And this will be done with the fundamental goal of introducing into the administration of justice a management model in accord with the times, with the technical, human and material resources that are necessary. The reform of the judicial office is a key instrument in this regard.

Faster, more accessible and more transparent justice requires a rational distribution of the workload. For that reason, we will also back an amendment to the Judicial Organisation and Demarcation Act in conjunction with the regional governments.

It will also be necessary to continue investing in an ambitious New Technologies Plan, which will help facilitate formalities and notifications, the comprehensive interconnection of information among all those responsible and access by our citizens to judicial matters.

It will be necessary to strengthen the higher courts of justice and, in parallel, modernise the appeal process so that the Supreme Court becomes the maximum body in terms of unifying legal doctrine, and hence, can offer the maximum guarantee of the equality of all our citizens in the application of the law.

Honourable Members,

Hence, I propose, if I receive the confidence of the Honourable Members of this House, to push through the necessary constitutional and procedural reforms to bring the public service of justice at least to the same heights as our general standard of living has attained in our country and, I reiterate, beyond any mere rhetorical intention, my wish to count on all the groups in this House in achieving this goal, which is indubitably of great importance and scope, starting with the main opposition party, as well as the collaboration of a General Council of the Judiciary that is fully aware of its constitutional purpose, because I have no doubts, Honourable Members, that no-one will refuse their loyal collaboration in avoiding the impotence and pain we have suffered in recent times as a result of the tragic failure of the system that has allowed events to take place that should never have taken place which have led us to feel in debt to those who have suffered from its failings.

I have, of course, a clear idea and this idea does not include clamorous judicial failings, proceedings that go on forever, or a judicial governing body that puts to one side the rights of our citizens to concern themselves with corporate matters or political party controversies.

Honourable Members,

I am also resolved to make reforms to the General State Administration.

In the past legislative term we already started down this path, by approving the new Basic Statute for Civil Servants, the Agency Act, and an act regarding citizens' electronic access to the Public Administrations. However, we must go even further. I hereby announce my intention to revise the Government Act, the Act regarding the Organization and Functioning of the General State Administration, and the act that regulates the Public Administration and Common Administrative Procedures. The first two will enable us to adapt their structures to new realities, and the latter will be aimed at revising procedures in order to offer citizens the quickest and most valid response possible to their requests and claims.

Honourable Members,

The idea of Spain that I defend is that of a safe and secure country; a country where men and women can exercise their freedom protected by public security; a space in which citizens', pedestrians' and drivers' rights are safeguarded when faced with irresponsibility.

During its last term, the Government undertook to improve the safety and security of Spanish society. In that period, we increased the number of police and civil guard forces, and we are going to continue to increase it, to a total force of 140,000 nationwide. As a result, rates for the most serious crimes have decreased in Spain.

In line with this improvement in our security, the Government will propose a National Security Strategy, which we shall convey to this Chamber, to define objectives, indicate priorities, quantify resources, ensure collaboration, and plan organizational and budgetary efforts.

Our security project also encompasses protection against natural disasters and climate change. We are going to promote a new Civil Protection Act to channel solidarity amongst the different Public Administrations into effective and dynamic action, with all available means, in the face of emergencies. The Emergency Military Unit will be fully deployed, and will become integrated into the comprehensive civil protection system. In the Spain I wish for, Honourable Members, there is no room for disputes or in-fighting concerning responsibilities in the midst of an emergency.

If the Government has had a security concern over the last term, it has been putting an end to the enormous loss of lives on our roads. Our efforts have borne fruit, but these results are not satisfactory if a single life is lost. Changes in the Criminal Code and the new point-based driving licence have begun to have an impact. We shall continue working in this direction and pay special attention to the safety of motorcyclists, promoting the installation of safety guardrails on all roads. We also resolve to promote assistance for accident victims, and to do so, existing assistance offices will expand their responsibilities and offer comprehensive services.

The Spain we are working for, Honourable Members, will continue to curb this terrible loss that we are suffering weekly on our roads.

Mr Speaker,

In my idea of Spain there is room for every ideology imaginable and for all identities; what there is no room for is the use of coercion and crime to defend any idea or any identity.

Thanks to the tenacity of democracy in these past thirty years, ETA is weaker than ever, even though it is still capable of killing, as it proved only a few weeks ago by murdering Isaías Carrasco. Before him, Diego Armando Estacio, Carlos Alonso Palate, Raúl Centeno and Fernando Trapero also lost their lives at the hands of callous murderers. All of them deserve our tribute, as do all victims of terrorism.

I wish, on this solemn occasion, to thank our judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil guards for their commitment and dedication, and also France, for its decisive cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Honourable Members,

We are, therefore, closer to the end of ETA, but we are not there yet. This terrorist organization has decided to continue its brutal course. It has wasted the opportunities that democracy, without renouncing a single principle or a single rule, has offered it this term. By doing this, they are only making their future bleaker. They have defied the good faith of a democratic society that is firm in its convictions and has the accredited courage to defend itself from these terrorists' homicidal defiance.

ETA has no other future: that of ending its criminal barbarity definitively and unconditionally.

Since ETA's intentions have been confirmed, we must reaffirm ours. I am grateful, once again, for the support given by the members of Parliament to the Government this past term. Now, I ask for the same support in order to design a counterterrorist strategy shared by all the Groups in the Chamber. I insist: I want it to belong to the Groups.

Honourable Members,

The Spain in which I believe, the Spain that I defend, is a Spain that exploits its diversity. It is a country united by its past but, above all, united by its future. In my idea of Spain, no-one has more rights than another due to their place of birth, but nor is anyone's identity threatened nor is there only one, obligatory way to be and feel Spanish.

In the last term of office, we laid the foundations to update the regulatory framework of the autonomous regions. We approved the reform of six Statutes of Autonomy and commenced the process to modify others. Over the next four years, those regions that so wish, and that have not planned this to date, will be able to sign up to this process in their respective regions.

We have thus already planned for the process to modernise and update the autonomous regions, which we should all comply with loyally, and loyally comply with, for the government, means contributing to the application and development of the Statutes of Autonomy within a framework of institutional respect, dialogue and cooperation. These will be our operating guidelines.

On the matter of multilateral cooperation, I propose to continue fostering the Conference of Presidents, regulating this mechanism and undertaking to call, in order to reach specific agreements with the regions, at least three conferences on prevention and attention for victims of gender-based violence, the improvement of our education system and the fight against the effects of climate change.

Honourable Members,

One of the most demanding, complex and necessary tasks in this term of office, which affects the State as a whole, is the approval of a reform of the system of regional financing.

The government will tackle the revision of the system for those reasons I have outlined on several occasions and offer loyal compliance to the provisions contained in the new statutes. To embark on these negotiations, the government will work towards certain key principles:

  • We will guarantee the same basic level of education, healthcare and social services throughout Spain.
  • We will increase the quota of tax revenue assigned and offset the loss in tax collection deriving from the government's decision to eliminate Wealth Tax and to revise the Tax on Successions and Donations.
  • We will boost the fiscal co-responsibility of the regions, setting up tax zones that allow for decisions to be taken on greater spending that a region can adopt over and above maintaining these minimum service levels that are common to one and all.
  • We will guarantee the financial sufficiency of the regions, but also of the State. The latter will maintain at least 50% of public spending and, in order to ensure market unity, will exclusively reserve the revenue from
    Corporate Income Tax.

These measures are necessary for the government to be in a position to satisfy the constitutional mandate of sufficiency to exercise its own competences, to guarantee the same level in the provision of key public services and to effectively offer its solidarity.

Honourable Members,

In addition to the new system of regional financing, it is necessary to tackle the issue of the financial situation of the local authorities and their necessary reform.

In the last term of office we made an effort to improve the financing of our local authorities, increasing their allocations by 34%, thus compensating local councils for the elimination of Business Activity Tax and setting up the Municipal Solidarity Fund in order to guarantee minimum levels of financing for local authorities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.

But it is clear that the financial situation of our local authorities requires a better structured reform, tied in to the general system of regional financing, which allows for sufficient funding for those services that the local councils take on and which also allows, through their integration in major national plans, for these services to guarantee the ability to attend to all citizens and constantly improve their quality.

If we reach this financial agreement, we will also be able to carry out a general reform of the local regulatory framework that will allow the scope of their powers to be clarified, step up cooperation between local authorities and also speed up and make their daily administrative activities more flexible.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

My idea of Spain is that of a country that is unmistakeably European and pro-European, a bridge between Europe and Latin America, a champion for peace and multilateral solutions to conflicts, fighting poverty with solidarity and generosity.

We shall continue working towards a Europe that is ever more effective, more integrated, more selfless and more prosperous, playing a more influential role in the world and promoting peace and stability. The first six months of 2010, during which we shall hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, constitute a unique opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to this project for Europe.

We shall continue fulfilling the goals of the Lisbon Strategy and make Spain a more modern, competitive society, focused on job creation, sustainability and social cohesion. Spain will take a decided stand for technological innovation within our economy and continue to provide funding for agricultural policies, cohesion and the Canary Isles statute recognising it as an ultra-peripheral region. The Government will also continue to take an active part in developing European policies to fight climate change and will contribute to defining the new European policy for energy. If, as I have said before, we need to protect our borders more effectively - and these borders are also European borders - we shall further reinforce the European borders agency, known as FRONTEX.

During this legislative term, and very especially during our Presidency of the Council, we want Europe to become a more significant and influential player on the international scene. Europe must act as a factor of stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean area, through the initiative of the Barcelona Process, which needs to be furnished with effective institutions and the necessary resources.

Latin America will figure strongly among our priorities. We shall work to consolidate democracy there, to strengthen social cohesion and to fight against inequality and poverty in the continent.

Regarding the United States, we would like to turn to a fresh page in our relations, looking towards the future, based on mutual respect so that together we may respond to the challenges that affect us all, and intensify our cooperation.

In the Mediterranean area, we shall also carry on with our endeavours to guarantee security, fighting terrorism and increasing cooperation among our legal systems and police services, promoting exchanges among civil society and creating a shared space of education, research and innovation.

After having placed it to the forefront of our foreign policy during the previous term, I propose that Subsaharan Africa should be now consolidated as a new axis of our foreign action, via the approval of a new Plan Africa 2008-2012, to obtain fresh advances towards our goals of consolidating peace and democracy, in development cooperation, in the political, institutional, cultural and economic spheres, and in cooperation regarding migration issues.

Our foreign policy will remain that of promoting multilateral solutions to conflicts. We prefer cooperation to imposition, we defend international legality versus arbitrariness, and we shall promote solidarity and respect when confronted with domineering abuses.

My idea of Spain, Honourable Members, is that of a country fighting poverty with generosity and solidarity. For this reason, by 2012 we shall devote 0.7% of our Gross Domestic Product to Official Development Assistance, having been the developed country that has advanced furthest in official aid during the last four years.

The United Nations Organization will be our inspiration in cooperation policies, in the form of its Millennium Development Goals. The UN will also be our guide for Spain's foreign policy, setting the scene for us to support peacekeeping operations throughout the world. For this reason, I hope to count on the close cooperation of this Congress, which in accordance with the National Defence Act must authorize all such missions that are to be sent abroad. In this task, our soldiers, who are doing exemplary work, ennoble us all. Furthermore, in accordance with the same law, I shall work to further advance the modernization of the Armed Forces, so they may enjoy better professional conditions and be provided with the best possible resources.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

Allow me to finish by mentioning the future challenges facing our country.

For a long time, the objective sought by our country could be none other than that of making up the ground lost over several centuries. Now that we have made rapid progress in just a few decades, our ambitions do not take the past as a reference, but are turned towards the future.

Spain can truly compete now, and do so under good conditions, holding a strong hand.  Spaniards can aspire to take their place amongst those who face up to-and lead-social, economic, and environmental change.

The first of these challenges, because it is foremost amongst the resources available for winning the future, is to take advantage of personal talent, and the treasure of human capital.  In the Knowledge Society, nothing is more strategic than having a first-rate educational system.

No one could reasonably imagine that Spain would be what it is today if its educational system were really like the caricatures sometimes spread about it.  Spain owes a great deal to its schools, to its educators, to its universities, to its scientists.

Our education is not, therefore, lagging behind the country.  But that is not enough; we need to clearly put it ahead of us.  We need to raise our students' competence levels; provide equal quality for all; make training, and vocational training, an ongoing activity; and make available more investment and resources.  New laws are not necessary; what is necessary is more effort to bring our young people up to the same basic skill levels as those in the leading countries.

We are going to decisively combat early school leaving.  Our goal is for four out of every five young people to continue in school after finishing their compulsory education, whether by studying for a Baccalaureate or going into Vocational Training.

We are going to launch specific problems for raising our current levels in mastery of the Spanish language, mathematical competence, and knowledge of English.

These are all issues that I would like to propose for study at an upcoming Conference of Presidents [of Autonomous Communities].

In a university setting, we shall finish adapting to the European Higher Education Area and, through our University 2015 Strategy, which is an agreement between educational administrators and the university, we shall budget the financing necessary to attain universities of excellence that are amongst the most active and competitive in Europe.

Our commitment to education at all levels means to be effective for all.  Therefore, I hereby announce that from this year on, the budgetary effort for promoting equal opportunities, and favouring success stemming from capability and effort, will be increased.  The scholarship programme that we shall approve next week, if we obtain the Chamber's confidence, will raise the number of scholarships, and raise the minimum income level for eligibility by 26 percent.

Human resource training efforts are indissolubly linked to the capacity to generate knowledge and innovation, and to the intensification of our commitment to consolidating a system of research, development, and innovation whose dimension is in keeping with our true economic potential, and our demands for progress in the future.

During the past term we multiplied almost three-fold the State resources devoted to improving their impact on our society.  Over the next four years, we shall double, once again, the resources for science and innovation, putting us, for the first time in our history, above the European average.

Four years, above all, of supporting and promoting technology-based companies, and especially those industries such as biotechnology, information technologies, new materials, nanotechnology, and aerospace technology.  Innovation, Honourable Members, is the only way to guarantee our economy's competitiveness, and today we have a whole generation of technological pioneers who are able to lead a change of the business model in our country, and in other world economies.

Moreover, we shall approve a Statute for public research personnel, and we shall incorporate fifty thousand persons into the science and technology system, at least half of them in the business sector.

In the specific field of information and knowledge technology, we shall extend the Avanza Plan until 2012, constantly updating its objectives and actions.

We shall implement, in keeping with our previsions, the so-called "analogical shutdown", or, if you prefer, the "digital startup", in 2010, with the definitive extension of Digital Landline Television, and we shall approve a law aimed at regulating the audiovisual industry, expanding its possibilities and the watchdog measures regarding the constitutional values of its contents and child protection.

Such a set of reforms will also be applied to regulating the scientific system, with the approval or reform of a Science, Technology, and Innovation Law.

This is my idea of Spain: A country dedicated to educating its young people, dedicated to research, and open to innovation.

Honourable Members,

Spain will not have to wait until 2012 to be the world leader in kilometres of high-speed railway lines-it will happen in 2010.  We shall not have to wait to be the European country with the most kilometres of motorways-we are already.

During the past term, we approved the 2005-2020 Strategic Transport Infrastructure Plan, which earmarked a total investment of 250 billion euros, covering all modes of transport, and which will make us a country with excellent transportation links.

For the most densely urban settings, we shall pass an Urban Mobility Act, and execute ambitious short-term and medium-term Commuter Train Plans for our country's major cities.

My idea of this country imagines an online Spain, where any point may consider itself central, and close to the others; a Spain open to the world, brought together by common interests, and inspired by the same dynamism and ambition for progress.

Honourable Members,

The world needs to speed up the change in the development model with which we have been operating. Climate change constitutes a clear threat to our way of life and to our natural resources, but it is also a great opportunity to enhance a new source of national resources to foster a shift in our development model.

We can and we must become allies of this necessary shift, open up opportunities for an economy that moves away from carbon, from dependency on oil, and which incorporates more alternative and renewable sources.

We must act decisively and we will do just that. There will be incentives for those companies that make a public commitment to reduce CO2 emissions, there will be backing for sustainable mobility, subsidies will be made available to apply the requirements established for new buildings under the Technical Building Code and for a Comprehensive Energy-Efficiency Plan for pre-existing buildings that will affect a total of 500,000 homes and public buildings and schools by 2012, in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. We will shortly present a draft law on energy efficiency and renewable energies.

We will thus foster efficiency and support for research and the use of such forms of energy, a technology field in which we are at the forefront globally. Research into the capture and storage of CO2 will also be stepped up.

The development of new technologies, the development of the fossil fuel market, cross-border cooperation and the availability of water resources will be the benchmarks the government seeks to attain in order to resolve the problems of the provision of energy required by our desire to grow. This will go hand-in-hand with the decision adopted by the European Union to determine Spain's position on nuclear energy.

Honourable Members,

In 2004, I proposed a new social policy on water to our citizens and to the public authorities, based on guaranteeing supply and quality, on sustainable and efficient management, on fostering research and the incorporation of new technologies, on boosting formulas for regeneration and re-use, on the modernisation of irrigation and on the creation of new resources, with desalination as a priority and safe technology for the future.

In line with these principles, we approved the A.G.U.A. Programme, aimed at ensuring an adequate supply to all parts of Spain, by modernising and strengthening water infrastructures. We have now implemented this. The State has invested more than 7.7 billion euros in investments to date.

This has been worthwhile because, despite the harsh drought in recent years, there have been no drinking water shortages anywhere in the country and there has been no need to impose restrictions, as happened in the past. The regions of Andalusia, Murcia and the Region of Valencia can bear witness to this, where our whole policy has been geared towards guaranteeing basic consumption. And the same is true in Catalonia.

The government is resolute in exercising its role in coordinating water policies and in guaranteeing regional solidarity and cohesion.

My idea of Spain is that of a country committed to the environment and preserving the countryside, its natural resources and its seas, because only through the conservation of these resources lies hope for the future.

Mr Speaker,

Here I conclude the exposition of the basic elements of my Government's programme; but this exposition would be incomplete if, with all solemnity in my tone and all sincerity in my purpose, I failed to reiterate something that I have already mentioned during the course of my speech.

I begin my Government's actions in this term with the commitment, first to offer, and then to achieve, a peaceful political climate, one characterized by a commitment to dialogue and consensus.  We owe this to the Spanish people.

In keeping with this, I am determined to reach a democratic commitment to fight terrorism, which all the political parties represented in Parliament can share and promote, and in which the citizenry may see itself collectively reflected and protected.

Spain's Presidency of the European Union in 2010 is undoubtedly a national objective in which we must all become involved, and whose success we should all share.  I would like to reach a consensus on the objectives to be attained during our Presidency, and thus raise the level of consensus among us regarding the future development of the European Union, a key element of our foreign policy.

Moving to another sphere, I would like to propose two specific agreements that we should reach as soon as possible.  The first, regarding the urgent renovation of our most relevant constitutional bodies, the Constitutional Court and the General Council of the Judiciary.  This agreement will enable and facilitate the achievement of other agreements on urgent judicial reforms.  The second, regarding the financing system for Spain's Autonomous Communities which is, as I have already said, a key element for the stability of our institutional system.

This commitment to agreement, to consensus, to compromise, has singular interlocutors outside of this Chamber.  I reiterate my intention to propose to the trade unions and business associations a new commitment to collective bargaining to dynamize the economy, modernize the job market, ensure equal salaries for men and women, combat workplace injuries, and ensure the special status and sustainability of our social protection system.

I propose to all of our citizens, their organizations, and representatives, to all of the Administrations and other institutions, an active commitment to support the EXPO Zaragoza, the America's Cup in Valencia, Madrid's Olympic candidacy, the acts for commemorating the bicentennials of events that occurred in Spain and the Americas between 1808 and 1812, and, more generally, the defence and dissemination of our greatest riches: our culture, our cultures; our language, our languages.

But my offer of consensus refers, basically, to you, Honourable Members, who represent over 44 million Spaniards.  This is aimed at all of you equally, but with particular emphasis on the main opposition party, which has a very estimable representation here.  And I formulate this personally to its leader-to you, Mr Rajoy.  It is true that the Spanish people have not conferred on you, with their votes, the task of forming a Government, but it is also true that with their votes, they have entrusted you with an important responsibility.

To crown our collective challenges with success is a mission that corresponds, firstly, to the Government, and the Government will be up to the task; however, it is highly desirable for the opposition to contribute, in affairs of State, to achieving the great collective ambitions of the Spanish people.  I trust, Mr Rajoy, that it will be thus, and you can count on me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members,

One is only responsible when one is free.  The Spanish people alive today are responsible for the last thirty years in Spain, the thirty years of democracy during which we have been free.

Many of those who made possible our present situation are no longer with us.  Every day, fewer remain in the ranks of our parents' generation.  We owe them a great deal.  Every one of them did what they could: Some remembered; some forgot; and all of them, together, brought reconciliation.

Today's shining Spain, its freedom, its prosperity, has its roots in the efforts of this generation, which knew dark years and which, in the darkness, was able to dream what we are today.  They stamped our democracy with its hallmarks: individual freedom, and social solidarity.  Other, younger generations had the honour of successfully expressing these traits through the prose of our Constitution and our laws.

Three decades ago, the Spanish people envied the freedom and wellbeing of our neighbours; a little over a decade ago, these same European neighbours welcomed our rapid advances; today, they admire our achievements.  Today, we can proudly show our modern infrastructures, our capacity for innovation, the vitality of our cultural life, and the freedom of our customs.  Our recent past gives us cause for optimism, and reasons for hope.

I do not deny that there are difficulties and that, once we have overcome them, other, new ones will appear.  In the end, what society doesn't have them?  What I can affirm is that we shall be able to face, successfully, whatever setbacks we might encounter.

This is my idea of Spain, Honourable Members, a country proud of its achievements and able to learn from its mistakes in order to avoid repeating them; a country that moves forward in unity and diversity, guided by the experience of its elderly and the drive of its young; a country of free women and men.

To govern this country during the next four years, to put into practice these projects and this idea of Spain, I ask for your confidence.

Thank you very much.