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Statements by President of the Government after Social Summit of European Union

Gothenburg (Sweden), Friday 17 November 2017

​President of the Government.- This has been a very busy and a very interesting Social Summit, which was followed by a lunch at which we spoke about education and culture. I will try and provide a brief summary of the main decisions taken.

It fell to me to take part in a panel with several other Prime Ministers of EU countries to address the issue of access to the labour market; to put it another way, to address the issue of employment. There were also representatives of trade unions and other organisations there. I stress, this was important and, in my opinion, interesting.

The position I held was the following: first, to create jobs, which is the main national goal; what we must do is generate economic growth and, to do that, create a good economic policy based on two factors, and I gave a Spanish example of this: first, structural reforms, and second, control of the public accounts. I explained a little the evolution of the Spanish economy since the end of the year 2011 and beginning of 2012 until now. We are now enjoying economic growth, jobs are being created and although we must continue working, we have overcome the worst of the crisis.

Secondly, I also mentioned that qualifications are very important in finding a job. I warned of the importance of education policies, vocational training and dual vocational training.

And thirdly, I spoke about how the European Union can also help. I believe that fostering the mobility of workers is important, as is boosting the recognition of formal qualifications; it is also very important for what you study in one place to be valid in another.

And then you have the Cohesion Funds. We have managed to ensure that the European Union pushed through the Youth Guarantee Plan. Spain is the country to receive the most resources under this plan, the plan is working and we believe this must be maintained in the future.

This is a summary of what took place in the morning, and then we addressed some important issues on the matters of education and culture, which I will try and summarise.

Firstly, the Erasmus Programme, which is now 30 years old and has proved to be a great success. It allows, as you are aware, students to move around Europe: a Spaniard can study in Germany; a German can study in Spain or in Italy, or wherever they see fit. This programme has been extremely important in Spain. 1 million students have now taken part in the Erasmus Programme. Spain is the country that receives the highest number of Erasmus students and the second ranked country in Europe in terms of the number of students who go abroad to study.

The budget for this programme presently stands at between 14 and 15 billion euros every seven years. What we talked about today is the possibility of raising this to some 30 billion euros. This is something which will undoubtedly need approving at the right time, when we discuss the budget, which will start next year. But it is an issue that is out there and the main goal is for all Europeans under the age of 25 to spend six months in a European Union country other than their own. This is undoubtedly beneficial for Europe; people will view it positively and it means they can see other things, have other experiences and meet new people.

I repeat, this has worked very well in Spain. There are many statistics available - I don't want to bore you - about people who have been on the Erasmus Programme then having greater facilities to join the job market. And hence, Spain considers that this programme which, I repeat, now dates back 30 years and has been a great success and acknowledged as such, can be made even better.

We also spoke about two or three other issues:

  • Making progress on recognising titles, to ensure that qualifications in one country are valid in another; this is very important;
  • Also about creating a European Student Card, which would serve to enjoy cultural services throughout Europe which would undoubtedly be beneficial to Europe and this European Student Card would be good for people.
  • Allow young art professionals to join up to the Erasmus Programme.
  • And then we also talked, for the first time in many years, at least since I have been here, about holding a Culture Council, and we spoke about the need to support cultural industries, for many reasons, one of which is very important - because they generate a great many jobs and account for a significant part of GDP. The cultural industries account for 3% of European GDP.

In short, this was an informal Council which addressed, first of all, employment and social issues, and then tackled education and culture. This was reassuring and I believe that it will undoubtedly lead to a space opening up to make further progress in the future and build more and better Europe.

Q.- Have you or any member of your government threatened the dismissed Regional Government of Catalonia with the Army moving in, and with deaths in the streets, as Marta Rovira has stated?

President of the Government.- That is disgraceful. I don't have the words to describe what I would say to that statement. Let's just leave it by saying that it is absolutely false; it is a blatant lie and, above all, an absolute disgrace. I believe that not everything is fair in life. Everyone should be able to defend their own position however they want but this intolerable.

Q.- President of the Government, you met up today with the Belgian Prime Minister. Have you now overcome any issues you may have had over events in Catalonia?

President of the Government.- Absolutely. Moreover, we haven't spoken about the issue of Catalonia because it had already been made patently clear that Belgian justice and Spanish justice are completely independent, and hence that our governments have no need to discuss this matter.

Today I have spoken about bilateral relations; I spoke about the construction of Europe, on which we have very similar positions, and we also spoke about the European Medicines Agency, about the European Banking Authority, about Europol, about the interests that each of our countries have and about how best to work together. But, I repeat, bilateral relations are wonderful and I believe, in all honesty, that this is very positive.

And judges must do their job, and governments theirs.

Q.- President of the Government, are you concerned by the ruling that may be handed down in the "Gürtel Affair"?

President of the Government.- No. I have assumed my political responsibilities, as is well-known. This is an affair that became public nine years ago. Things are judged… I believe that what took place here happened between 1999 and 2005. And we will observe what the courts rule.

Q.- Do you trust the Belgian justice system, that it will grant the extradition requested in the end?

And another thing. Are you confident that the European Medicines Agency will be brought to Barcelona on Monday?

President of the Government.- I trust in the judiciary and, above all, I respect and uphold their decisions. This is one of the basic values and fundamental principles of the European Union, which amounts to respect for the law, the rule of law and the separation of powers. And if we start to bring this into question, I think it would mean we are heading down the wrong path.

Hence, you will only hear me express my respect and observance of the rulings handed down by the courts of justice.
What might happen on Monday? We have fought as hard as we could. I believe that Barcelona…, I believe no, it is a great city with a major pharmaceutical industry and I believe that there is every technical reason - I repeat, every reason - for Barcelona to win this battle. We will have to wait and see.

Thank you.

Non official translation