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Speech by President of the Government at event to award Carles Ferrer Salat Prizes and Medals of Honour of Foment del Treball

Barcelona, Wednesday 22 November 2017

Good evening, Mr President of Foment del Treball, ladies and gentlemen, public officials, dear friends,

Firstly, thank you very much. Believe me that this is not a ritual exercise in gratitude. For very special personal reasons, Barcelona is a city that is and will always be very closely linked to me and my immediate family.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Being asked by Foment del Treball to be here today with all of you at the award ceremony of the Carles Ferrer Salat Prizes and the Medals of Honour of this institution allow me to speak about Carlos Ferrer, in whose memory the award of these prizes is dedicated; awards that people and companies very closely linked to this land receive, acknowledging their business values, generosity in their effort, their intentions in exercising leadership and their capacity for innovation.

Talking about Carlos Ferrer Salat in this auditorium gives me a great advantage. All of you present here have a singular biography present in your memories of the former President of Foment del Treball and subsequently of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations; a business leader who, in the words of H.M. King Felipe VI, during his life's work, projected his commitment to Spain and sense of State that can only be understood from his loyalty to a deep-rooted sense of Catalanism exercised with force, intelligence and effectiveness.

All of the award-winners of these prizes that bear his name have henceforth taken on a special commitment to honour the life's work of a man who was capable of leaving his mark in such diverse fields as sport, where he was the Spanish tennis champion and number one in the Spanish Davis Cup team; the business world, where he was the creator of business organisations, and even multinational companies; the international projection of the city of Barcelona, thanks to its designation to host the Olympic Games in 1992 and, of course, the promotion of agreements between the world of employment and business, which recall his negotiating talent and his ability to achieve social agreement. And all of this with his tremendous humanity, his militant pro-Europeanism and, as was mentioned earlier, his keen support for Barcelona, for Catalanism and his firm commitment to Spain.

A forceful personality, with a renaissance style in our times who, after studying Chemical Engineering, Economics and Philosophy, kept an open mind to all forms of education until the end of his life. He helped pave ways, create teams and was someone who practised better than anyone the philosophy of teamwork. He had a great ability to bring together people with very different talents from very different backgrounds into a great collective enterprise. He worked, carried out and successfully completed a whole host of tasks and projects, always under the slogan of working together.

I was lucky enough to meet him and I can boast of that. He will always stand as a benchmark for everyone and at this particularly troublesome time, his conduct serves to guide us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we continue down the programme of this event, we find ourselves with the presentation of a medal of honour "in memoriam" to Juan Antonio Samaranch for his business career. It is a clear and inescapable fact that the city of Barcelona has a before and an after vis-à-vis the 1992 Olympic Games. Both Carlos Ferrer and many others also had a helping hand in this operation, but it was Juan Antonio Samaranch who literally changed the times in his city. That is why those who live here now and those who live here in the future will find it hard to repay the debt that this city, Catalonia and Spain owe to his memory. In these times in which there is a great deal of foolishness and journeys down a road to nowhere, what Juan Antonio Samaranch did and achieved for his land and people should be a compulsory lesson in civic duty and co-existence.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Alfredo Molinas is getting older. The man who was president here back from 1978 to 1994 is getting older, as are we all, but I can assure you that his mind is as clear and lucid as ever, and his spirit is as it was back at the outset. I spoke with him this morning to congratulate him on being awarded the Medal of Honour of Foment del Treball. He has not lost one iota of his style, his gentlemanly nature or his savoir faire. Catalonia and Spain, Spain and Catalonia, remain in his aspirations and his dreams.

And that leads us to Foment del Treball, close to 250 years old, founded back in 1771, and still fulfilling its founding goals of defending the business world. This has been carried out in tough and many different times, always by applying common sense, tenacity and effectiveness, which makes Foment del Treball a genuine institutionalised agent of social change; a benchmark, both in Catalonia and beyond its territory. This is your work, that of all of you, and for that reason, you deserve to be congratulated and feel proud.

I also want to congratulate Ana Patricia Botín, distinguished with the Medal of Honour for Business Leader of the Year, and those companies that have received awards today in the different categories into which Foment del Treball divides is annual awards: the Repsol Foundation, for its social commitment; Barcelona Tech City, for its R&D; Mango, for its environmental commitment; and Roca, Corporación Empresarial S.A., for its international drive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to continue my speech by saying to you that it is particularly gratifying to me to accept your invitation on this occasion, because, given the current situation, I believe it is especially necessary to be present here and support all of you, as Catalan business leaders, in what you are doing to contribute to returning this situation to normality and which, fortunately for everyone, above all for Catalonia, is now being re-channelled through those paths it should always take: the paths of stability, foreseeability and legal certainty; and also those paths of co-existence and dialogue. I also want to include, in my gratitude, the main trade union organisations that have also been an example of common sense, seriousness and responsibility.

To talk about Catalonia is synonymous with talking about entrepreneurship, innovation, the future, openness to the world and progress. All these facets, all these virtues that for many decades have made Catalonia the spearhead of the economic and social modernisation of Spain, must continue to be a part of that hallmark that has made Catalonia an enviable benchmark admired around the world.

The best concept of Catalonia is inseparable from the idea of open horizons, of an openness to the world and of a keen cosmopolitanism, and it is precisely all of this that has been diminished and withered away in recent years; something that not only goes against the grain of what is demanded in today's world, but is also contrary to what has historically made Catalonia great.

Ladies and gentleman,

 I am not going to dwell on what is obvious or insist on the harm that has been done to Barcelona, to Catalonia and to Spain, or even to the whole of Europe. What is important is that we have fortunately been able to react in time with the instruments that the rule of law makes available to the authorities when under threat. And with these instruments, we have quickly restored the constitutional order that was under threat, we have returned the life of citizens to normality, together with economic life in Catalonia to its former thriving glory.

We have done this and are doing this prudently, proportionally and with restraint; and, above all, we are doing this with the primordial goal that has guided the whole strategic design: to re-establish full self-rule in Catalonia as soon as possible, and bring to an end a period of instability, uncertainty and insecurity that could have taken with it a good part of everything good that Catalonia has achieved in recent decades.

We never wanted things to reach this point, never; but our obligation is not only to ensure the law is upheld, but also to defend the rights of everyone and the well-being of society as a whole.

I want to be very clear in this regard: we have applied Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in compliance with our duty to society and we have implemented the right mechanism to restore self-rule and open up a new period that looks to the future, that concerns itself with the real problems of the people of Catalonia, that helps the economy become more dynamic and reduces unemployment, that restores the ties of co-existence that have been endangered and that once again lends a certain dimension, sense and horizon to the future of Catalonia.

I repeat, the Government of Spain has applied an exceptional mechanism to tackle an exceptional situation and to open up a new political horizon in Catalonia.

In this future, it is now down to you to play a very important role: to restore the confidence that has been lost in recent times. Without confidence, as you know only too well, no investments are made, no new jobs are created and hence there is no future. This intangible idea, a complex element that combines foreseeability, certainty and security, falls apart when you have public authorities that do not respect the law or the reality.

It has been necessary to replace them, but that is not enough by itself. As from 21 December, once we have a return to normality and security as provided by law, it will then be down to all of us to do whatever is in our hands to ensure that the confidence in Catalonia once again inspires international investors, consumers and companies in other parts of Spain and throughout the world.

And the drive and excellence of the business leaders in Catalonia will be decisive in this task. I can assure you that you will not find the Government of Spain wanting in this task. I repeat, the people of Catalonia will never lack, neither now, nor in the future, the support of the Government of Spain.

The night I announced the implementation of the measures under Article 155 I said something that I would like to repeat here today: trust us, don't let any more companies leave Catalonia. I wish to repeat that today: you contribute to healing the wounds, to backing the region and to boosting confidence.

Spain, and Catalonia forms a very important part of Spain, has had almost four exceptional years of economic growth and job creation since 2014. Since the first quarter of this year until now, some 2.1 million net jobs have been created in Spain, of which 356,000, or 17%, have been created in Catalonia. Our economy has recovered the strength and vigour we enjoyed prior to the year 2008, which has lead it to become the developed economy to enjoy the fastest rate of growth for three straight years. To endanger this is very serious and to persevere in this would be suicide.

The Government of Spain has been forced to lower the economic forecast for 2018 from 2.6% to 2.3% of GDP due to the political situation. The negative impact is hard to estimate and a great deal will depend on how long it takes to fully restore political and institutional normality. For example, should this stabilise at the end of this year, it is very likely that growth over 2018 may stand at around 2.8%, and even, as has happened in recent years, reach the figure of 3% growth.

The key lies in the return to institutional and political normality. They key will lie in us being capable of looking at ourselves and recognising our place as members of the same community, as citizens that share the same civic values. The key lies in recovering the ambition to overcoming challenges together, as Carlos Ferrer Salat and Juan Antonio Samaranch did in their time, individuals we recall with a certain nostalgia tonight.

I will quote just one example of how our immediate socio-economic future could be, particularly thinking about Catalonia. The digital revolution is speeding up our socio-economic dynamic and Spain is the seventh leading country in the world in economic convergence towards the most developed countries in the digital field. In order to head up these transformations, Catalonia has the necessary elements to achieve this, as happened in the first two industrial revolutions. Barcelona specifically, with its open and innovative culture, has an important entrepreneurial eco-system and is called on to play a leading role in this panorama. I repeat, this city has bedded down its role as a benchmark in digitalisation and evidence of that is that it has become a meeting point of the main world congresses which, with the hard work of all involved and support from the government, I am sure that this will continue to be true, and for a great many years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are talking about a future that is already here, we are talking about radical transformations that are already taking place and we are talking about job positions, companies and sub-sectors that already exist. It is not only a question of defending what Catalonia already has, and avoiding further economic deterioration, but rather a question of looking for new goals and objectives. Recovering the ambition of building our country, not through independence that impoverishes and isolates, but through the wealth and successes that unity and our membership of Europe offer us.

I am optimistic. I trust in the capabilities of the Catalan people to head up a far-reaching rectification of the deviation we have seen, to foster a return to reality and co-existence, to re-direct all the energy wasted in now dealing with the day-to-day problems of people. I propose that you accompany me down this encouraging path; encouraging because I trust in the future and I know that Catalonia is an open and cosmopolitan society that is very different to this closed community that some people have sought to impose.

It is not necessary to sow this entrepreneurial spirit, commercial sense, or industriousness in Catalonia because these virtues are already deeply entrenched here and will remain so and flourish provided they are not strangled or suffocated.

I trust in the future because Catalonia has and will have the backing of the Constitution and of the law. Following the elections, regardless of the outcome from the ballot boxes, I will continue to be the President of the Government of everyone and I will speak with everyone, but, in the same way, I will demand everyone to respect the framework that the Constitution and the law impose on all of us, because it is my duty to do so: to ensure that the law is upheld and protect fundamental freedoms. I will do this because it is my obligation, it is the obligation of the President of the Government, but I will also do this with conviction because I believe in the benefits of liberty, its fruitfulness and that Catalonia will soon return to what it was and look in the mirror at people such as those we have awarded here tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With such clear and evident examples we must feel confident in our future.

Thank you very much.

Non official translation