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Speech by President of the Government at award ceremony of Fernández Latorre Prize, granted by the Santiago Rey Fernández-Latorre Foundation

Arteixo, A Coruña, Thursday 23 November 2017

​Mr President of the Regional Government of Galicia, Mr Chairman and Editor of "La Voz de Galicia", Mr Editor of the "La Voz de Galicia", public officials, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

In 2014, the Fernández Latorre Prize was awarded to José Luis Barreiro. For me it was an honour to attend that emotional event, as it also is today. For that reason, I wish to start my speech for thanking "La Voz de Galicia", its editor, Santiago Rey Fernández-Latorre, and all those who have made this project and its success possible, and for inviting me once again to take part in this event that today acknowledges the career of an exceptional jurist: María Emilia Casas, Fernández Latorre award-winner for 2017. This year, 2017, "La Voz de Galicia" celebrates its 135th anniversary, the number of years that have passed since it was founded by Juan Fernández Latorre. That first edition was just four pages and its ideals were liberty, democracy and discipline.

Dear friends,

It is always a source of satisfaction to come home and it is good to come to Galicia on any occasion, and this occasion makes it all the better.

The Fernández Latorre Prize has become a classic in our country as is its award ceremony, and celebrating 135 years of history is something which, as you know, is not the reach of many, particularly when you reach this enviable age as one of the most read newspapers in Spain.

Congratulations to everyone, and most particularly, to Santiago Rey Fernández-Latorre, the long-time editor of this paper. Under his management, "La Voz de Galicia" has had some glory days. It has found its place; it is there in the tough times, such as at present, and rises to the occasion and, moreover, it is heading into the future with great strength. Congratulations and good luck.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year the jury has unanimously decided to award the Fernández Latorre Prize to María Emilia Casas Baamonde, President, as you are aware, of the Constitutional Court from 2004 to 2011 and, as we were reminded this morning, she joined the court some years before, in 1998, as the youngest Constitutional Court judge in its history.

María Emilia Casas is an outstanding jurist. She was, as we were also reminded today, the first employment law professor at a Spanish university and a disciple of Manuel Alonso Olea, the father of Spanish employment law. She is independent, hard-working and tenacious. She was a wonderful President of the Constitutional Court, loyal, patriotic and endowed with common sense, and she found a way to instil the principles that inspired our Constitution.

I will say this with her own words: the Constitutional Court has fulfilled its goal, remaining faithful to the constitutional values that can be summed up in liberty, justice and concord; three precious words that form the motto of the court.

She always showed a marked sensitivity to the regions and in her work at the court was renowned for the technical quality of her rulings - when she was the lead justice - and for her commitment to protecting fundamental rights. I know she is particularly proud of the ruling that backed the constitutional basis of the Comprehensive Law on Gender-Based Violence, handed down during her mandate, and that this is an additional reason to congratulate her because this week we have advocated, as she did, the need to fight violence against women, a task we are all involved in.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The members of the jury pointed out in their decision the decisive importance of the Constitutional Court in the development and consolidation of Spanish democracy, and they are indeed right to do so.

Over the last 40 years, this ancient Kingdom of Spain has written the happiest pages in its history. With the drive of the Transition, culminating in the approval of the Constitution, Spain looked to the future with a suggestive shared life project based on reconciliation and co-existence, on plurality and concord, on pro-Europeanism and a desire for modernity.

Our Constitution was forged through consensus and the participation of those who were opposing rivals. This was done with moderation and a desire for openness to the world to build a European democracy by everyone and for everyone. This was a Constitution of consensus, a modern Constitution that found a way to enjoy the dreams aroused in the Cadiz Constitution of 1812, and do this on the foundations of the rule of law and legal certainty, firmed up through pluralism and tolerance with the vocation of a thriving European nation open to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that these 40 years have been a tremendous collective success, a triumph for Spain and the Spanish people, and that the institutional stability provided to us by the 1978 Constitution led to significant socio-economic development and well-being. The Constitutional Court has overseen this for all these years, because its judges are the interpreters and guarantors of this key piece of legislation.

Dear friends,

Recently, this Constitution, which has symbolised and guaranteed the democratic co-existence of the Spanish people, has been subject to the most serious attack in its entire history. These have been difficult times, of great concern for everyone; days of unease and concern, but also days which, fortunately, are now being left behind.

With certain concern, but also with certain serenity, we can now say that the institutions and Spanish society as a whole have found a way to tackle such a demanding challenge. The Constitution itself, which so many people saw as obsolete, has provided us with an instrument in its defence: I am referring to the infamous Article 155, which has ceased to be a form of inapplicable legend to become a reality that has contributed to bring serenity to political life.

Article 155 is being applied under conditions of normality. It is an exceptional instrument, yes, but legitimate and, as is being seen, it is useful in defending the law, the institutions and orderly co-existence.

As if that were not enough, the different institutions have effectively and responsibly responded to the challenge. Among them, and in particular, the Constitutional Court, whose members, with speed, unanimity and determination, have laid the foundations on which the response has been provided by the different State powers.

I repeat, we are much better off now than a few weeks ago, because everyone has risen to the circumstances. Everyone has done their duty. Spanish democracy has found a way to defend itself and that is a source of calm and legitimate satisfaction. This is one more reason to be confident in our country, to be confident in the quality of our laws and our institutions, to trust in the responsibility of those people who head up these institutions, and to trust in Spanish society, which has found a way to provide an exemplary response, from individual citizens to political parties, associations and the vast majority of the media.

I will end now. A few years ago we suffered the worst economic crisis in our history. We are coming out of that now with a more competitive economy, that exports more and is more dynamic; in other words, we are coming out of it stronger. I am convinced that the same thing will happen with this serious political crisis caused by the disloyalty of the secessionists. We will be stronger, prouder of our country, more confident in our institutions and more resolute in tackling new challenges together in the future, reforming whatever is necessary to reform, whilst preserving the essential values of our co-existence: democracy, liberty, individual rights of people, the rule of law and legal certainty.

Thank you very much.

Non official translation