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​"The challenge of illegal immigration must be tackled from its roots", says Mariano Rajoy

Brussels (Belgium), Friday 21 October 2016
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European Council

1. Images of Mariano Rajoy at the first work session of the European Council Meeting

Brussels - 21/10/2016

Following the European Council in Brussels, the acting President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, expressed satisfaction with the results from the meeting, which demanded an immediate end to attacks against the civilian population in Syria and advocated an opening of trade of a beneficial nature for growth and employment.

At a press briefing after the European Council held in Brussels on Thursday, Mariano Rajoy explained that the focal points of the summit were immigration issues and, more specifically, the common European Union policy with African nations. In his opinion, the EU has made a "very good move" by adopting the approach defended by Spain "due to extensive experience" on this matter.

"The challenge of illegal immigration must be tackled from its roots and from the underlying causes at the source, and this should be done through dialogue and cooperation with the countries of origin and transit for migratory flows", he said. In this regard, the President of the Government highlighted the 'framework partnerships' that exist between the EU and African nations, a series of mutual commitment packages that have already been agreed with Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia. "We are now doing what Spain has been doing for some time at a bilateral level", he said.

Mariano Rajoy also welcomed the increase of 500 million euros to the trust fund for Africa that was created during the Valetta Summit to finance development projects in Africa. The ultimate goal is for "people to be able to live decent lives in their own countries and have no reason to feel forced to emigrate", he explained.

Ceasefire in Syria

EFEThe situation in Syria was another major topic at the European Council meeting. Mariano Rajoy stressed that the Heads of State and Government call for an immediate end to attacks against the civilian population, especially in Aleppo, and reiterate the need for a lasting ceasefire that will enable access by humanitarian aid to the whole country.

The President of the Government explained that this is about "firstly alleviating the suffering of the population and, in the medium term, creating the objective conditions that will facilitate a resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations".

The President of the Spanish Government stated that "the solution to the Syrian tragedy can only be political, respecting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria". "The future of Syria must be freely decided by the Syrian people themselves", he stressed.

Support for trade agreements

In terms of economic affairs, the European Council focused on the European trade policy and, in line with that discussed at the informal council in Bratislava last September, an agreement was reached to make progress on those areas of the internal market that matter most to the people.

EFEAs regards trade, Mariano Rajoy defended his government's commitment to opening up foreign trade as a source of growth and employment. "Spain began to overcome the first part of the crisis thanks to export momentum and Spanish companies currently export more than one third of the country's gross domestic product. We are in favour of free trade. It has shown itself capable of creating jobs, wealth and economic growth. However, we are in favour of trade that is also fair, competitive and equal for all in terms of regulations", he stressed.

Along these lines, the European Council reiterated its commitment to "a robust trade policy that can harness the benefits of opening up markets for growth and job creation, and that can take public concerns into account", he said. Furthermore, he "invited more progress" on the trade agreements that the EU has in place with such countries as Canada, Japan and the United States. Mariano Rajoy underlined the fact that, following a request from Spain with support from Portugal, the conclusions from the summit include a mention of support for the negotiations with Mercosur.

Furthermore, the European Council agreed to strengthen the instruments for trade defence against the anti-competitive conduct of certain countries, which is affecting such important sectors as the steel industry.

Digital Single Market and Single Energy Market

EFEEU leaders defended further development of the internal market, especially in two areas "of extreme importance for Spain", said Mariano Rajoy. On the one hand, the energy sector, which is a strategic objective for Spain due to its energy isolation; and on the other hand, the digital single market, which should support the rollout of high-capacity digital networks, the transformation of the industry and services, and the acceleration of digital technology uptake by the public.

The meeting in Brussels also enabled a review of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on the fight against climate change, which was made possible by the "swift ratification" by the EU, said Mariano Rajoy. The next step will be to finalise the national ratification processes, which will take place in Spain "once there is a fully functional government", he said.

A legislature for seeking agreements, says Mariano Rajoy

When asked about his investiture speech should the King of Spain put him forward as a candidate for President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy replied by saying that he will need to adapt it to the new situation. "This is a legislature in which we will all need to make a greater effort to understand one another, when it comes to seeking agreements", he said.

In his opinion, all the political groups will need to soften their hardline positions. "If there is a willingness from all, what needs to be done is to focus on those issues where there is a greater chance for agreement and set aside those issues where disagreements are hardest to overcome", he said.

EFEMariano Rajoy stressed that he has always proposed a coalition government capable of tackling challenges such as economic recovery and job creation, as well as such issues as pensions, the regional financing system, the events in Catalonia and Spain's position in Europe, but adding that he respects the positions adopted by the other parties. "It was an excellent opportunity for a change that had never happened in Spain; such that, for the first time in history, in 40 years, there could have been a coalition of parties that traditionally alternate in power", he said.

The acting President of the Government said that he is aware of the support he has and, based on that support, he will try and govern. He stressed that this is not the first time that Spain has had a minority government. "My wish will be to act as loyally as possible. There will be many issues that we did not present during the elections and that it might be impossible to take forward, but that is something that happens regularly in all democracies, where there are very few that have an absolute majority", he said.

Furthermore, Mariano Rajoy stressed that he is not alone in his responsibility if the investiture takes place because "the decisions that affect Spain must be taken by the 350 MPs who make up Parliament and not only the 137 in the Partido Popular", he said. "It will be an investiture, if investiture of the PP candidate eventually takes place, that, albeit difficult, could become a great opportunity to resolve some of the great challenges Spain faces in the future", he added.

As regards the formation of government, Mariano Rajoy stressed that he has not spent "even one minute" thinking about that subject because he has not yet been instructed to do so by the King of Spain. "If I have to form a government again, I will not tell anyone anything until I have spoken with His Majesty the King", he concluded.