The Government of Spain promotes language as a factor for modernisation and economic development

Council of Ministers - 2022.3.1

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Moncloa Palace, Madrid

The Council of Ministers has approved the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) "New Language Economy", which seeks to mobilise public and private investment to maximise the value of Spanish and the co-official languages in the process of digital transformation on a global scale. Spanish is the second most spoken mother tongue in the world - almost 600 million - and the third most used language on the internet.

The First Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for the Economy and Digital Transformation said that taking advantage of the economic, cultural and social value of language - "our main intangible asset" - and the historical availability of the funds of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, represents an extraordinary opportunity to modernise the economy, promote the internationalisation of companies and strengthen the "country brand" and Spain's position as a bridge in Europe and Latin America.

The PERTE has a public investment of 1.1 billion euros and aims to mobilise a further 1 billion through public-private partnerships, which will be articulated through an Alliance for the New Language Economy. This governance instrument will be chaired by Vice-President Nadia Calviño herself and will have a Special Commissioner to promote the roll out of the PERTE, Cristina Gallach. An Advisory Board will also be created with the participation of relevant personalities and institutions linked to the promotion of the language and its digitalisation, and an Alliance Forum will be set up to carry out meeting and dissemination activities.

Artificial intelligence, science, learning and cultural industry

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe vice-president explained that various studies estimate that up to 15% of a country's GDP is related to language and that the treatment of language is key to the technological sector of digitalisation and artificial intelligence, "which is increasingly powerful and influential".

For this reason, the cross-cutting axis of PERTE is dedicated to promoting a knowledge base in Spanish and co-official languages, a task that the vice-president has defined as the creation of "the raw material in Spanish so that the tools of artificial intelligence work" and "an artificial intelligence that thinks in Spanish, that understands us" can be achieved.

There are also four other complementary strategic axes: Artificial Intelligence in Spanish; Science in Spanish; Learning Spanish and Spanish in the World; and Cultural Industries. Fourteen tractor projects are grouped together in these projects

The first two axes include the launch of the Spanish Language Observatory, the promotion of the National Language Technology Plan, the creation of a network of excellence in artificial intelligence and a programme of accessible languages to provide digital tools in Spanish to people with disabilities or functional diversity.

The learning axis includes the creation of a single, secure technological platform for the learning and certification of Spanish as a foreign language, the digitalisation of the Instituto Cervantes and external educational action in Spanish through its own teaching centres and within the framework of foreign systems. The Vice-President stressed the importance of the Spanish education and teaching sector, recalling that the universities of Salamanca and Alcalá de Henares alone already admit 900,000 foreign students each year.

In Cultural Industries, projects have been included for the functional improvement of audiovisual production and the video games sector and the digitalisation of museum and heritage content and documentary collections.

Sustainable mobility

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe Council of Ministers has analysed the Draft Law on Sustainable Mobility, which aims to adapt transport and mobility policies to the needs of citizens, environmental protection, economic and social development and territorial equity.

The head of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, also stressed that the regulation promotes sustainability in transport and digitalisation in a sector that is essential for the economy.

The minister stressed that the future law represents a radical change of approach in transport policies because it recognises mobility as a right and guarantees that all citizens have the same opportunities to travel regardless of their income level, sex, physical limitations or place of residence, be it a big city or the smallest town.

Raquel Sánchez added that the text responds to the two faces of mobility in Spain: that which stems from the greater concentration of the population in urban and metropolitan areas, and that which addresses the needs of rural areas, characterised by depopulation and ageing.

It also addresses economic, social, environmental and public health challenges, and addresses the urgency of decarbonising transport to alleviate the climate crisis and pollution.

The future law establishes the criteria for a rigorous planning of infrastructure investments, so that they have a social return. Furthermore, as the minister remarked, "it does not define any model of payment for road use, which will be the result of consensus between the agents involved".

Among the new features of the regulation is the creation of the National Sustainable Mobility System, coordinated with all administrations, which includes several strategic planning instruments with priorities and ten-year budget scenarios. Sánchez also indicated that the regulation facilitates the use of mobility solutions such as on-demand transport, ridesharing and temporary use of vehicles.

On the other hand, the minister announced that, within a year of the law coming into force, regular road passenger transport under state jurisdiction will be reorganised with a new map of concessions, which will be reviewed every five years. In regard to freight transport, the free competition regime and freedom of contracting will be maintained, although a register of good practices will be drawn up to promote fair and balanced relations.

The new law will guarantee the state's contribution to the maintenance of urban public transport under uniform conditions throughout the territory, for which a state fund will be created.

Reduction of investment spending

The minister specified that the measures contemplated in the draft law will reduce inefficiencies in public investment spending by some 8 billion euros and increase business productivity by up to 3.3% in a decade. Moreover, she predicted that the law will have very positive effects for market unity, competitiveness and competition, and is an "essential lever" to advance in the reforms of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.

Road freight transport and public procurement pricing

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe Executive has approved a Royal Decree-Law with measures to improve the sustainability of the road freight transport sector and the working conditions of drivers. In this way, as the minister explained, this materialises the agreement reached with the Freight Department of the National Road Transport Committee on 17 December.

Raquel Sánchez stressed that the aim of the initiatives is to rebalance the existing asymmetries between the players in the sector in order to improve their competitiveness and guarantee suitable working conditions for drivers. As an example, the minister cited the prohibition of driver involvement in the loading and unloading of goods.

Exceptional review of public procurement contracts

This same Royal Decree-Law, according to the minister, also incorporates extraordinary measures to allow for an exceptional review of the prices of public procurement contracts affected by the rise in the prices of certain materials: bituminous, metallurgical, aluminium and copper. This it is intended to compensate entrepreneurs who have contracted works with the administration before the price increase.

Raquel Sánchez specified that the exceptional revision will be recognised when the increase in the cost of the aforementioned materials exceeds 5% of the certified amount of the contract in 2021 and may not exceed 20% of the contract award price. It will apply to all state public sector contracts in force since its entry into force.

The minister stressed that it is a "fair, balanced, exceptional and urgent agreement due to the need to implement the European recovery funds on time.

Maritime transport

The Council of Ministers has updated the Merchant Navy, Maritime Navigation and State Ports regulations to adapt them to international and European regulations and to the new needs of maritime transport. Furthermore, according to the minister, it will improve the competitiveness of operators and offer legal certainty in the face of new challenges, such as cybersecurity.

With this measure, Raquel Sánchez added, progress is being made towards sustainability and environmental protection by controlling atmospheric pollution from ships and the progressive decarbonisation of maritime transport. "We are also modernising and making administrative management more flexible, both for the Merchant Navy and Ports, and we are anticipating the shipping of the future by regulating the so-called unmanned or autonomous vessels," he said.

Technical Accident Investigation

The Government has pushed for the establishment of the Independent Administrative Authority for the Technical Investigation of Accidents in Means of Transport.

The new figurehead will perform the functions currently carried out by the three existing commissions for the investigation of accidents and incidents occurring in maritime transport, rail transport and civil aviation. The authority will have its own legal personality, financial autonomy and will be made up of recognised professionals, who will carry out their functions with exclusive dedication.

The minister explained that the measure strengthens the independence of technical accident investigations along the lines required by the European institutions: "The victims, their families and their associations will see their legal position strengthened in this whole technical investigation process with respect to the current situation.

Distribution of housing funds

The Executive has approved the proposed distribution of 1.843 billion euros among the regional governments for the Youth Rental Voucher and the State Plan for Access to Housing. Specifically, 400 million euros is being distributed for the Youth Rental Voucher and 1.443 billion euros for the subsidies of the State Plan for Access to Housing 2022-2025.

Sánchez reported that the proposal will be definitively approved at the next sectoral conference scheduled for 9 March, after being discussed on 2 February.

Solidarity with Ukraine

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe Government has approved an institutional declaration in which it shows its total commitment and solidarity with the Ukrainian people and its absolute rejection of Russia's military action in Ukraine.

The Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, has stated that "unity, without a doubt, is the best weapon we have against Putin's war".

Rodríguez announced that the head of the Executive, Pedro Sánchez, will appear tomorrow in the Lower House of Parliament to update information on the situation.

She also dedicated a few words of recognition to the work of journalists covering the war, which allows them to know "truthfully" what is happening on the ground, guaranteeing the right to information and freedom of expression.

Non official translation