Speech by President of the Government at final appearance following meeting of Heads of State and Government of Southern European Union Countries

2017.4.10

Ladies and gentlemen, a very good afternoon to you.

As you are aware, this is a meeting of the Southern European Union Countries being held, as you are also aware, in Spain. Although I have already done this, I would like to formally welcome all of the Heads of State and Government that are here with us. I am very grateful to them for their participation; they are always welcome in our country.

This is an informal meeting, at which those of us present have debated issues that are of interest to European public opinion and issues that also affect our countries. We feel that our specific geographic location allows us to contribute added value to the European process.

In short, we have tackled four issues at today's meeting. I will refer, firstly, to Syria.

The Southern European Union countries condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the aerial attack with chemical weapons on 4 April in Syria. We consider that the attack launched by the United States on Syria had the appreciable intention to prevent and avoid the distribution and use of chemical weapons, and it was focused on this goal. We also think that only a credible peaceful solution, under the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, can guarantee peace and stability in Syria, leading to the definitive defeat of DAESH and other terrorist groups that the UN has named in Syria.

Secondly, we also reiterated our support for the reunification process in Cyprus. We very highly rate the efforts by its government and its president, Nikos Anastasiadis, all of which we are doing in line with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the acquis of the European Union. We would recall that the Republic of Cyprus is and will remain, after the agreement, a member of our union and that its status as such is the best safeguard of a reunified Cyprus.

Thirdly, we spoke about Brexit. I will summarise for you the approach proposed by the current holder of the Rotating Presidency of the EU, the Prime Minister of Malta: unity of the 27; secondly, trust and support for the negotiator appointed by the European Commission, Michel Barnier; thirdly, we would once again state that the withdrawal will be negotiated at the outset and then we will speak about any future relations; fourthly, to point out the importance of maintaining the rights of individuals for all those present here; and lastly, our intention, once this is all over, of maintaining the best possible relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The fourth issue we tackled today is the future of the European Union. This is a debate that has taken place following two important events: the first, on 25 March in Rome, was the 60th anniversary of the founding treaty in the same city back in 1957; and the second, on 29 March, as you all know, was the formal notification by the United Kingdom of its intention to withdraw from the European Union.

The most important priorities set in Rome, which we ratified here today, are the following: first, the need for a common European immigration policy, strengthening dialogue with the countries of origin of those people who come to Europe and cooperation, above all and in particular, with the continent of Africa.

The second main goal of the EU is economic growth and job creation. To achieve that, among other measures, we must complete the Digital Single Market and the Single Energy Market. We have very highly rated the functioning of the Juncker Plan: it has worked well and it must be extended, to which end the first steps have already been taken by the European institutions. Furthermore, we also declare our intention to press on with an open trade policy, complete the agreement with Japan and step up the work so that the agreements with MERCOSUR and with Mexico - the latter must be renegotiated, the last one dates back to 2002 - are adopted as soon as possible.

Thirdly, we have spoken about the importance of the European cornerstone of social rights. It is fundamental to create jobs, but also to have sufficient levels of social protection available to help fight inequality and poverty.

Fourthly - the fourth main goal - is to take steps towards the Economic and Monetary Union. The European Deposit Guarantee System is a priority in order to complete the Banking Union and, looking to the future - this is not an issue for the immediate future, but it is an issue that must not be left off the agenda - we must continue extending the Economic and Banking Union, start to talk about a European Budget and also a joint policy of issuing Eurobonds.

The fifth main goal is security. This is one of our main priorities which also depends on peace and stability beyond our borders. Cooperation between law enforcement agencies and intelligence services is fundamental. There are two main goals: first, stepping up the measures to prevent the financing of terrorism and interrupting the flow of funds towards terrorist groups, and second, strengthening the efforts to prevent radicalisation. In this regard, we condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Sweden, in Russia and in Egypt, and we express our solidarity with their people.

Lastly, we also agreed to continue making progress on security and defence, offer our support to the European Defence Fund and continue moving towards genuine cooperation on common security and defence.

These are the most pressing goals following the agreement or the decision by the United Kingdom to pull out of the European Union and after having been able to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European institutions on 25 March in the city of Rome.

Thank you very much.