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Interview with the Acting President of the Government on the programme Informativos Telecinco

Headquarters of Telecinco, Madrid, Thursday 4 July 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government.

Pedro Piqueras: Mr Acting President of the Government, a very good evening. Welcome to Telecinco.

President of the Government: Good evening.

Piqueras: A very good evening to you all. We are, as you can see, with the Acting President of the Government, in the run-up to the investiture. I see that you are a step away from the investiture debate, which is still somewhat uncertain. However, yesterday an opinion poll was published, a CIS report, which has given a tremendous boost to you with a forecast of nearly 40% of the votes. With these figures, haven't you thought yesterday and today about the possibility of calling elections?

President of the Government: No, the truth is that no. I have to tell you that what's more, on 26 May, the Spanish people closed what was a very intense electoral cycle, on 28 April, on 26 May, with four electoral processes, and in the four electoral processes they have clearly said that they wanted the Socialist Party to govern. So I think that what is good for the Socialist Party is what is good for Spain; and that is for there to be a government in July.

Piqueras: In other words, for an investiture right now; but there are also those who have interpreted that opinion poll as a kind of balm for you and more pressure for Podemos at the same time.

President of the Government: I don't see it that way. I believe that the Spanish people have said they want the Socialist Party to govern.

Piqueras: Do you believe in the results of this opinion poll?

President of the Government: I believe that the Spanish people have made it clear that without a doubt they want the Socialist Party to govern. The solution to the current parliamentary fragmentation in the Lower House of Parliament, is to try to construct a progressive government that does not rely on separatist groups.

For the first part of the equation, which is that there should be a progressive government, it's clear that the Socialist Party has asked for the support and agreement of Unidas Podemos to draw up this roadmap of social achievements that we need to tackle over the next four years. And on the other side of the equation, in other words, that we should not depend on separatist groups, it is clear that the People's Party (Partido Popular) and Ciudadanos, parties that are said to support the state, don't have to support this government programme, but at least allow for this government to be formed in July with their abstention.

Piqueras: But is there any pressure on Podemos at the moment? I say that because of the opinion poll and because of the statements about your party.

President of the Government: I respect Unidas Podemos a great deal. Over these 12 months, we have been working shoulder to shoulder. We have pushed through the minimum wage of 900 euros, we have recovered the universal nature of the public health system, we have also recovered the social security contributions for non-professional carers in the National Dependency System. In short, we have done many things working very hard in these 12 months.

We want to continue to count on Unidas Podemos. I've said it clearly: I want a left-wing government. I want to govern and form a progressive government, one based on cooperation. Cooperation with Unidas Podemos can be in four areas: first, in content, above all social policies; second, parliamentary, as the preferential partner of the Government of Spain; third, institutional, with people from Podemos joining the institutional area of the government of Spain; and fourth, with an enhanced cooperation, which will include a Monitoring Committee to validate the agreements, and of course assessing the degree of compliance with them.

Piqueras: But there is something Pablo Iglesias insists on; he did it in an article in La Vanguardia, and now he has done it again this very morning. Let's listen to him to see what he says about what he wants to be in the government: "Sooner or later they'll do the same as in the Region of Valencia and in the Balearic Islands, which is to negotiate a government with us. There's a certain obsession about cabinet seats on the part of the Socialist Party, which doesn't want to give in even a little."

The Socialist Party's obsession with seats. Are you proposing anything new to change the situation?

President of the Government: Mr Iglesias knows that I'm not. And Unidas Podemos knows that it isn't the case. Look, for these last 12 months what I've done has been to construct a government with practically half of prestigious independents, but they don't belong and are not affiliated to the Socialist Party: the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Science, to name a few. They are people of recognised prestige who are not affiliated to the Socialist Party.

In other words, I don't have a sense of power based on patrimonialism or one that is monopolistic. What is it that I believe? What I believe is that Spain needs a progressive government, but one that doesn't depend on separatist parties.

What Unidas Podemos offers is not precisely that. That is why I believe it is important to offer a government and not a joint government. A government with a coherent message. Look, I and the Socialist Party have a great deal in common with Unidas Podemos. For example, in social policies. We have a great deal in common on social justice. For these 12 months we have done many things in this area. But it's also true that we have major differences, major differences. For example, on how to resolve the crisis in Catalonia. That's why I believe it is important that over the next four years...

Piqueras: Pablo Iglesias has offered loyalty in the matter of Catalonia.

President of the Government: And I'm grateful to him for that. But the fact is that they have a way of addressing the crisis in Catalonia that has nothing to do with ours. They support the right to self-determination. At the negotiating table of the Lower House, for example, they voted against the suspension of those in prison who have been elected as members of the Lower House. In short, there are substantial discrepancies.

So, what is it that we can do together? I think we can do a great deal together. That is why we have offered this form of cooperation, in these four parliamentary areas, on content, institutions and also a Monitoring Committee. But it is clear that we don't need a joint government; we don't need two governments in one. We need a government with a coherent message; and, in fact, this is what I will try to address over these 17 days.

The important thing is, and the objective is, to reach an agreement. And the method is dialogue. I am not concerned with any objective that is not an agreement, and no other method that is not dialogue.

Piqueras: There's a problem of trust. You said Catalonia, because Podemos has another way of seeing the situation in Catalonia and the problems of Catalonia. Is there any type of distrust regarding what, perhaps, Podemos may say, for example, if there is a court judgement with respect to the people in jail, the Catalan politicians who are in jail?

President of the Government: Obviously we have a basic difference of opinion regarding how to tackle the Catalan crisis. They support the right to self-determination, so I believe it is important to be aware that we are defending the state of autonomous regions, the constitutional system, national sovereignty, territorial integrity; and it therefore has to be at the regional level that this political crisis must be resolved; this crisis in coexistence that is being experienced in Catalonia. But I repeat, the important thing is to form a government. What is important is to form a progressive government, without depending on separatist parties.

Piqueras: And how do you imagine this government would be?

President of the Government: This government will obviously be cut from the same cloth as the one we had for the last 12 months. In other words, I would say that we are going to have even more independents than in our previous government.

Piqueras: Will there be new names? And could someone close to Podemos, although not in Podemos, be in the government?

President of the Government: Look, I said it before, my relationship with power is not based on patrimonialism, nor, undoubtedly, is my idea of government. If Unidas Podemos has people who are independent, of recognised prestige, who can contribute to the governance of Spain, then I without a doubt will not reject these suggestions, but I'll take them into account.

Piqueras: Could Ángel Gabilondo be among the new names if he does not become President of the Madrid Assembly?

President of the Government: I would like Ángel Gabilondo to be the President of the Region of Madrid, as do most people of Madrid who voted for the Socialist Party, which today is the biggest party in the Madrid region.

What is happening in the Madrid region, or what has happened today in the region of Murcia, is in fact that the list receiving most votes, in this case the Socialist Party, is not being respected; and one party, in this case Ciudadanos, is telling us that it's not what it looks like, but obviously it is what it looks like. And Ciudadanos has an agreement with the People's Party, and a sub-agreement with Vox, with the far right. And what they are engaged in is a single undertaking. And this undertaking aims to institutionalise in the regional and local governments that image of Columbus Square which unfortunately we saw a few months ago in one of the main squares of Madrid.

Piqueras: We'll talk in a minute about what is happening in Murcia now, news we have received this afternoon; but first I would like to ask you something. Many people wonder, and we ourselves wonder also, whether at any time you have offered any type of agreement to Albert Rivera, when you met, when you talked to each other.

President of the Government: No, not at all. Look, I'm not asking the People's Party and Ciudadanos to vote in favour of my investiture. I also believe that the citizens made it very clear on 28 April that they wanted Spain to move forward, that they did not want it to go backwards; and that this advance should be through social justice. This advance will take place sooner or later, it will take place, and I hope it will be in July. And this advance can be studied, because it is what we are offering to Unidas Podemos. This advance can also be opposed, in this case by the conservative parties, the People's Party and Ciudadanos, but what must not be done is to block it.

So I am sorry, very sorry, that Mr Rivera has not wanted to meet me. And it's not only a slight to the office of President of the Government, because the presidents of the government do not fall from the sky; we are, in fact, elected by the votes of the Spanish people. But in any case, I will always offer him a coffee and more than a coffee, an agreement dealing, let's say, with how we can look at some necessary matters that have to be addressed during this term of office. For example, an agreement on education; or for example, the ecological transition; or the digital revolution. To all the political parties, and why not also to Ciudadanos?

Piqueras: In any case, this coffee, this coffee you refer to, does not appear to be possible right now. Let's listen to what Albert Rivera says: "You are not the King or the Head of State. You don't organise rounds of consultations; that's what the King does. And I told you in person twice, and I'll repeat it here: it's not only you that will call us for the cross-party agreements; I'll call you to ask you to support them and we'll lead them together, if necessary. Mr Sanchez, get to work, negotiate with your partners, just as you already govern in so many autonomous regions. Stop play acting."

What do you think of that?

President of the Government: Well, from the formal point of view I think that regenerating democratic life in fact means always calling for dialogue. And when I... look, I had many differences with Mariano Rajoy, when he was President of the Government, but when the President of the Government called me I always went; I always went to the appointment. I think that it is, at the very least, a question of institutional decorum and respect for the office of the President of the Government, it is basic.

And having said that, my door will always be open to talk with all the political leaders, and with Mr Rivera as well. Always. Because it is important to negotiate, to talk. There are many things that we can do together, and I will never, how shall I put it, never shy away from this responsibility. I think that no political leader should shy away from this responsibility. But listening just now to talk of cross-party agreements; the first cross-party agreement that could be concluded in this investiture process is probably that the political parties which know there is no alternative to a Socialist Party government, should at least not block this investiture. They should not block the formation of a progressive government that does not depend on separatist parties. Because the question that has to be asked of the People's Party and Ciudadanos is whether they consider themselves to be national parties; whether they consider that the investiture of no less than the President of the Government of Spain has to depend on the whim of the decision of the Catalan separatist parties.

Piqueras: H is probably also indicating to you that you should turn to your partners, in reference to them, to the separatists. How would you feel if, in the end, you had to depend on the abstention of the separatists?

President of the Government: Let's see. First, the separatist parties, by vetoing and rejecting the General State Budget before 28 April, triggered the early election of 28 April. So the separatist parties, with the collusion of the People's Party and Ciudadanos, made the Government of Spain fall, and thus triggered the elections.

I believe that all of us have to draw the lesson from what happened then, and the fact is that the governance of Spain cannot be made to rely on the separatist forces.

I'm not asking Ciudadanos and the People's Party to vote in favour of my investiture. What I am asking them to do is that parties who claim they are constitutionalist, parties that claim they have a statesmanlike sense of duty, should allow governability, the formation of a progressive government, which does not depend on separatist parties. After that, they can engage in any opposition they want. All the opposition they want. I will work to achieve these cross-party agreements that are necessary across the country: in the area of education; the ecological transition; a new Workers' Statute; the reconstruction of the Welfare State; and the technological revolution, which of course affects the world of work and the world of education. But all this has to be done with a working government. And that is what I propose to the three political parties:

To Unidas Podemos to have this progressive government, which is what the Spanish people want; and to the People's Party and Ciudadanos, that this progressive government should not have to rely on the separatist parties, which is also precisely what the Spanish people want, that there should not be any dependence on the separatist parties.

Piqueras: An issue that has led to some tension, and that is related to what we are talking about, is the case of Navarre, which appears to determine everything. It is the reason, as I say, for many of the attacks that you receive from Ciudadanos and the People's Party. Let's listen to what Pablo Casado says: "Pedro Sánchez cannot buy a regional government by selling Navarre. And what's more, it would be immoral to sell it to those who for so many years have justified 800 murders."

What do you think of that?

President of the Government: Let's see. I think that the right wing, the People's Party and Ciudadanos have been overacting for a long time and making unjust criticisms, which I believe are removed from reality from every point of view.

I'm going to say three things about this matter. First: In Pamplona, before 26 May there was a municipal government headed by Bildu; and today, there isn't, thanks, among other matters, to the fact that the People's Party and the Socialist Party has not allowed it to happen. There is a government of the UPN, the Navarre right-wing. Second, before 26 May there was a government in which Bildu was represented. After 26 May, if a progressive government can be formed, Bildu will not be present in the government of Navarre. And third: They may complain that, apparently, Bildu is represented at the negotiating table, but they were already at the negotiating table of the Parliament of Navarre before the 26 May. In other words, there has been no change: Bildu will not vote for the Socialist Party, and the Socialist Party is not voting for Bildu.

Piqueras: You have not negotiated with Bildu?

President of the Government: Certainly not.

Piqueras: And wouldn't it be easier for you to accept the votes of the UPN, which is in fact a partner of the People's Party, and which has also offered you support in the investiture.

President of the Government: Yes, and I also thank Mr Esparza for this decision, and I mean that. But those are two seats. In this case we're not talking about two seats, it's a question of 350 seats. The absolute majority is 176 seats, in the first round of the investiture process: and if not, more ayes than nays, in the second vote of the investiture process.

So what is important is to call on the main political parties who have the capacity to block or make this government possible.

I repeat, I'm not asking the People's Party and Ciudadanos to vote positively on my investiture, I'm asking them simply to ensure that the Government of Spain does not rely on the separatist parties, and that they therefore exercise some statesmanship and make possible this investiture and the formation of a progressive government.

Piqueras: To return to the beginning, you arrive at the investiture on 22 July, there's a debate, and you are not invested that week; you'd have to wait until September. Are you prepared to call elections if that is the situation?

President of the Government: Well, the times are fixed. Two months, and then, there would be an automatic call of elections. In this case, it's not the President of the Government - now Acting President - who has this prerogative; constitutionally, two months after the first vote, in other words 23 September, the elections would have to be called automatically.

I don't want to arrive at this situation. I would like to express to the Spanish people that I will do everything possible to avoid this situation. I want there to be a government in July, because the world isn't going to stop for us. Spain's isn't coming to a stop. There are social problems. We saw it only a few days ago in a report that tells us that 18% of the Spanish population, more than eight million Spanish people, are on social welfare. We have a problem of climate emergency. We are being told by the young people in our country that we have to do things and act to make our country and our planet sustainable. We also have everything that has to do with the technological revolution and territorial coexistence in Catalonia. They are all elements that I believe have to reach...

Piqueras: ... that require work and solutions.

President of the Government: that require work, solutions; that require a government in place now, and above all the generosity of all the actors who are involved, not only in government but to make the investiture and formation of the government possible.

I will undoubtedly be generous. I'm prepared to negotiate with everyone, at any time. To talk with everyone at any time so that on 23 July at last we have a government in Spain.

Piqueras: I'm sure you've seen it today, but there are people who are inclining towards the idea of elections. For example, the option of elections is supported by the president of the employers' association, who said today "it would mean waiting to November to have a calmer country, rather than having a more unstable country in the short term."

President of the Government: I believe that Mr Garamendi probably said that to provoke, because I believe that the social partners, all the agents who have a great deal to say, for example, with respect to the public pension system or labour regulations, on the economic situation; what they want is for the Government to function, for the Government to have the capacity to act, and obviously to respect the verdict of the polls. In other words, that it should be led by the Socialist Party and that it should really have progressive policies, which is what the Socialist Party supports.

Piqueras: And don't you believe that the lack of an agreement at this point in time, everything that is happening in general, is leading to a lack of confidence on the part of Spanish people in politics? The CIS, for example, in its latest opinion poll, which we referred to earlier, mentioned precisely that. We're going to listen to it now (a number of different people will speak): "I don't believe anything they say"; "They aren't capable of getting us out of this situation"; "They're only interested in themselves"; "They don't think about the people, they don't think about those who voted for them, about what we want"; "Because there is a great deal of untruth, and the interests of very many people that are not reflected in what is done in the end."

President of the Government: It's sad, that way of looking at things is sad. And of course, I aim to address it. Because, in fact, we should not be thinking here about the future of one party or another. And we have to address the future of health, education, pensions, wages, jobs and unemployment and protection for the unemployed. That is what we should be talking about.

It's also true that it's something I want to express to the public. Look, this isn't happening only in Spain; it's happening in many countries around the world. Why? Because there is a parliamentary fragmentation that makes it much more difficult to reconcile party interests with political and ideological interests; and even interests that some political actors have legitimately at a personal level, of being able to have a position in a government or not. But in the end, I think it is important that politicians should be aware that we have to put the general interest ahead of the private, party interest, which was already resolved in the elections of 28 April and 26 May.

Spanish people have already done their job, they turned out to vote. They voted on four occasions in less than 26 or 27 days. I believe that this is what is most important. Now it is up to the politicians, who have to materialise this vote in a serene, stable government that can give us four years to make the transformations our country needs.

Piqueras: To change tack, the Catalan separatists, the leaders of the separatists, have even said recently that the election of Josep Borrell as High Representative of the European Union is a way of internationalising the Catalan problem. What do you think of that?

President of the Government: Well, that probably what I will tell the Catalan separatists is that it may be difficult for them to accept it, but the world doesn't revolve around Catalan separatism. What's more, the world is increasingly looking towards very different coordinates than Catalan separatism.

The world, countries, the European Union, what they are doing is integrating, ceding sovereignty, sharing sovereignty, precisely in order to ensure that globalisation has a much more human face; to address global challenges, such as that of migration, climate change, inequality, inequality of gender. They are matters that require union, the combined strength of all of us, and precisely not fragmentation, which is what separatism is supporting.

For me, it appears that it is extraordinary news for Spain that we have not only returned to one of the main positions of institutional representation and power in the European Union, but that a person of great value, of the political importance of Pepe Borrell, will be the one to head it up.

Piqueras: If the Catalan politicians who are in prison were finally found guilty, would you consider a pardon for them?

President of the Government: That was a recurring question throughout the election campaign. And look, even when some political leader has made a statement in one direction or the other, they have been criticized on the grounds that you can't interfere in judicial decisions; and in fact we are still waiting for the final decisions and the court judgement in the Catalan "proces".

As President of the Government and being very respectful of the separation of powers, I don't want to interfere with the work of the judges. I believe that the Supreme Court, Mr Marchena, as one of the main actors and public figures in this case, have done extraordinary work; and I believe that we have projected an image, I mean the Judiciary and the social and democratic state grounded in the Rule of Law in Spain have projected an image; they have project an exemplary image in Europe and in the world.

Look, the separatists talk a great deal about the democratic quality of our country, but many of the judgements, all the judgements that the Court of Justice of the European Union has issued on the Catalan case, have revalidated, have backed what has been said and done in the Constitutional Court and the Judiciary in our country.

This fills me with pride, as President of the Government, but also as a citizen of Spain.

Piqueras: Before going to Murcia, because we are moving there shortly, because of what is happening there between Vox, Ciudadanos and the People's Party, I would like you to talk about something, an incident of which you were a direct witness. Because there has been a great deal of speculation with this image that we're going to see... You were a witness to such an extent that you were the leading player, isn't that true? The American President indicated with this gesture that you should sit down. Well, here we have a repeat. What really happened?

President of the Government: Well, look, Mr Piqueras, it wasn't like that. And I have to tell you that there have been times when I...

Piqueras: That's why I'm asking you, because you were there in the front line.

President of the Government: There was no meeting of minds, but Mr Trump did tell us there, and what in fact he said to me precisely, is that he loved our country, and that it was a matter of pride to lead a country such as Spain. So, well, it's true, that he has the gestures he has... he says the things he says, but, in fact what he does is recognise the worth and he feeling of fondness for Spain. And that is obviously something I am grateful for as President of the Government.

Piqueras: Well, I wanted to hear your version. Let's go to Murcia, because Vox has finally voted "no" to the People's Party candidate for the Presidency of the region.

Mar Magro, what arguments have they given to block this investiture, tell us, what happened? "Well, Pedro, Vox tells us that they don't have any problem with the regional administration at this end, in Murcia, with Ciudadanos; that they even have an agreed programme. The problem they have is with the national leadership of Ciudadanos, with Madrid; and that is why they voted "no" again to the PP, "no" to the investiture of Fernando López Miras. From now on a period of two months begins in which to present a new candidate for the President here, in the region of Murcia."

Now I will ask you for a reflection, even if it is brief, on this matter.

President of the Government: What happened to what the People's Party and Ciudadanos used to say about the most voted list? The Socialist Party won in Murcia, just as they won in the region of Madrid. And Ciudadanos is putting up a cordon sanitaire, precisely against the Socialist Party. And with this cordon sanitaire what they are doing is tying themselves to the far right.

It's true they are saying that it's not what it looks like; but it is. And what it is, is that Ciudadanos has tied its most immediate political future to the far right and the People's Party, as is happening in Andalusia and in Castile Leon, and also in Madrid. You have to be consistent in this. If you pact with the far right, it's clear that you have to recognise it as an actor, and you will have to sit down with them, sign, because it is their votes that are making it possible to have a government of the People's Party and Ciudadanos in Murcia.

Piqueras: Mr Acting, still, President of the Government, thank you for coming here to Informativos Teleinco and a very good evening to you.

President of the Government: Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation