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Speech by Acting President of the Government

Zafra (Badajoz), Thursday 3 October 2019

Good day to you all. Good day, Mr Regional President, dear Guillermo, minister, mayor, public officials.

First of all, I will take up the gauntlet from the mayor and show my solidarity on behalf of the Government of Spain, as I did yesterday, and as I am doing here now, precisely here, in Zafra, in Extremadura, before the media, after seeing exactly what happened yesterday, the day before yesterday rather, to a journalist in Catalonia.

I believe that it is very important to remember the phrase they said to the journalist. Why don't you leave? Well, what we say is that no-one has to leave Catalonia, nor her, and not anyone. Everyone who wants to stay in Catalonia, whatever they may think, however they may vote, whatever they may feel, can co-exist in Catalonia under the protection of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and maintain constitutional order which is, in short, what we all defend.

And also taking up the gauntlet from my dear friend Guillermo, President of the Regional Government of Extremadura, I would like to clearly say to the people of Catalonia, in this such critical world that we live in that they should know that the Government of Spain will ensure security and co-existence in Catalonia, and that it will do so calmly and firmly. But also proportionally. And it will do so with the unity of all the political forces, at such an important time as now in Catalonia, and in the whole country.

But anyway, the reason why I am here is quite a different matter, it is something the regional president mentioned before, as did the mayor, and I would like to acknowledge, in my opening words, in short everything that the mayor said, and also do so with certain surprise, if you will allow me, in the best sense of the word, which I will now explain to you.

Firstly, my recognition of the organisation. To all of you who have made the celebration of the Zafra International Livestock Fair possible, and also the traditional… And my surprise at seeing some of the numbers that are perhaps more usual for you to see, but which were very striking when I became aware of them, the numbers for this trade fair: 80,000 visitors a year, last year, the economic transactions the mayor mentioned before, for the sum of 200 million euros, and close to 600 exhibitors here.

And as the mayor rightly said there is an even more singular figure, which is the number of years that this fair has been held for now - 566 years of history. It is true, as the mayor reminded us, that this is the first time that a President of the Government, albeit in an acting capacity, has attended the presentation of the inauguration of this trade fair, although 'better late than never', dear mayor.

In short, it is impressive that the name of Zafra was already tied in to livestock excellence five centuries ago, with a benchmark trade fair. This figure, by itself, should fill you with pride, and I am convinced it does, because it shows the drive of a sector that is a key part of the economy of this land, of Zafra, and indeed, of all Extremadura.

More than 2.7 million people in Spain live from the agri-food sector, and that's no joke. And many of the activities tied into livestock are very competitive, as you are well aware.

Most of them, in a Spain that exists, that is real and that is starting to gain a leading role, fortunately, and the presence they deserve in the political debate, and it is only fair to acknowledge this, which has helped it for so long, which is rural Spain. It is true that the media, above all those related to Madrid, are more involved, let's say, in the debate on urban Spain, and not rural Spain, but fortunately this is now starting to change.

Just for these three factors, for the volume of activity, for the jobs created, and also for the ties with rural Spain, it is worthwhile committing to a fundamental sector in certain regions such as Extremadura. This commitment, to a great extent, as the President of the Regional Government rightly said, involves Europe, and the negotiations of the new CAP, something the Acting Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also mentioned in the breakfast news. It is affected by a well-financed CAP, at a time that is key in which we are negotiating the budgetary framework for the future. In other words, where Europe decides how it should spend its funds and its priorities for the next seven years.

What do I want to say to you here in person? Firstly, that the Government of Spain has things very clear. I have reiterated this and will do so again before you, as I have also done today behind closed doors, with the rest of my European colleagues at our meeting of the European Council, and that is that agricultural policy is a priority. This is an absolute priority for our country, for Spain.

We want to see a well-funded CAP, which maintains the current budget to sustain such activities as livestock rearing, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. But, at the same time, this I believe is a majority feeling in the sector you represent, while you tackle the new challenges you face with a renewed vigour.

That is why I on behalf of the Government of Spain, and also the Regional Government of Extremadura, wish to acknowledge to Juan, to Guillermo and to your regional government, the work that you are doing through this drafting process to maintain a strong and sound common negotiating position, and we are insisting on focusing this process as a genuine opportunity for the future. Not defensively, but we are going to constructively negotiate the budgetary framework and talk about those things that matter, that are of interest, to maintain the sustainability and competitiveness of the agri-food sector that our country deserves.

An opportunity, for example, to make progress on sustainability, above all, environmental sustainability. Earlier, Guillermo mentioned something that concerns us, which is drought. In this regard, I clearly feel the point he made about irrigation is important. An opportunity to make progress on the profitability of agricultural holdings. An opportunity to make progress on the social CAP that is committed to courageous measures, to the role of women, and also to young people in the Spanish countryside.

An opportunity, in short, to make progress in a key vector, which is the fight against rural depopulation, or the demographic challenge, or the vitality of the rural environment. I prefer to state this in positive terms - territorial cohesion; social and territorial cohesion. In other words, an opportunity to also make progress on innovation with growing digitalisation and a decisive commitment to new technologies.

We are already facing the challenges, dear friends. What marks the difference is the way in which we tackle these challenges. We can do this with trepidation, or we can do this as you do every day, audaciously and with courage. We can do this with doubts or with certainty. We prefer certainty to doubts. And we can do this with indecision or with stability. And we also need stability to tackle them in the first place.

I am well aware, as I said at the start, of your sector's contribution to the economy as a whole, to the Gross Domestic Product and also to job creation. But I wish to pause a moment, on another matter I feel is very important, which is exports. We sell, and we particularly sell overseas.

And if you look at the composition of our economic growth now, then half of all growth right now of the Spanish economy is as a result of exports. And that is very good news. Hence, we sell a great deal beyond our borders: half of everything produced in our agri-food sector. So much so, that we are now the eighth largest power in the world, and the fourth in the European Union, in this field.

There was a time when this wasn't so clear-cut, it wasn't so simple. There was a time when Spain insistently knocked on doors that were closed to your companies, to our small- and medium-sized enterprises, to our products. There was a time when doing business overseas was an unfeasible obstacle course for a great many Spanish companies. I am convinced that you have experienced this first-hand. But now, fortunately, that is not the case, or at least not as vividly as in the past. And I believe we can say that with pride.

It is not a question of looking over the shoulder of anyone. We don't look over the shoulder of anyone, but nor should we punish our self-esteem. On many occasions, above all when you go abroad, I am convinced that you will agree with me that what happens to us, to the Spanish people, is that we lack a little confidence in ourselves. It is simply enough to go outside of Spain to become aware that we lack a little self-esteem, something I am sure we will set straight gradually.

There is something that I always repeat when I have the chance, above all when I have meetings abroad, and above all with foreign investors that believe in and commit to our country.

In Spain, we don't believe we are better than anyone, I say, but nor, and this is what we must set in stone, must we believe ourselves inferior to anyone.

Humility to know where we come from. And, above all, to say so in this country seems to have a very special meaning. But also ambition to know where we are going if we remain united in the face of the challenges we face.

The figures we became aware of this week on our reputation overseas confirm this, and I will spell this out for you, because I feel it is fairly illustrative.

Look, the image of Spain according to international public opinion is improving; it is not getting worse, it is improving. We are the 18th best rated country in the world; two points above the previous rating, and above countries like the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. In other words, we are viewed better abroad than how we view ourselves on many occasions.

Just look, there is an element of this study that I think is much more revealing than having risen two places in the ranking of the country reputation review.

We are one of the countries in which the difference between how we are viewed and how we view ourselves is the largest. In other words, we are much loved and valued, to a greater extent than how much we love and value ourselves. So, I think it is time to break, let's say, this Spanish secular tradition.

Spain has travelled a long way to gain confidence in Europe and in the world, and a good part of that journey has been thanks to the commitment of our entrepreneurs, who were not afraid to go out and compete, who continued to knock on those same doors that were closed in the past until they managed not only to open them, but to pull them down, with so much conviction that today, without going further, we have a positive balance, as I mentioned earlier, and it is important to remember this figure - 12 billion euros in the trade balance in the agri-food sector, more than one point of the Gross Domestic Product.

In other words, we sell much more than we buy to meet our internal demand.

Consequently, there is a key word, and with that I will close off, which defines this attitude, which is "confidence". Confidence in the quality of our products. Confidence, today more than ever, in the systems to monitor animal and vegetable health, which is very significant.

The confidence of those who seek added value in the quality of a product that carries the flag of Extremadura and of all Spain abroad - when the President of China was here in Madrid, I can assure you that of all the dishes in front of him he chose cured ham from Extremadura, just imagine that!

And it is you who take the image of what Spain means around the world. You are the ambassadors of our reputation, of our way of understanding life, of the work behind our meat products. It is down to us, to the public authorities, to be complicit in this and lend our support. It is down to us to act with prudence and with efficacy, with aforethought. Albeit against a backdrop, which the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura rightly mentioned before, of uncertainty, caused by Brexit, by the slowdown of the economy and the renewed protectionist policies of some leaders who send tweets at night, and who wake us up in the morning somewhat alarmed.

It is down to us to help your high quality products, which are unique in the world, to continue opening up new markets. It is down to the public authorities to protect our local breeds - 165 in total, one of the most important livestock heritages on the continent - with effective policies. It is down to us to support, through serious decisions, like that of Zafra, which provide us with prosperity, jobs, with an extraordinary raw material, which has all due guarantees for the consumer.

Those are our undertakings, in addition to paying close attention, catering for the demands of the sector and, I stress, providing confidence to a crucial sector like this.

And lastly now, my final point to conclude, I know that history has never made things easy in this land. Extremadura itself is the very synthesis of the history of Spain, of our dear motherland, and it has never been easy for us. That is why your prosperity, like all away victories, is worth double, and leaves a good taste.

I am not trying to settle a score with the past; I prefer to look to the future with you, without losing sight of the present. To do that, let's continue making progress with firm steps; let's not waste even a second in recreating our achievements, but look at what is within our grasp to achieve. And let's believe, with determination and also with emotion, in our own abilities which are undoubtedly many, some of which are yet to be realised.

So, thank you very much. It is an honour to share the inauguration of this trade fair with you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation