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Speech by Acting President of the Government to Spanish troops deployed overseas

Tuesday 24 December 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government.

Good day, Thank you very much, General. And thank you also very much, Acting Minister for Defence.

It is an honour for me to address all of you at this special time of year. I do so not only in my own name or on behalf of the Government of Spain, but, and I am convinced of this, on behalf of millions of Spaniards who appreciate your work overseas. On behalf of a country that is grateful for your tremendous dedication and hard work.

Distance and the demands of your mission do not allow you to be here at home, with your families and loved ones, or with your friends.

I am aware that it is an enormous sacrifice, one which demands self-denial, a sense of duty, a vocation for service. These three attributes which you clearly display and which the whole of Spain appreciates. You form part of international missions that contribute to improving security on land, at sea and in the air in those locations where you are deployed. But you do much more than that. You are all, men and women alike, our first line of defence in places in which, however faraway they may seem, the security of Europe, and consequently of Spain, is at stake.

In total, 9,764 servicemen have spent at least one third of 2019 on duty overseas. This is an even more significant figure when taking into account that 10 days of deployment in the field require 30 days of preparation here in Spain.

Through your presence in such different locations as the Lebanon, Iraq or Latvia, sailing the Mediterranean Sea or the Indian Ocean, or flying over Africa, you have tackled all sorts of threats to our national security, hybrid threats, terrorism and also piracy.

These are challenges we can only tackle with new skills sets and also with new capabilities, but you have gone the extra mile: you take hope and solidarity to countries that require help more than ever before.

In addition to missions overseas, you have also participated in defence diplomacy together with countries with which we share interests, and the Emergency Military Unit has helped alleviate the effects of disasters beyond our borders, as well as here in Spain, and furthermore, today I want to recall the ties between our armed forces and science - an historical tie - of which the campaign in the Antarctic is the best example at this time.

And finally, there is our active participation through international organisations that we are members of.

All of these undertakings are examples of our commitment to global security because although we act through different frameworks - the United Nations, NATO, the European Union - the focus is always the same, which is our commitment to active multilateralism.

So, thanks to you we are distinguished as one of the most active European states in the fields of security, peace and defence, and this is an extraordinary value which enhances the image and projection of our country overseas. Our country, which currently enjoys the longest period of peace in its history, acknowledges the merits of the armed forces in this achievement, and it is also aware of the sacrifice behind this.

In these 30 years of missions overseas, 186 men and women have laid down their lives in active service. It is our duty to remember them and not allow time to erase their memories, so that their families - in days such as these, when their absence is more keenly felt - know that they are always close to our hearts.

Lastly, allow me to pass on a request on behalf of the whole of Spain, which is that you take every precaution to look after yourselves, and to look after each other as your work alone teaches you. The bonds that unite you in the armed forces last a lifetime and are built on a certainty, which is to care for those who stand by your side, knowing that they will do the same.

We want you to return home safe and sound so that you can shortly say, "mission accomplished". So enjoy yourselves, as far as that is possible, on this special night, together with your colleagues-at-arms, and by Internet, with your families and your friends.

On behalf of the whole of Spain, and of the Government of Spain, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the heartfelt warmth of a country that respects and appreciates you and awaits your homecoming.

Thank you all very much and Merry Christmas!

(Response from the chiefs of staff overseas)

Following on from the words from the Acting Minister for Defence, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the work you are doing to enhance the safety of the Spanish people. And also of this area known as the European Union, and wish you all, as the minister said, the best of Christmases, albeit away from your families and loved ones, and be aware that the Government of Spain and all the Spanish people appreciate, respect and admire you.

Merry Christmas and, above all, a Happy New Year 2020.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation