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Statement by President of the Government following meeting with Regional President of La Rioja

Logroño, La Rioja, Friday 28 February 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, President of the Government

Good day to you all, and my thanks to the media for accompanying us, to the Government Delegate, to the Regional President, dear Concha. First of all the members of the government wish to express our gratitude for the hospitality shown by the Regional Government of La Rioja, and particularly by you - the President of the Regional Government of La Rioja.

Secondly, I wish to convey to the media something that the regional president mentioned, and which I wholeheartedly share, which is that the commitment made by the Government of Spain in the investiture debate was to boost territorial dialogue, and we said then that this would have to be the legislature of dialogue with the social stakeholders, of dialogue between the generations, because there are many demands, not only from the elderly but also from the young people of this country, who are the ones principally suffering from inequality, and finally, that this dialogue had to be between all the different autonomous regions.

It is true that during the last legislature, following the vote of no confidence, I, as President of the Government, received all the different regional presidents at Moncloa Palace, and one of the commitments I made in my investiture speech was that I would now meet up, as President of the Government, was all the regional presidents, at their regional headquarters. Why? Because we wanted to convey the message that this is a government ready for action, a decisive government, a government that listens, that talks and that consequently acts based on the agreements we may reach between the different public authorities, as the Regional President, Concha Andreu, rightly said. When public authorities foster this sincere dialogue, this calm dialogue, this moderate dialogue, this inter-institutional dialogue, then in the end this benefits all our citizens.

Hence, for us, the proposal for this agreement with the Regional Government of La Rioja in these three areas mentioned by the Regional President of La Rioja shows firstly, our vocation and interest in dialogue with all the regional governments to the benefit of the general interest. Secondly, the media has heard me say, above all the media in Madrid, because we have said this on many occasions when we formed the first coalition government of Spain, that we were very clear as to the five main transformations that our country needed to achieve progress, to win our future. We said then that the first and main goal of our government was to sustain economic growth and job creation; secondly to tackle something unforgiveable, which is the ecological transition, and to ensure that this transition was fair, in other words that no-one fell outside of this progress, or indeed that any region fell outside of this progress. And thirdly, gender equality.

Fourthly, social justice and when we speak about social justice we are not only talking about people, but also about regions. And fifthly, logically, what I said before about territorial dialogue.

So, three of the goals proposed by the regional president at this signing of the agreement are related to these five main transformations, when we talk, for example, about setting up a National Benchmark Centre on the use of the Spanish language in the digital era we are now in, we are talking about a commitment to sustainable economic growth that is productive and competitive and based on digitalisation.

Secondly, when we talk about the "wine region", we are also talking about the ecological transition, of how we must reindustrialise regions such as La Rioja, based on criteria of sustainability.

And when we speak, finally, about setting up a National Benchmark Centre in La Rioja for containers and packaging related of course to such an important industry as wine in La Rioja, we are also clearly talking about the competitiveness of productivity and the ecological transition.

Hence, what I want to say by this is that by signing this partnership protocol, these three very important projects are also closely related to the goals that the Government of Spain set for itself, as the main drivers of transformation to win the future for our country.

Spain's progress means the progress of everyone, including all the regions of our country; if not, it means the progress of no-one. And this is a little of what lies behind the approach of what we have done by signing this partnership agreement.

Finally, the regional president said something that I said was fundamental in both the election campaign and in the investiture process. I promised that we would take the demographic challenge to the Council of Ministers, and that we were going to set up a specific ministerial department for the demographic challenge. We have not only done this, we have not only kept our word, we have also raised this to the level of a vice-presidency of the government because, it is true, there are horizontal policies, cross-cutting policies that affect all the departments and that only from the perspective of a vice-presidency of the government can our work become much more effective to the benefit of our citizens and of the different regions.

We have been talking about the demographic challenge for a long time. In 2017, the Conference of Regional Presidents of the previous government made a commitment on behalf of the Government of Spain to approve a strategy that was, let's say, all encompassing, holistic, in regard to the demographic challenge. But it wasn't until the Socialist Party came to power in 2019, specifically in March of 2019, that we started to comply with this mandate from the Conference of Regional Presidents in 2017. We had to wait almost two and a half years to draw up many of the measures that clearly comprise this strategy to combat the demographic challenge, which has now been approved.

What will we do today? Well, on Tuesday at the Council of Ministers we approved what are called the 'delegate committees'. As from Tuesday, the Government of Spain has four delegate committees: one is the General Affairs Committee; another is the Economic Affairs Committee, which will also meet here by the way, regional president, today in La Grajera. And the third is the specific delegate committee on a single matter together with this other Delegate Committee on the 2030 Agenda.

What are we going to approve today? What we are going to approve today is not only the first meeting of this Delegate Committee on the Demographic Challenge but we are also going to approve an action plan with 30 specific measures from each and every ministerial department to address a challenge facing the whole country, which is the demographic challenge. Nine regions have systematically seen their population decline over recent years, including La Rioja. In La Rioja, you clearly have almost 80% of villages with less than 500 inhabitants.

And it is not just La Rioja; many other regions are also suffering, and not just from depopulation, but also from an ageing population as a result of better quality of life of the Spanish people as a whole.

And lastly, you also have what is called dispersion and a low population density of many rural and urban centres. Hence, we must design an all-encompassing, cross-cutting strategy that affects all ministerial departments; and today we begin down this path by implementing an action plan to combat rural depopulation and to address the demographic challenge.

And what I want to pass on, in conclusion, is the commitment of the Government of Spain to the progress of each and every region based on dialogue and also on a decisive approach through actions and policies that precisely show our commitment to the things we said we would be committed to, specifically to the demographic challenge.

At the end of the day, I believe that one of the goals both our tiers of government show - the Regional Government of La Rioja and the Government of Spain - is cohesion. What people are demanding from politics, from politicians, is a commitment to cohesion. Cohesion means equality, equality between regions; cohesion also means creating opportunities where they don't exist.

The three exciting proposals put on the table here, in relation to this region, regarding the digital world and the use of the Spanish language, and also regarding the circular economy and of creating a National Benchmark Centre in La Rioja in relation to everything linked to the circular economy, in other words to containers and packaging, seems to me to be precisely what not only La Rioja needs, but also many other regions of this country.

That is why I end by congratulating the regional president on her medium-term vision with a broad scope, because I believe that by actually laying the foundations of projects, which may sound new, but which are truly very important for the progress and the future of such a marvellous land as La Rioja, precisely shows the commitment of the public authorities, and particularly of the regional president, to La Rioja.

So I am delighted, madam president, to be here with you, and with the rest of my colleagues from the Council of Ministers, and I am very excited about the new era we are beginning with our two authorities as partners.

So thank you very much for this visit and also for the interest of the media in this institutional statement. Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation