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Speech by President of the Government in Lower House to request sixth extension to state of emergency

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Wednesday 3 June 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ_ President of the Government

Thank you, Madam Speaker, Honourable Members.

Good day. I wanted to begin my speech by conveying, on behalf of the Government of Spin, our condolences to the families of the victims of the accident that took place yesterday in the village of La Hiniesta. As you know, the accident took place when an Alvia train travelling from Ferrol to Madrid hit a private vehicle that had fallen from an overpass onto the Zamora-Ourense line. Most of the passengers are now home but must have suffered unbearable panic attacks and we hope that they recover physically and emotionally as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the accident took the lives of two people who deserve our consideration and our tribute today, and their families deserve our affection and full support.

Honourable Members, Madam Speaker.

We have gone through the worst months in the history of our democracy. We have suffered incredibly tense moments, as have the debates been held for the different extensions to the state of emergency, which have transformed our perception - including today's debate and recent intense days - of time. Only three months have passed but it has seemed to be without end.

We can now say - albeit cautiously, as prudently as possible - that we have overcome the worst moments of a pandemic that is ravishing the world. Spain has been hard hit by it, but we can now also say, Honourable Members, that the worst is behind us.

On numerous occasions I have stated how proud I feel to head up the Government of Spain. We have managed to overcome, as a community, as a society, as a country, the pandemic through the efforts, resistance, social discipline and also with the scent for victory of the whole of Spanish society. The Spanish people have proven, Honourable Members, to be a responsible and supportive society, despite the tough times. They have found a way to beat the virus day-by-day; week-by-week.

Since 11 March when the WHO declared the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the government, as you know, has had no other commitment, no other undertaking, no other goal but to save lives to save the life of our country. This experience, and also what we are seeing in other parts of the world, even with very important powers like the United States, shows that there has not been, and there is no government in the world that was ready for this havoc. The situation has been wholly new; the rules were not only new, but the whole virus was a new phenomenon. From the outset, we decided to look ahead, to face up to the virus and not leave anyone behind.

The whole country and all its institutions have worked tirelessly to protect and ease the lives of our fellow countrymen and women.

The health emergency was an unquestionable emergency. A country does not exist without its economy and without health and without a health service for everyone. At today's date, 239,932 people have been infected in total in Spain, Honourable Members, of whom 150,376 are now fortunately cured. Our health system was on the verge of collapse and needed to be urgently reinforced. Since the start of the crisis, we initially outlaid 1 billion euros to public health, in the hands of the regional governments, strengthening the liquidity of the regional authorities, and hired new staff and acquired new material.

This very day, the government is precisely negotiating this non-refundable fund with the different parliamentary groups, under which a good part of these 16 billion euros will also be allocated to public health in the hands of the regional governments.

But this front, Honourable Members, was not enough. We needed to prevent the spread of the disease. This rising curve needed to be halted during which time we suffered some terrible weeks, some very intense weeks that seemed to go on forever. And to do that, we had to limit some of our freedoms. We all had to drastically modify our behaviour, our social conduct. Travel restrictions, limiting meetings, interrupting work and closing up shop, a lockdown in short, and the closure of all those economic activities not classified in the decree on the state of emergency as essential.

There was no other way to defeat the virus. We took on-board one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe and indeed in the Western world. The strictest. It was necessary to stop almost everything to halt the spread of the virus. This was terribly tough, Honourable Members, but we can conclude that it has also been incredibly effective. The most effective tool. Quite frankly, we are much better off now, finally coming out of the tunnel - what the government is proposing is a new and final extension of the state of emergency - thanks to this constitutional instrument - the state of emergency as regulated under Article 116 of our Constitution.

We can also take stock of the positive balance of the de-escalation. The lifting of restrictions and measures applied in the different phases has not had, to date, and I say this prudently, a negative impact on the spread of the pandemic.

We have been capable of pulling ourselves slowly towards this new normality and gaining ground on the virus. We are undertaking a de-escalation that the government has described from the beginning as gradual, smart, moderating risks and consolidating safety. Our citizens have taken on-board, with an extraordinary sense of civic duty, which I would like to stress, the rules and adapted to this transition in record time.

Clearly the government will remain alert, because the virus is still moving among us. We will continue to ask for prudence, and yet more prudence. We will remain alert until the risk goes away. And them, we will also continue to work and learn lessons with a view to new pandemics that we are duty-bound to prevent.

We know, Honourable Members, what it means to halt a country in the midst of a health emergency. We knew what its effects could be. We had to take this on-board as a society. And we fought these effects from the outset in the same way we fought the virus. I believe it has become clear that the social shield, this social safety net we have put up, had the firm aim from the beginning of cushioning the fall from such a strict lockdown that we self-imposed, and not leave anyone without a roof, without food or without resources. In short, the aim was to protect and reinforce our social architecture. Allow a healthy, competitive economic fabric not to completely wither, and thus leave us with a future and preserve, in short, progress; and consequently, the common good.

Honourable Members, now that we are drawing to an end of this health emergency - with every caution in asserting this, I reiterate - it is time to take stock of certain things which, at the peak of the pandemic, were futile, useless and even counter-productive.

One of these issues is the number of people who have died in this crisis. The official figures, established by strictly following the parameters of the World Health Organization, tell us that the figure of deaths in our country from COVID19 is 27,127 fellow countrymen and women.

This figure, let me stress this, comes from the figures provided by the regional governments under the strict protocol of the World Health Organization, and taken on-board by the Government of Spain. The Ministry of Health does not make its own calculations. It limits itself to gathering the data submitted by the regional health authorities, which have regional jurisdiction, and to contrast them in line with the WHO protocol taken on-board by the Government of Spain. This figure also includes those deaths where the deceased underwent a COVID-19 test that was positive. Of course, Honourable Members, their memory, as the Government of Spain has said on many occasions, will stay with us and when the whole country is in the new normality, the State will proceed to hold a State ceremony.

Over the course of the health emergency, it is true, there have been changes in the statistics of those infected, of those in hospital, of those in ICUs and of fatalities. These changes exclusively respond to the aim of standardising data gathered from different places with different criteria. In some regions, Honourable Members, the figure on those infected was attributed at the time the figures were notified, while in other regions it was attributed at the time the test was performed, just to give you one example of this lack of uniformity.

One of the tasks, and one of the lessons, we must take away from this health emergency and the way it was managed is that we have a need to improve and attune our health statistics systems and make them much more efficient. The full jurisdiction held by our regional governments on health matters under our territorial model, which I defend by the way, our State of autonomies, I defend the health system being in the hands of the regional governments, has worked despite the major attack suffered from this pandemic. As I say, the full jurisdiction held by our regional governments must be compatible with harmonised national statistics. I feel that this is one of the lessons we must take away from this crisis. This will help all of us in any circumstances, including in improving the management of our resources.

Hence, the figures on those infected, those cured, those who have died, those in ICUs, those in hospital, have been drawn up based on the information provided, and I also want to underline this, with the best of the wills by the regional governments, based on the international protocols of the WHO.

Honourable Members,

Not long ago, it was the first centenary of the great pandemic of 1918, which left more than 50 million people dead around the globe, of which more than 250,000 died in Spain which then had half the inhabitants it has today. That terrifying epidemic was improperly known as "the Spanish flu". And this was improper because its origin was not in our country, but it was called that because Spain was the first country to warn of the pandemic as many other countries avoided acknowledging this because they were in the middle of the First World War.

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic began in the East, in a Chinese province, but its name carries no passport or nationality precisely to avoid the stigmatisation of any country, of any society. This has been a pandemic - we are aware of its lethal journey - that began in Asia and very quickly spread to our continent - Europe. It successively hit all countries on our continent, and it hit particularly hard those countries with a higher concentration of travellers, since they are international hubs, and it did so in the largest cities in Italy, Spain, France, Great Britain…

Subsequently, the epicentre moved to both North and South America. As you know, the greatest global superpower has officially recorded to date more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The number of victims in the state of New York alone is higher than in our whole country.

This pandemic has no passport, I have said this on many occasions, on every occasion that I have come up to this podium; it has no nationality. It is a global calamity. Italy is not guilty of having been hit by the virus; nor is Spain, France, Belgium, Germany or Switzerland. Milan, Madrid and London are not guilty, nor any other capital in the world.

Honourable Members, the enemy is the virus and politics should serve to combat this together. This is a call I have made on a host of occasions and although this call may have fallen on deaf ears, I believe it is one of the lessons we should also take away from this health emergency and its management. The enemy, I insist, is the virus and politics should serve to combat this together. The virus must not be a pretext to divide and combat the adversary. We are seeing this in other countries. We are suffering this in our country. And far less should the victims be used as a political weapon, nor should a flag be used that belongs to us all and which is at half-mast in the longest official period of mourning of our democracy. Let's never forget that.

Honourable Members, we are in the midst of a de-escalation, as I said before, that is gradual, cautious, smart and which we must feel satisfied with. The pieces on the board were not easy to move, let's remember we were the first European country to begin this de-escalation, and between us all we have done this reasonably well.

The pandemic has not attacked everywhere equally. Time has not run equally in each region, you have the figures. Both the state of emergency and co-governance were necessary. While some islands moved to Phase 2, Madrid, for example, remained in Phase 0, as it was the epicentre of the pandemic, and the dynamic of the emergency has marked our actions. If the situation wasn't the same, then logically the response couldn't be the same.

Attending consequently to the needs of each region, respecting the needs of others could only be done with commitment, co-responsibility and coordination.

This was not a race between the different regions, I have said this on many occasions - the de-escalation was not a contest between the different regions to see who could get there the quickest. Each step forward was a victory for each region. Each act of prudence was a guarantee for all our citizens wherever they may live.

I don't think we ever before had the chance to see so clearly, and I would like to underline this, how we need each other and we are influenced. We are many regions that make up this same nation. We are interdependent. Our era is one of inter-dependence, not only in terms of within our country, but also with the rest of the world.

We share responsibilities; and hence we are all united. This unity is truly our hallmark and strength. The liberty and powers of each autonomous region have been in danger; I would like to remind you of that as well. The only danger we could be in during this de-escalation was if we didn't guarantee something very precious for all our citizens which is the common good in regard to public health.

This week, 70% of our country is in Phase 2 of the Plan for the Transition to the New Normal. Some places are already in Phase 3. Consequently, we are getting closer to achieving this. This new daily life that awaits us, this prudent normality that the whole country will shortly enjoy will come as a result of the efforts, patience and commitment of everyone.

We have been cautious, and progressed with prudence. Restrictions on social movement and the gradual re-launching of our economy have always been adjusted based on the advice of the scientific committee that has advised us from the outset, and based on the healthcare situation in each territory of our country. The state of emergency has gone from being restrictive to become increasingly more flexible. I said this at the start of the crisis - as the healthcare situation improved, then logically the state of emergency would be adjusted accordingly.

This flexibility responds to the contention of the health emergency; it depends exclusively on that. Without the virus being contained, we could not ease the restrictions on society both in terms of vital and economic needs.

The upturn in consumption in those provinces, for example, that were in Phase 1 has clearly been very significant. The drop in consumption stood at around 60%, Honourable Members, on that a year ago. In some provinces that have been in Phase 1 in recent weeks, this drop has fallen to half that, at 30%. Also in this regard, this smart de-escalation has been worthwhile, in my opinion. If we continue to consequently move in this direction, with prudence, I stress, and with commitment, then the figures of the number of infections will become increasingly smaller, as is already happening, and economic activity will resume and improve at a good pace.

What do I mean by this? That the government and I clearly understand the impatience of economic agents. But there is no contest between health and business. Without public health, no business can remain open to the public.

Honourable Members, I appear here before you, as is my obligation, as the Speaker of the House indicated, to ask this House for the sixth extension of the state of emergency. This will be the last extension and will have very special features as a result of the exchanges and dialogue I have held with the different parliamentary groups and also clearly with the different regional governments.

The state of emergency, as I just mentioned, has been the fundamental tool we have used in recent months to halt the pandemic. You have the figures of before and after the first state of emergency, the number of infections we had before the state of emergency and the number today are familiar to everyone, and consequently the only thing I can do is congratulate this collaboration, this cooperation and this coordination between the Government of Spain and the regional governments.

There have been zero deaths today, Honourable Members, in our country from COVID-19. I believe that success corresponds to all of us. I wish to give my heartfelt thanks to all the parliamentary groups that have allowed us to continue extending this state of emergency on five occasions, and on this occasion, which will be the sixth and final extension, because you have also served this cause of defending public health and saving lives.

In an unprecedented international situation, or at least unknown over the last 100 years and without a vaccine or available treatment, governments around the world were forced to resort to one of the oldest medical treatments - quarantine or a lockdown.

We have always maintained that the state of emergency was also essential in the de-escalation. That is the reason behind this final extension which, unless there is any delay, will last until such time as most Spaniards are close to the "new normality".

The state of emergency has never been, Honourable Members, and I have said this on many occasions whenever I have had the chance to refer to this from this podium, a whim imposed by the government and has never had any other goal than of controlling the virus, defending public health and saving lives.

I am sure that in the parliamentary debate that will take place, the use that the government has made of the state of emergency will be brought into question; we know that. Some will say that it has served so that this allegedly evil government takes away freedoms and others will even say that it is to take power away from the regions. That couldn't be further from the truth, Honourable Members.

I wish to remind you that practically all of the parliamentary forces saw the need to use the state of emergency on the first couple of occasions that I came up to this platform to ask for the approval of the state of emergency and the extensions thereto. And it is a mystery, Honourable Members, why some parliamentary forces, on the first few occasions when I came up here, said that it was necessary to approve the state of emergency but now simply say that it is not possible to continue extending the state of emergency.

I will say this again, Honourable Members. The state of emergency is a tool provided for in our Constitution. It is used by many other countries in Europe, and even for a far longer time that I am asking for it for, which is for 15 days on each occasion, Honourable Members.

It is Spanish society that places special powers in the hands of the State to tackle exceptional situations and calamities such as COVID-19. And this has always been a State instrument, not a government instrument. And it has been the State, with all its force, with all its institutions, that has fought COVID-19. Central Government, the regional governments and local authorities, together with provincial councils, have all worked in coordination in their own jurisdictions. All public freedoms, Honourable Members, have remained in place during the state of emergency.

This House, with the obvious health restrictions, has exercised control every fortnight, and the media have played their role. No freedom has been limited except the freedom to spread the infection. That is why we limited mobility and social contact over these long weeks.

Whoever wishes to oppose the state of emergency will have to base it on some other pretext than the excuse of limiting freedoms. The freedom of thought, Honourable Members, of expression, of association - democratic freedoms - have been exercised without limitation except the health guarantees.

Honourable Members, on this basis, I announce to you this last extension of the state of emergency, which will be extended until midnight on 21 June, with the following features:

In those territories that are in Phases 1 and 2, the Ministry of Health will continue to adopt the measures provided for under the state of emergency and the de-escalation plan, following the now widely known process of co-governance with the regional governments.

In those territories already in or about to move to Phase 3, it will be the regional president who, in their new status as delegate competent authority, that is empowered to decide whether to maintain or modify, and how, the measures contained in the Order on Phase 3 published last Saturday.

Furthermore, it will be the regional governments that decide when Phase 3 is over, and hence, the region moves to the new normality, in other words, the state of emergency is lifted.

In this regard, it is important to highlight, and I would also like to underline this, Honourable Members, that departing Phase 3 means acknowledging that the health crisis is over in that region and hence that it exits the state of emergency.

Cooperation through co-governance is one of the key elements in managing this crisis, unlike previous crises, and allows us to establish a model of action for the future, which is another way of doing things united by need and the common interest. That is why, in this final phase, the powers of the regional governments in adopting de-escalation measures will be much more extensive.

I wish to remind you once again that at no time have the regional governments lost their powers. Even at the toughest times of the pandemic, with a much more restrictive state of emergency than we have now, the regional governments never lost their powers. Despite the sole command falling on the Ministers for Home Affairs, for Health, for Defence and for Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda, the management of the powers contained in the corresponding Statutes of Autonomy were always in the hands of the respective regional governments. Health, education, long-term care, justice, among others.

Each regional government can manage the affairs in its region without State interference. What's more, it will have State support. A good example to share with you, Honourable Members, is the provisional hospitals that were set up and equipped under the initiative of certain regional governments and supported by the armed forces. How could they have taken these measures without the right powers? They had them, and they were also backed by the resources of the Government of Spain, in the form of the armed forces.

As I said, as from Phase 3 of the de-escalation, they will also have absolute decision-making authority, in addition to their management capabilities, with the sole exception, logically, of the restrictions on the freedom of movement which is precisely the justification behind the extension of the state of emergency, which will remain under the jurisdiction of the health authority, in this case, the Minister for Health, Salvador Illa. As events have improved, we have passed from a single command to co-governance and from co-governance to full governance by the regional authorities in Phase 3.

Accordingly, we will culminate the de-escalation with shared responsibility and a return to institutional normality.

Consequently, Honourable Members, Spain will have the support of all of you in this latest and final extension of the state of emergency. A unique, new state of emergency with only one function - to accompany the regional authorities in this last stretch, and the one most keenly sought, by the way, but no less risky than the previous ones; to accompany them towards this new normality.

To that end, Honourable Members, I can also announce that at the next Council of Ministers on Tuesday, 9 June, a Royal Decree-Law will be passed for this new normality, which will gather all the measures on prevention, contention and coordination to tackle the health crisis caused by COVID-19, after the finalisation of the state of emergency in successive regions, and definitively as from 21 June.

These measures will be addressed at the next Inter-territorial Council of the National Health System, which the Government of Spain forms part of, in this case through the Minister for Health, together with the regional health councillors.

The aim, in short, is to unite in a single law all the health measures we will have to continue to observe until such time as we have a vaccine or an effective therapeutic treatment that allows us to recover our previous habits safely, and thus avoid the risk of a second wave of the pandemic.

Honourable Members, if anyone is honest I don't think they can deny the leadership shown by our country in the framework of the European institutions. And it is good that this is the case. Because it is a question of defending the interests of our fellow countrymen in such an absolutely fundamental field as the economic and social reconstruction of our country and our continent. The question of how we manage to challenge and condition this European action will depend to a large degree on the speed and strength with which we overcome the adversities stemming from COVID-19 around the world.

The benefits won't just be for some people, Honourable Members; they will be for the whole of society, without distinguishing, for all the regions and for all the productive sectors. And since this is for the common good, at least on this matter we should all make an effort to offer an image of real unity that strengthens us in negotiations with our European partners.

Five milestones frame the path taken to date in Europe.

The first of these is making the public deficit criteria established by the Stability and Growth Pact more flexible. An unprecedented agreement, which was seemingly unthinkable a short time ago, and which exemplifies well the extent to which we should tackle this situation with completely different criteria to those used in the previous crisis.

Secondly, the Public Debt Purchase Plan of the European Central Bank, valued at 750 billion euros. This public debt purchase programme is also unprecedented in recent years.

Thirdly, this triple safety net of 540 billion euros, approved by the European Council on 23 April, which I humbly believe the Government of Spain has played a leading role in pushing through.

Fourthly, the increased budget of the Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union to 1.1 trillion euros.

And fifthly, the creation of a Recovery Fund for the European economy of 750 billion euros, regarding which I feel I should offer certain details to the Honourable Members.

As you know, the plan presented by the European Commission precisely to set up this fund is entitled the Next Generation European Union. The fact that its passage and introduction will be tied to the Multiannual Financial Framework means that we will indeed be setting the economic horizon of the European Union for at least the next decade. Hence, it is not a question of combating a one-off emergency, but rather of addressing the current situation with truly transforming arguments. I feel it is important to reiterate this, because this is the question - we are not only talking about exiting the crisis, of reacting to the crisis, but of exiting with completely different foundations to those we began with. And of consequently responding to the challenge brought out by the pandemic boldly, smartly and with a vision of the future. Of providing a response based on two criteria - a sustainable response and also an inclusive response.

You also know that the final amount proposed under this Recovery Fund has risen to a total of 750 billion euros, of which 500 billion euros have been proposed by the European Commission to be paid out in transfers, and the remaining 250 billion euros in loans. These amounts are designed around three fundamental pillars that I would like to describe, albeit briefly.

The first would take up around 80% of the total volume of the Fund, and is made up of two instruments:

The first, known by its English acronym RRF is the Recovery and Resilience Facility, with a budgeted provision of 560 billion euros, accounting for 90% of this pillar.

This is an instrument directly tied to the transformations that we must address to tackle this crisis. Its only condition, and I would like to underline this again, is the preparation of national plans by the Member States based on the priorities identified in the framework of the European Semester, and whereby the spending is in line with national climate and energy plans recently approved by the government and submitted to Brussels.

Secondly, there is a fund known as "REACT-Europe", which accounts for 10% of this pillar, budgeted in the sum of 55 billion euros, similar to the Cohesion Funds, which will be distributed according to the impact of the crisis, which seeks to support workers, small- and medium-sized enterprises, health systems, the digital transition and sectors that have been hit particularly hard, such as tourism and culture.

The first pillar will be completed with more minor issues to strengthen some areas that are important for our country, or at least for this government and most of the Honourable Members, such as the Just Transition Fund and also the Rural Development Fund, to combat, let's say, the depopulation of our country.

The second pillar relates to private investment and is implemented through a new Instrument to Support Solvency which operates as a guarantee so that the European Investment Bank can distribute the funds. This will also support the InvestEU programme, which will be joined by the Strategic Investment Service with a provision of 15 billion euros and estimated potential to leverage no less than 150 billion euros. This pillar will allow key sectors to be strengthened for future health crises through pharmaceutical products, the recapitalisation of companies in Member States that are having budgetary difficulties and cannot resort to national budgets.

The third pillar is geared towards taking lessons away from the crisis. In its internal dimension, this will mean the development of a new European health system, to give it a name, with a provision of 9.4 billion euros. And this will mean allocating resources to preventing and preparing for future health crises and improving the long-term goals related to health.

And in its external dimension, this also includes improving cooperation instruments in regard to the Neighbourhood Policy and the International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid Instrument, since clearly the EU cannot forget in this crisis this external dimension and solidarity with countries that are currently being hit by this pandemic. I am thinking logically about Latin America, and potentially Africa.

Aside from these three pillars, the European Commission proposes to strengthen other Multiannual Financial Framework programmes vis-à-vis the original proposal on the table, which was rejected by the Member States as a whole back in February, including the Common Agricultural Policy, of course, which has not only proven itself to be an efficient instrument but also fundamental at such critical times as those we have gone through in these last few weeks, the fisheries policy, programmes tied to the common market, Erasmus+, European defence, Connecting Europe and Digital Europe, which the digital transition has clearly shown to be a fundamental instrument for this type of critical situation.

All of these are questions of undoubted importance for our country, to which end we are actively participating in their negotiations.

In short, Honourable Members, and according to the estimates made today by the European Commission, Spain could benefit from some 77 billion euros in direct transfers and 63 billion euros in loans, in other words, a total of 140 billion euros from the "Next Generation EU". A proposal which is undoubtedly in our interest, however you look at it, both in terms of the amount and the conditions attached.

And as regards the sectors that most benefit, the plan specifies tourism, with 161 billion euros; trade, with 115 billion euros, I mean at a global level, out of these 750 billion euros; renewable energies, with 100 billion euros; digital business, with 66 billion euros; energy and intensive industries, with 88 billion euros; transport and the automotive sector, with 64 billion euros, and construction, with 54 billion euros. All of these are clearly areas with a huge specific weighting in the business and economic fabric of our country.

The current text, as you know, will be debated at the European Council to be held on 19 June, which I think could foreseeably be looked at for its final approval, together with the Multiannual Financial Framework, at an extraordinary, single-subject European Council which we hope will be held in person on that occasion, on a date in July that is yet to be determined.

And if we manage this, then a margin would exist to prepare a Transition Fund of almost 12 billion euros, and to prepare the first debt issue in the last quarter of the year. I feel it is also very important to underline this, Honourable Members, because at the end of the day, when we talk about spreading the debt, that is precisely what Europe is doing at this time. It is doing this through the ESM, it is doing this through the Unemployment Reinsurance Fund, and the European Commission will do this in designing what will undoubtedly be an historic and unprecedented Recovery Fund, which will be a turning point in the history of the EU.

Obviously we expect a long and arduous negotiation before reaching a final agreement. We all know the reticent position of a small number of countries to this, but it should also be recalled that the European Council requires unanimity to approve the Multiannual Financial Framework and also logically the economic Recovery Fund proposed by the European Commission.

At any event, Honourable Members, it is unquestionable that we have arrived at this crucial point in the negotiations in an advantageous position, and I would also like to acknowledge this, and with majority support for the agreement from all or most of the Member States, significantly from those countries that have not only suffered the worst consequences of the pandemic, but also those whose economic viability is most at risk as a result of the way the single marked has worked ineffectively, and obviously such important countries as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, that is, in terms of the number of people, but which are also very important for our common project.

From the outset, Honourable Members, the government has argued that, 72 years on, Europe needed a form of Marshall Plan. Obviously it wasn't a case of comparing the circumstances back then with the present. But only an action of that scale can establish a clear parallel with the needs at this time of all the countries in Europe - due to the seriousness of the crisis we face, due to the ambition and scope of the necessary measures to be taken, and due to the historic importance of the period we have had to go through as a country and as a common project.

However, Honourable Members, there is a difference that I would like to draw your attention to, a big difference. Back then, our country, when this Marshall Plan was introduced, like other dictatorships in southern Europe, fell outside of this Marshall Plan because the Franco regime rejected reconciliation and becoming a democracy as demanded by the international community once fascism was defeated. This attitude condemned the Spanish people to decades of deprivation, sacrifice and delays in its economic and industrial development.

Precisely now, Spain is calling for the creation on our continent of a new Marshall Plan that benefits all EU Member States. Not with the resources of a friendly yet distant power, but with our own strengths as the union of States that we are, that union that we must be, the union we could be and need to be in the times ahead of us.

A plan which must necessarily be based on the three vectors that you have heard me mention in other speeches, and which will not only determine the present but the near future - firstly, the environmental transformation, which the government is fully committed to. Just yesterday, the Council of Ministers approved the Circular Economy Strategy. Secondly, the digitalisation of the economy, which is clearly one of the processes that has most speeded up as a result of the pandemic, as well as the boost to working from home; and finally, job creation, but quality jobs adapted to the new productive structures I mentioned before.

And on this reference, Honourable Members, we must forge our own reconstruction agreements, with these same principles, and this same ambition. A recovery and investment plan with an unprecedented scope, which the Government of Spain will make every effort to draw up now. That is the horizon we are facing, Honourable Members.

And I feel this is a sufficiently important scenario to once again call on this House, as the Speaker has done on several occasions, to put aside the pettiness and irrelevance of politics and all engage in a task that will require our best disposition over the coming months, the best of our capabilities as leaders and the legitimate representative of our country.

In 1948, the United States saved a Europe that had been devastated by the Second World War. But no-one saved Spain, destroyed by a civil war. Now, in 2020, Europe, Honourable Members, must save Europe. And Spain, within a European framework, must save Spain.

From the outset, our plan to combat the health, economic and social emergency has been based on four main pillars through which we have introduced all the measures.

Firstly, as you know, we have repeated this on many occasions in the successive debates we have held on the extension, as I said, to protect and guarantee the well-being of Spanish families, and, above all, of working families.

Secondly, and to guarantee the necessary supply, requested by the regional governments, above all, by the health professionals managed by the regional authorities, as I said before, of medication and access to health material.

Thirdly, to protect jobs in sectors that suffered a fall in demand due to the lockdown.

And fourthly, to invest our best efforts and all the resources necessary to support the liquidity of small- and medium-sized enterprises in our country's productive sector.

On 17 March - four days after the state of emergency was decreed, which paralysed a good part of our country's economy - I announced the mobilisation of up to 200 billion euros, the largest social safety net ever, which responded to the scale of the socio-economic challenge we were, and indeed are, facing.

Honourable Members, the social security system has already recognised the entitlement of more than 1,385,000 self-employed workers to receive the extraordinary benefit for the cessation of activity. This figure represents 97% of the more than 1.42 million self-employed workers who applied for it - 97%.

491,000 financing operations have been formalised with the Official Credit Institute for the State to guarantee funding granted by financial institutions to companies and the self-employed, for a guaranteed sum of 46.6 billion euros; that is, 491,000 operations for 46.6 billion euros.

And it is estimated that more than 3 million workers will benefit from the unemployment protection measures due to their work being suspended, to a reduction in their working day or on grounds of force majeure, or under the temporary lay-off plans.

More than 134,000 agricultural workers will benefit from a reduction of more than 19% in their contributions when inactive if they worked for at least 55 days in 2019.

Some 2,500 companies can benefit from the system of extraordinary subsidies approved by the government for the performing arts and music as a result of the obvious impact of the health crisis on the culture sector. And more than 3,550 independent bookshops can benefit from the system of extraordinary subsidies for the book sector.

127 entities are benefitting from the subsidies granted by the Carlos III Health Institute for research projects and programmes into COVID-19, for an amount of more than 22.4 million euros. And I also want to congratulate researchers and scientists for their contributions and the work they are doing against the clock to discover a vaccine, and a Spanish response to this crisis. And 1,731 researchers are continuing with their work thanks to the extension to the temporary employment contracts financed with aid from the State Research Agency and the Carlos III Health Institute.

In turn, more than 173,800 applications for a moratorium on mortgage payments have been granted and more than 229,300 applications for the suspension of credit agreements.

This is a government, as you know, Honourable Members, like most of our society, that is committed to gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence. And almost 61,000 women are benefitting from the urgent measures adopted for the protection and assistance to victims of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking and sexual assault.

I am sure there will be many people who think that this is still not enough. And it isn't given everything that needs to be done to put this country back on its feet through the Social and Economic Reconstruction Plan. But we will continue to listen and do whatever needs to be done, whenever and wherever, to ensure that no-one is left behind. And we will continue to protect and drive the engine of our country to address two fundamental questions - first, certainty, and second, safety. No-one is alone, Honourable Members, we are all united.

Our country will be stronger the more we can convey how safe it is. When people feel safe, people will resume their lives with more calm, with more peace of mind. And this will involve greater consumption, and hence a much safer economic reactivation with less of a risk of a relapse, which at the end of the day is the objective of the Government of Spain.

It is true, as I have said on other occasions that Spain has become more exposed in this crisis, and also prior to the crisis. This Spain still has some wounds open from the last economic crisis. This is a Spain that felt abandoned in the last crisis, because it received no provisions, attention or understanding. Consequently this is a weak, vulnerable and limited Spain.

And this is the most pressing Spain, the Spain of thousands of boys and girls at risk of poverty; that of men and women over the age of 40 who have still not found a stable job or who have been suffering from long-term unemployment since the last economic crisis, the Spain of thousands of people in long-term care, and of elderly folk left to their fate; and above all, a Spain with a generation of young people looking for hope in other countries after tiring of waiting in our country with the difference now that there is nowhere to run to.

Honourable Members, there are a great many reasons why we have acted as we have and as we will continue acting. The main reason being social justice. It was essential for our country to approve the Minimum Living Income, as we did last week at Friday's extraordinary Council of Ministers.

I clearly feel this is an historic measure, which was essential at a key moment for our country. This is a measure that forms part of the coalition government programme; a measure that returns dignity and decency to our country; a measure that creates new social rights and which we should all be glad about.

And we should all feel glad, Honourable Members, because the poverty rate in our country is the highest of all our peer countries, double the European Union average and triple the rate of such countries as Germany. In Spain alone, Honourable Members, the percentage of homes that receive more than 30% less than the average income stands at 7%, a situation that affects more than 2 million boys and girls who suffer from child poverty, that is, our sons and daughters, which means this country's next generation. And I believe that we must protect them, and help them progress. The generations to come must grow up with dignity.

As I mentioned before, at last Friday's extraordinary Council of Ministers, we approved the Minimum Living Income which will begin to take effect this month of June and will help protect as many as four out of every five people in a situation of severe poverty. This amounts to around 850,000 households. The annual cost of this measure will be some 3 billion euros, an amount that will directly go into reactivating our economy in the sense that those households receiving the Minimum Living Income will obviously use this benefit for the consumption of basic needs, such as food and clothing. This consumption will have a knock-on effect on local trade, and hence on jobs for SMEs and for independent contractors. In short, these are public resources that meet different needs, goals, desires, shared by the whole of Spanish society, not only social justice, but also decency, and help stimulate economic activity through public resources.

For the first time in Spain, and I feel it is also important to underline this to the Honourable Members, efficacy objectives in reducing extreme poverty have been taken into account in the design of the Minimum Living Income. The amount of the Minimum Living Income will depend on the number of members of each household, because what we want is to have an effect on child poverty, which will start this month of June, as I said. The Minimum Living Income will guarantee between 5,500 and 12,000 euros a year per household. You must understand that this benefit is obviously not set at a fixed amount because, I stress, it is very much designed to fight child poverty. And it acts as a supplementary benefit up to the minimum amount set depending on the income of each household. That is, in my opinion, and in the government's opinion, a fundamental and important change of criteria. As well as clearly reducing poverty, this will boost social inclusion and as I said before, it will also help the economy.

This government, and you have heard me say this on many occasions, including in the investiture debate, has a priority commitment to eradicate child poverty and thus comply with the recommendations that the Council of Europe has systematically made to Spain since 2014, and also with the commitments this government has self-imposed to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals under the 2030 Agenda.

You will appreciate that the Minimum Living Income is obviously closely tied in to addressing child poverty. The crisis, or crises, cause an increase in situations of exclusion and thus increase social inequalities, as we have seen in recent years. And we cannot allow this, particularly for children. The figures in Spain before the health emergency crisis were already embarrassing as public representatives, and we cannot allow childhoods to be ruined, generations to be without a future or families without hope.

Our children, wherever they are born, wherever they may live, must have the same opportunities and the same rights without being at risk of exclusion. It is simply a question of doing what is fair. Since 29 May, Spain has gained in social justice but, above all, as I said before, in decency. It is not a question of a part of our country surviving, but of Spain living with dignity. This is not charity; it is protection. This is not compassion, but justice and decency.

This measure, Honourable Members, amounts to a fundamental pillar for social reconstruction, without forgetting, in parallel, this economic reconstruction that is necessary for our country. We must talk about growth, we must not only talk about redistribution, but also about growth and job creation, and this government would like to flag up some strategic sectors.

Firstly, I feel it is clear that we must speak about tourism. This internationally prestigious sector with a great capacity for creating jobs has clearly and specifically been hard hit by COVID-19. And this sector will clearly continue to be supported by the Government of Spain.

We are shortly going to present, and I would also like to announce this, a Plan to Relaunch Tourism, based on measures to provide supplementary economic and employment support to the aid already provided and to reposition Spain as a safe and sustainable destination. This Plan will ensure that the sector's recovery is aligned with principles of socio-economic sustainability, to which this government is fully committed, and that the sector continues working on two fundamental elements - innovation at tourist destinations, and digitalisation, which is also important for boosting this sector.

And secondly, another sector hard hit by the pandemic is mobility and the automotive industry. This sector, Honourable Members, is strategic for our country, you have heard me say this on other occasions, as it accounts for 10% of GDP and of jobs in Spain, and has important knock-on effects on other sectors. To give you a figure, an example so that you can see the real impact of this strategic automotive sector for the economy of our country, each euro invoiced by vehicle manufacturers amounts to 1.65 euros for the rest of the economy.

The government is working on a major plan to reactivate mobility and the automotive sector, and is also in dialogue with the parties involved, with the leading companies, with the main trade unions, which will include actions to support the automotive sector in the long term, and also throughout the value chain, to ensure recovery is quick and to alleviate the adverse effects of COVID-19 on its competitiveness, as far as possible, which is why I said "long term", while helping the industry make a quick transition towards vehicles that must be more sustainable and cleaner.

The Plan will push through measures to support sustainable mobility, it is also important to make this concept much broader, with more cross-cutting sustainable mobility, with new forms of transport such as bicycles, buses and electric vans. Lastly, we will shortly approve a Sustainable Mobility Act that we hope will receive the support of a majority of this House, which will create a regulatory framework for the manufacture and sale of vehicles.

Honourable Members, our main aim is to facilitate - something I said before as a response by Europe to the crisis, and that we must also do in Spain - the transformation of our economy towards a much more competitive and sustainable model than we have now, that leads to the creation of skilled jobs. This priority also involves changes in employment legislation. And to do that, what the Government of Spain has done is boost social dialogue from the outset.

We have approved a rise in the Minimum Wage, within the framework of social dialogue; we have also approved the extension of the temporary lay-off plans (Spanish acronym: ERTEs), within the framework of social dialogue, and the approach taken by the Government of Spain, within the framework of social dialogue, is to create a new Workers' Statute for the 21st Century, adapting the legislation on the ERTEs, which is a new and innovative response offered to this crisis, compared with previous crises I mean, and one of the priorities is clearly to make a labour transition in line with the ecological and digital transition, and clearly also with all those aspects linked to the health sector and scientific research.

Honourable Members, Spain must save Spain within the framework of a united and much stronger Europe. Let's carry on working, hence this government's request, on a Social and Economic Reconstruction Plan, adapted to our country's reality, but with proposals, debate and agreement; if possible, with agreement.

Let our differences, Honourable Members, serve to draw up our best proposals, rather than to divide us further. Our country needs urgent solutions. Let's work quickly and responsibly, and with a tremendous dose of generosity to help our country which has suffered from the effects of this pandemic. Let's work for the common good and put our customary division to one side. Let's work to benefit the same flag.

To that end, Honourable Members, allow me to talk for a moment about flags.

We all know that the flag is a symbol of the nation. It is a rectangle of cloth woven with 47 million threads, one for each Spaniard.

This flag belongs to us all. It represents our history, our languages, our discoveries, our literature, our countryside and our heritage. But above all, Honourable Members, it represents our will to live together and to forge a shared project as a country.

That is why no-one is excluded from the flag. And no-one is entitled to use the flag against a fellow countryman. We have opposing and different models in this House, Honourable Members, many ways of conceiving the country and of planning its future, but all of them are Spain. That is something I would like to place in all your minds, Honourable Members.

We are here because our citizens have voted for us, each one that makes up our country which have the same entitlement to take part in building its future.

There are no good Spaniards or bad Spaniards. Consequently, let's not use the flag as if it were a weapon or a border that separates us. Let's not take the name of Spain in vain. Let's not use it to divide any of the symbols that were precisely created to represent everything that unites us, which is much greater than what separates us.

We have an extraordinary country, the best country in the world, which we must revitalise, strengthen, preserve and modernise. This House is the representation of the extraordinary diversity of our country. It shows that, for this country to make progress, we need dialogue and understanding from the majority.

The virus does not ask about the ideology of those infected, Honourable Members. The pandemic does not distinguish between territories, social classes or ideologies. As you are well aware, "virus" is a term that come from Latin and which originally meant poison. We are seeing this in some places, Honourable Members, particularly in the United States, and we don't want to see this develop in Spain.

Poison means hate. The poison of hate is the most harmful poison as it corrodes society and annihilates communities. Honourable Members, let's say "No" to the poison of hate, to physical violence and to verbal violence. Let's say "No" to insults and to provocation. We don't want this for us or for our children. Our parents didn't make sacrifices for this.

The pandemic has served to highlight some errors in our system. Let's resolve them. Let's show our people how useful politics can be, and how essential is public service. Let's show that we serve for something more than headlines on division, provocation and insults. Our work is not easy; it could always be done better, Honourable Members. So let's do it better. The time has come to transform this country once and for all.

What type of country do we want to be, Honourable Members? What type of country do the Spanish people want for themselves?

I have said on many occasions that I got here to work for co-existence and to boost something I mentioned before - sustainable and inclusive growth that leaves no-one behind. And these goals have become even more unavoidable due to this health emergency. This government is fighting for what it has always fought for; that is why we came here.

The country we want to see is the country we need. And it is the one we urgently need to rebuild. There are millions of people out there hoping for harmony, waiting for us to be truly useful, expecting us to resolve the serious problems that have accumulated as a result of this health crisis, but which we have been suffering from since years before.

The country we need is a sustainable country, a more equal country, a country where we live side-by-side, a country with social justice.

The country we need is one that fosters the productivity of its companies with more innovation, more science, more training, more education, more motivation, more stability and better quality jobs. It is a country that must restore social rights that have been dismantled over recent decades, as is the case of healthcare, education and long-term care. The country we want to see will have decent pensions and a Minimum Living Income.

The country, Honourable Members, we want to see and need is one that gives a renewed boost to economic growth, to the digitalisation of our economy that has speeded up as a result of this pandemic, and to the ecological transition. We speak about the health emergency, but the real emergency is the climate emergency that we must respond to. The country we need is one with real and effective equality between men and women, and I will say that loud and clear.

Long live 8 March!

The country we need to see, Honourable Members, is one of dialogue, of understanding, of harmony between its different territories and its ways of conceiving and understanding our great country.

And this country, Honourable Members, can only be built together. Not always in agreement but together. Not in full agreement, which we don't aspire to, Honourable Members, because it is not possible, we would like it to be but it isn't. But at least an agreement between different sides.

That is why I would like to beg you now, before ending, to show your discrepancies with the government, but to do so with parliamentary courtesy, without slurs or insults, without presumptions of guilt. Without widespread accusations of bad faith or unlikely conspiracies, Honourable Members. Let's all be constructive. Let's show the people that they were right to elect us.

I can announce to you that I will not use my replies to respond to provocations, should there be any. I will not underline our differences, but rather what we agree on. I will not delegitimise my adversaries, but will afford them the same respect that I would ask for a legitimate government, like the government that leads Spain, because we need that, we need harmony, Honourable Members. Harmony to transform Spain once and for all.

Let's redirect our thoughts and our commitment towards a new political attitude. If anything remains after this health emergency, Honourable Members, let it be this new way of doing politics - that of understanding. Let's never forget what we are - a democratic and free country, which tirelessly moves towards a better future.

Thank you.

(Transcript edited by State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation