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Press briefing by President of the Government of Spain following final Council of Ministers of year

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Tuesday 29 December 2020

PRESS BRIEFING BY PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SPAIN

I would firstly like to thank the media for covering this press briefing.

There are just a couple of days to go until the end of the toughest year in many decades. Undoubtedly the toughest for our country and for almost all countries in the world. I have appeared at a great many press briefings over the course of 2020, at some very difficult moments, one that I never imagined I would have to go through as President of the Government, and the same goes for my fellow countrymen.

Over these months, I have appeared to announce, for the first time in the history of our democracy, a state of emergency, of the nature that we had to approve back in March and in this second half of the year, to announce measures on social distancing that were so necessary to avoid the rise in the contagion of the pandemic, to express my deepest sympathies to more than 50,000 families on the death of their loved ones from COVID-19 in our country.

I have also appeared - that was my aim and that of all the members of my government who have appeared before the press - to convey strength, hope and encouragement to all the men and women of Spain.

Today's appearance is different. Today I have come to take stock to our people concerning the government's action over this first year since the investiture.

One of the main founders of modern democracy said that whoever is not accountable to anybody does not deserve the trust of anyone. The very nature of democracy demands accountability.

At the start of this term of office I took on an explicit commitment of a government that defines itself as resolved to be a government that is accountable, on a periodic basis, regarding the progress of the government's action as a cross-cutting public policy, with ongoing demands on itself to do better.

I made my first appearance in August this year to take stock of our action.

But today is when I can announce to you that the Government of Spain now has available and has made the so-called "Complying" report available to the public. This report seeks to provide the necessary information to see the level of compliance with all the commitments taken on by the government in this first year of its term of office.

By holding ourselves accountable we begin a new era in the necessary democratic regeneration of our country. Firstly, because we are decisively committed to transparency. Secondly, because we promote exemplary public conduct in the compliance with our commitments. And thirdly, because we foster, through strategic monitoring, the ongoing enhancement of public practices, serving through our government action one single beneficiary - the men and women of Spain.

Under a premise that gives sense to this first report on accountability in the history of our country. And times have changed, and politics must change with them. When Spain changes, its government also changes with its society, with its country, with Spain. And it consequently makes decisive progress in the quality of our democracy.

Hence, exemplary conduct, accountability and transparency are the reasons why I appear here today before the media.

This report on accountability is thus an analysis of the status of each and every one of the commitments taken on and of the work of the government since the start of this legislature, which has been drawn up thanks to the work of all the ministerial departments, and I would particularly like to thank them for their collaboration, their dedication and their commitment to the work that is behind this exercise in accountability.

We understand commitments as all those obligations, promises, declarations of intent expressed explicitly by the government in order to respond to a need or a specific public problem. You will see the commitments in the report, which may stem from the investiture speech I made to Parliament to receive a majority vote of confidence from the Lower House to be elected as President of the Government, from the agreements signed with the different political formations that facilitated the investiture or from any appearance, statement or agreement, whether by me or by other ministers over the course of this term of office.

Allow me to thus convey my first announcement that we can take away from some of the data translated through the report in figures and percentages. Since the investiture, that is, less than 12 months ago, the Government of Spain has taken on a total of 1,238 commitments, 23.4% of which have been met at today's date.

Secondly, we forecast that in the next half-year, that is before the end of the month of June, we will have a level of compliance of 32.6%, that is, one third of the total after approximately one third of the mandate of this government.

If, in addition to the commitments met at today's date, we add those which are already underway, you can see that the Government of Spain has started to implement a total of 90.9% of all the commitments taken on by the coalition government.

We have not forgotten the commitments taken on outside of the pandemic, which I feel is very important to stress.

Of the 1,238 commitments taken on, 428 specific commitments stem from the agreement signed between the two political organisations that make up this coalition government - the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and Unidas Podemos.

At today's date, 20.3% of the commitments under this agreement have now been met.

Following the investiture, a total of 92 new commitments have been taken on, many of which incorporate new challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would also like to stress that, after two years of being blocked, the approval of a new National Budget for 2021 has been truly decisive for achieving these high compliance figures in the first year of this government's term of office, in the most difficult year, as I said at the start of my speech, from the point of view of the health emergency, in our democracy's recent history.

The Budget has meant the government can directly develop 33% of the commitments taken on. The status of each commitment can be seen in the report.

Those commitments where no initiative has been introduced for compliance therewith have been called non-activated commitments.

Those commitments complied with are called activated, as are those where some initiative is underway to achieve compliance therewith. Among the latter, for example, we find commitments underway with progress, or without progress, being developed by third parties, such as those that logically require parliamentary approval or that depend on Parliament for their approval through an Act following approval of the draft bill by the Council of Ministers.

But you will also find in the report those commitments that cannot be met. As I said before, this is not a numerical counting process of the government's achievements, as was more common in times gone by. This is a full X-ray, which is honest and objective, of the work carried out to date by government.

Those commitments that have fallen away have done so for a good reason. To date, only seven of these commitments have been dropped, none of which were taken on in the investiture speech. So that you appreciate what we mean: one example of the commitments that will not be met for a logical reason is the agreement we reached with a political formation - Nueva Canarias - to modify the rule on spending in the Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands. This is now not necessary since the government, as you know, has suspended the rule on spending for 2020 and 2021.

This is a good example of the detailed technical extent and the utmost objectivity and scope we wish to set down in the report in terms of compliance and thus accountability. The complete report sets out the seven commitments that have been dropped and the public can judge for themselves the reasons why.

As regards the commitments related to the response to the pandemic and the commitments met on specific pillars, I would naturally like to refer to COVID-19 first.

As you know, Spain began a political change two and a half years ago which, among other issues, brought an end to the poorest era in the enactment of legislation in the history of our democracy. Compared with the highly prejudicial inaction, in my opinion, for the nation's interests, we have, since then, seen legislative activity that I would say has been particularly intense due to two main factors, on the one hand: the need to undertake reforms and the transformations that Spain needs after so long a period of inaction and impasse. Secondly, the pandemic at the start of 2020, which required regulatory action that rose to the circumstances of the gravity of the situation.

Evidence of this is that since the start of the pandemic, barely 10 months ago, the Government of Spain has submitted 10 draft laws and two draft constitutional laws to Parliament and the Council of Ministers has approved 34 royal decree-laws. The reason for this is simple. It was the government's responsibility to swiftly attend to the urgency of the pandemic on all fronts: health, social and economic. You are aware of these because you have been subjected to them. Furthermore, this had to be done using completely different values to those in the previous crisis.

I would now like to remind you of the government's perspective. Our mandate has always been to come out of this united without leaving anyone behind. Hence, this balance should logically begin by recalling the initial measures, the main measures adopted by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic - an exceptional response in line with the exceptional times.

To that end, without wishing to be exhaustive, seeking to be as concise as possible, you can find all the data of the analysis in the public report which, I stress, is called "Complying". In this outline, I will group together the most important actions through a series of main areas, and then focus on the commitments met by pillar and by transformation.

Hence, let's start with the measures:

Firstly, we considered measures to support the healthcare response; secondly, measures to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic and its effects. Thirdly, the social shield - the measures to ensure no-one is left behind. Support measures, in short, for the people, above all the most vulnerable. Measures for the recovery of economic activity, financial support for the regional governments which have jurisdiction over health management, dependency and care homes, and also for education. And lastly, this important European agreement we reached back in July on the European Recovery Fund which will serve to modernise our economy over the next six years.

Let's look at the measures to support the health response. As you know, since the outbreak of the pandemic in the month of March, the government only had one non-negotiable priority - to save lives at any cost. And we will maintain this until the virus is definitively defeated.

We saw, for example, how a constitutional and thus, fully legitimate, instrument - the state of emergency - saved lives in the first wave, with very tough, but also very necessary, lockdown measures, as you are aware. As we also saw again in this second wave, bolstering this second state of emergency with a State strategy approved by the Inter-territorial Council of the Spanish National Health System, which involves not just the Ministry of Health but also the regional health departments, with the vital participation of the regional authorities. Because, as you know, the government has exercised and developed this concept of co-governance and we also believe that co-governance is defending public health and saving lives.

And lastly, we have designed a COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, which will not only save thousands of lives, but allow us to enter the third and final stage of this health emergency until it is overcome and we recover our much sought-after normality.

Allow me, in this context, to simply make one point I feel is fundamental. There will very soon be more Spaniards vaccinated than have been infected. That is why we are talking about the beginning of the end. This reality places us in a new scenario - that is clear. But herd immunity is not our immediate scenario. Thus, avoiding this third wave at such an important holiday time as Christmas is our collective priority. We cannot, and must not, drop our guard. I would like to remind you of this again. We must not forget this. Protective measures must be stepped up. Self-protection remains essential for the success of the vaccination process.

As regards economic resources, I should remind you that from one day to the next, as you will remember, the pandemic imposed formidable demands on the government in terms of material and human resources that no country was ready for.

Among many other actions, I would like to highlight some of the most important:

Firstly, since 10 March, 220 million units of healthcare material have been distributed among the regional authorities, employing the strategic reserve and award of the framework agreement on supply. This was essential to protect healthcare workers.

More than 81,000 new healthcare workers have been made available to the regional authorities, and the recognition of foreign university qualifications was facilitated, along with the renewal of the contracts of resident doctors in the last year.

We have resorted, as you know, to the selfless and unbeatable support of the armed forces for cleaning and disinfection tasks, security, contact tracing, which is being undertaken at this time through Operation Balmis, where 20,000 interventions were undertaken in 2,300 municipalities throughout the country, and now through Operation Baluarte, which made more than 7,400 servicemen - trained for the necessary contact tracing duties - available to the regional health departments.

And we have implemented an unprecedented number of studies that have shed light from a scientific perspective, also unprecedented in terms of their global scale, such as the ENECOVID-19 seroprevallence study, which has been conducted in four waves to date and which sets the number of people who have suffered from COVID-19 in our country at 10% and who have thus recovered from it. And also the Radar COVID-19 Application. We will not tire of telling the public to please download this app on their mobile phone, which is fundamental for protecting us and the public as a whole. There have been more than 5.5 million downloads in total. This is still insufficient. We have also set up a hotline to offer psychological support to help those people with difficulties deriving from COVID-19.

As regards mobility and protection, the very characteristics of the pandemic have forced us to take a host of measures on two aspects related to the spread of the virus. As you know, regarding protection, for example, the conditions have been regulated for the compulsory use of face masks, establishing their maximum price, and thus guaranteeing universal access to this key material for our protection and to protect the whole of society. We also dropped VAT on this to 4%.

As regards mobility, we have combined the temporary closure of borders with the authorisation of a pilot programme in such an important country as ours in the tourism sector, to implement the opening of safe tourist corridors while establishing the quarantine conditions that people arriving to Spain from other countries should be subject to according to the prevailing epidemiological situation from time to time.

As regards supply, another key point in managing COVID-19 has been that, firstly, we set obligations on supplies for the manufacture and administration of essential medication, also removing VAT on deliveries, on imports, on intra-Community acquisitions of basic healthcare material to combat COVID-19. And secondly, measures were adopted for the supply of water for the human and sanitary consumption of waste water, and on other essential goods and services.

In terms of research, I would like to make special mention of all those initiatives undertaken to promote research activity, because it is only through the decisive support of science that we can ensure the safety we so desire. This is the year of the pandemic, but also the year of the vaccine, and hence the year of science. And the government acknowledges this, not only in words, but in deeds. An example of this is the approval, for example, of an Action Plan for Science and Innovation, with an unprecedented investment of more than 1 billion euros, while also financing a large number of R&D+i projects through the COVID-19 Fund.

Our country, Spain, has taken part in projects linked to the US pharmaceutical company Moderna and the Jenner Institute of Oxford University. Temporary contracts of research staff have been extended during the state of emergency.

Hence, these are some measures from a more governmental standpoint that we proposed and developed within the scope of the health emergency.

As regards measures to reduce the economic impact, while the priority in a pandemic is clearly to save lives, we have also had to pay close attention to the emergency stemming from the pandemic from an economic perspective. This is an unprecedented situation which also required unprecedented actions in Spain's history.

Among all these, I would like to recall the most significant measures. In terms of guarantees and financing, which have been fundamental, as is proving to be the case for a great many sectors that are still suffering from the consequences of the national lockdown and the regional lockdowns, the first response clearly had to be to facilitate financing instruments to sustain companies at their worst times.

To that end, as you know, we approved the ICO lines of guarantees for companies and independent contractors for a sum of up to 140 billion euros, extended until 30 June next year, 2021. More than half a million companies have signed up to this, 578,000 to be precise.

In addition, there was a line of financing for companies and independent contractors in the tourism sector and an extraordinary line of cover for export companies.

Many measures have been approved to make payments more flexible, on exemptions, reductions, tax breaks and social security contributions to avoid the logical cash flow tensions that many companies are suffering from in our country.

Secondly, we have made what I consider to be a special effort to specifically cater for some of the sectors more directly affected by the consequences of COVID-19, which are absolutely competitive but which have suffered from the consequences of the lockdown and the limitations on mobility.

For example, we launched the Plan to Boost the Tourism Sector. The Plan to Boost the Value Chain of the Automotive Industry was approved. Not long ago, the Plan to Boost the HORECA [HOtels, REstaurants and CAfes] Sector was approved. Financial measures for agricultural holdings were also approved. Spanish industry was redirected towards the manufacture of healthcare products, establishing 0% VAT on national healthcare products supplied to public entities, non-profit entities and hospitals. And specific aid was also provided to such sectors as culture, the financial sector and the energy sector.

A crucial goal was to protect independent contractors and SMEs, which are the backbone of our economy and which thus have so much weight in our productive fabric. In addition to the measures just mentioned, with a major impact on this group, we have launched another series of specific initiatives, such as enabling a provision for the cessation of activity, which has protected, at the toughest times of the lockdown, almost 1.5 million independent contractors, and new extraordinary benefits that are currently benefitting more than 346,000 independent contractors. We have also allowed, as many of you know, independent contractors to defer the payment of rent on commercial premises, make electricity and natural gas supply contracts more flexible, recognise the right to receive the social voucher, boost the digitalisation of small- and medium-sized enterprises. This is one of the transitions that I will mention later, which has clearly been speeded up as a result of the pandemic.

From a social perspective, it is clear that the profound economic consequences of the health emergency have posed a grave threat in terms of social and territorial cohesion.

From the outset, the government has defended one idea above all others, which is the need to all come out of this test we have been subjected to.

We have done this based on an elementary principle of social justice, because we are absolutely convinced, moreover, that a cohesive, equal, supportive and inter-dependent society is the best basis for achieving progress and lasting well-being.

This is the vision that has led to the approval of the National Budget, with the highest volume of social investment in the history of our democracy, as is only right, as a result of the effects of the pandemic. This also provides continuity and a future to many of the actions undertaken during the pandemic. These measures can briefly be summarised in five main blocks.

The first, aimed at the most vulnerable groups. The goal was thus to create a genuine protective shield for the most threatened sectors of our society, avoiding the emergency exacerbating an inequality gap that was already significant in our country, which we cannot allow.

We have done this, as you know, in record time through the approval, for example, in mid-pandemic, of a new pillar of our Welfare State - the Minimum Living Income. I would describe this measure as historic, designed, for the first time ever, to guarantee a basic income threshold for those who lack this. More than 160,000 households, with more than 460,000 inhabitants, will have benefitted from this at the close of 2020. While it is true that this is insufficient, the budget for this will double in 2021, to 3 billion euros, which will reach some 850,000 households, more than half of which have children in their care, where about 2.3 Spanish people live.

The design of this Minimum Living Income is fundamental and a priority to fight and eradicate one of the main evils in our country - child poverty - which affects more than 2 million boys and girls in our country.

As you know, we have set in motion the Mecuida Plan, with measures to facilitate the work-life balance over these months of the pandemic.

We have protected the most vulnerable groups from evictions, extending this measure on their suspension for four years, establishing a moratorium on mortgage payments, and the automatic renewal of rentals for six months.

We have also banned cutting off water, natural gas and telecommunications supplies, and extended the electricity voucher.

Together with this social shield for the most vulnerable and those who have become more vulnerable due to the pandemic, I want to expressly mention the area of employment, because it was necessary to drastically and radically combat the direct and irreversible shedding of jobs and closure of companies. To do that, we fostered the use of Temporary Lay-off Plans (Spanish acronym: ERTEs), guaranteeing the commitment by companies to maintain jobs for six months. At the toughest times of the lockdown, these Plans protected almost 3.5 million workers. This measure was extended thanks to the three social agreements to protect jobs signed with the business organisations and trade unions, and I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to them, and I believe I speak on behalf of the whole of Spanish society, for their tremendous generosity and sense of responsibility by reaching these agreements at such critical times.

The processes relating to unemployment benefits have been made more flexible, extending these benefits automatically and establishing new benefits.

In the case of specific groups, extraordinary temporary subsidies have been introduced for domestic workers; for example, specific measures have been adopted for workers in the cultural sector, and more than 1,500 extra workers have been hired in essential areas of the General State Administration.

And within the framework of employment rights, the situation has been defined that justifies absences from work, remote working has been regulated and encouraged, both in the General State Administration and in the private sector.

And, furthermore, we introduced 'recoverable remunerated leave' between 30 Mach and 9 April last, for workers in non-essential sectors, and periods of self-isolation and contagion have been recognised due to COVID-19 as a similar situation to an occupational hazard.

One question which the Government of Spain, and I am convinced a very large majority of Spanish citizens, is committed to tackling is gender-based violence. Urgent measures have been adopted under this social shield to provide protection and assistance to victims of gender-based violence, declaring assistance and protection to be essential services, and extending the Contingency Plan with additional measures.

As regards consumer affairs, we have seen this leap in digitalisation and digital consumption, which takes place in a great many homes, in millions of homes in our country, and initiatives have been developed to protect consumer rights during this period, for example, by banning a price increase for services, the suspension of Internet or telephone portability, and the restriction on the advertising and promotion of online gaming.

From the perspective of a country such as ours, that is supportive, I would also like to underline the Joint Response Strategy of Spanish Cooperation to COVID-19 that was drawn up. And at the same time as we were developing consular support measures for our compatriots abroad, we repatriated people in certain cases.

There are other measures that were also fundamental for the Government of Spain, and in this regard I would also like to acknowledge the efforts made by the regional governments, which have jurisdiction over education.

I have no doubts that education has been one of the worst affected areas by the loss of normality caused by the pandemic.

The need to combine an absolutely essential service with health and safety has required a tremendous effort in adaptation by everyone, accompanied by specific measures. We should also acknowledge the role of the whole scientific community in the extraordinary development of the academic year underway in all our country's education centres.

I would like to recall some of the measures that the government has pushed through. For example, a major investment has been made in digitalisation and in strengthening the functioning of education centres, including increasing the teaching workforce, and thus reducing classroom ratios.

Measures have been adopted, or better put, adapted, on the evaluation criteria for progressing to the next school year, removing the end-of-year evaluations in both primary and compulsory secondary education, reducing the duration of training modules at vocational training work centres with alternatives to cover this aspect.

And furthermore, education centres have been made safe by the coordinated adoption of preventive and hygiene measures to promote health against COVID-19 by the regional governments, the education community, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, thus permitting the gradual re-establishment of academic activity, which is so necessary, vital I would say, for the smooth functioning of our society.

One fundamental element, unlike what happened in precious crises, is the financial support by the government to the regions.

I cannot end this part of my speech without making an explicit reference to the extraordinary financial support measures from the Government of Spain to the regional governments in recent months, because this is a clear example of this co-governance, of the recognition of Title VIII of our Constitution, of the State of the Autonomies, which has led us to make available and complete the distribution of 16 billion euros.

I would like to stress that this financing is not repayable, and comes from the COVID-19 Fund that the Government of Spain set up for the regional governments designed to cover this surplus they needed to cover health spending, for education, for care homes for the elderly and also, logically for the social impact that these authorities need to manage.

In addition, we have set up the Social Reconstruction Fund, and various other funds have been increased, for example, the Contingency Fund, which was so necessary to attend to health spending.

We have opened up the possibility of allocating no more and no less than 3.2 billion euros from the ERDF under the 2014-2020 framework for health spending and the fiscal rules have been suspended for both 2020 and 2021, which will help relieve the pressure somewhat on the regional governments and local authorities to tackle the economic, health and social consequences of this pandemic.

This has all been done to facilitate to the maximum the essential work of co-governance of the regional governments and local authorities and to definitively overcome COVID-19.

I don't want to end this part of my speech without mentioning one of the key milestones in the history, not just of Spain, but also of Europe and its construction.

As you know, we have been able to rely on a supportive and historic reaction from the EU as a whole, not just with Spain, but with all EU countries, through the construction and creation of an EU fund of 750 billion euros to be disbursed over the next six years throughout the European Union.

As you know, the Government of Spain fought, encouraged and managed to push through, right from the outset, this recovery plan, known as the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. Because we not only need to rebuild what we had, but also adapt to what is coming, to where we are now, which is involved in the most ambitious economic, social and institutional reconversion project in Spain's history.

A project that has received a decisive boost from the point of view of the budgetary resources of 140 billion euros under the so-called Next Generation EU Fund, of which we will be able to disburse some 72 billion euros in direct transfers in the next three years in Spain.

That is the backdrop. As you know, 72 billion euros for the next three years to boost this transformation to a digital Spain from an inclusive standpoint, to a sustainable Spain from an inclusive standpoint as well - this ecological transition that we must undertake as regards both energy and industry. And quite clearly, also a Spain that must come out of this crisis in a much more cohesive fashion and hence must be fairer and more equal from a gender perspective.

Four transformations that summarise our government action, which we will implement as from the year 2021.

In short, this summary of actions related to COVID-19 involves a raft of initiatives that, in my opinion, are unprecedented in the democratic history of our country.

The government's goal, at all time, has been to attend to the needs of our citizens as quickly and effectively as possible, with our ability to respond operating at full capacity.

And in this manner, the measures related to the pandemic exceed the framework of the terrible emergency and thus form part of this transformation process that will determine the development of Spain and of Europe in the coming decades.

In other words, far from deviating from our purpose, the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the principles of equality, social justice and progress that defined the investiture programme presented a year ago.

Or to put it more specifically, the pandemic has not halted - quite the opposite - it has speeded up the government's action without deviating in the slightest from its goals.

That is why we can now say with satisfaction that we are half a year ahead in the scheduled compliance with the commitments, in accordance with the balance that I will now set out for you by specific pillar.

As regards the commitments complied with by pillar, practically a year ago, I shared the country project that I believed in from the speakers' podium in the Lower House of Parliament, which I hoped to count on to receive a majority vote of confidence from Parliament to be invested as President of the Government.

I then did this, as you know, after five rounds of elections were held in our country, with five straight wins by the party I head up - the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. We have spent a year and a half in power, after a vote of no confidence was passed for the first time in the history of our democracy, that sent the then ruling party into the opposition as a result of a ruling in a corruption case in which its members were prosecuted.

Ours was another country at that time, with other priorities. We had it clear that from our perspective Spain urgently needed certain transformations, and needed to make them a reality together with our government partners - Unidas Podemos - and other parliamentary partners in the Lower House.

Firstly, it was clear, which became even clearer after the outbreak of the pandemic, that we had to speed up the digitalisation of our economy to be on the right path in the 21st Century, from a point of view of competitiveness and cohesion.

Secondly, in light of the threat of climate change, whereby we not only need to think of future generations but also of today's generations that are already suffering in some sectors as a result of the consequences of climate change, particularly in our country - one of the richest countries in terms of biodiversity, but also one of the most exposed to the harmful effects of climate change. It was clear that we had to modernise our economy in terms of sustainability and make this ecological transition inclusive, integrating and, consequently, just.

Thirdly, I defined my government as a feminist government, and thus committed to real and effective equality, not just formally, but in terms of real and effective equality between men and women.

Fourthly, we needed to grow, and do so in a fairer fashion. We don't want to concentrate the levels of wealth in 1% of the population, but in 99%, redistributing the effects of this growth and this wealth with jobs that must be of greater and better quality, and endeavour to strengthen our public pension system.

And in fifth place, we needed territorial cohesion and the full rapprochement of a Spain that is united in its diversity and committed to a Europe founded on human rights.

In other words, to sum up, the digital transformation, the ecological transition, feminism, social and territorial cohesion are the elements that define the political project that the government wants to implement in the coming years.

I will now present the progress made in the commitments on these transformations. I repeat, digital transition, ecological transition, feminism and social and territorial cohesion.

As regards the commitment to digital Spain, it is a fact that COVID-19 has speeded up the digitalisation process in our country; we have seen this in our own homes.

The situation we were going through has clearly highlighted the deficiencies we had and also the strengths of digitalisation in terms of opportunities in education, at an economic level, in terms of social well-being and care for our elderly. By way of example, according to both national and international organisations, like the World Economic Forum and Funcas in Spain, by 2025, that is, in the near future, within five years, artificial intelligence, the creation of content and cloud computing will be the main emerging professions in the job market.

Our aim is thus to definitively boost the modernisation of our business fabric, its internationalisation and renew the technological capital in our country.

The number of commitments to a digital Spain amounts to 90, of which more than 71% are underway and we have complied with almost 27% of these commitments in the first year. The forecast for June 2021 is to have complied with more than 32% of these commitments.

I would like to outline some of the most important commitments complied with: the approval of the Digital Spain Strategy 2025, the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the Connectivity Plan for Digital Infrastructures which is so important, for example, for the rural environment, the Strategy to Boost 5G Technology, which is fundamental for 4.0 industry in our country.

We have also approved the SME 2030 Strategic Framework, and the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy 2021- 2027, which was presented to the Science, Innovation and Universities Committee of the Lower House of Parliament. We have also approved the Digital Education Programme, which is very important for our children in school to have access to a terminal regardless of their economic resources.

We have transferred 400 million euros to the regional governments, which have jurisdiction over education, to strengthen the digitalisation of universities, and the draft digital judicial case within the Justice 2030 project has become more consolidated. That is at a digital level.

We also have the green level, green Spain. The vast majority of people in this country, together with many other countries like Portugal and Italy - around 80% of them - are in favour of introducing decisive measures in the fight against the environmental crisis in our country.

We are already engaged in this. We need a transformation of our productive model, the incorporation of a new paradigm of sustainability as a source to develop innovation, growth, economic development and job creation.

The number of commitments to this Spain that is committed to be greener, to the ecological transition in our country, amounts to 162.

At this time, more than 70% of these are underway, in other words, the degree of compliance under this pillar is also extraordinarily high. Hence, a degree of implementation of more than 70%, and we have also complied with almost 23% of all of these commitments in this first year, with a forecast of compliance by June 2021 of above 30%.

Some of the commitments complied with ready for "landing", and you know what I am referring to, include the approval of the Draft Climate Change and Energy Transition Act, which is in its passage through Parliament at the moment. The approval of the Circular Economy Strategy that lays the foundations to push through a new model of consumer production will create a great many jobs. The National Integrated Energy and Climate Act 2021-2030 has been drafted and submitted to the EU institutions.

The presentation of the Second National Adaptation to Climate Change Plan. Climate change is a fact and hence we must not only seek to reduce CO2 emissions, but also adapt the way in which we are doing so.

The creation of a Just Transition Institute is very important for some regions in which we clearly need to undertake an energy transition, I am thinking, for example, about Asturias. The approval of the Long-term Decarbonisation Strategy, which paves the way for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In other words, an ambitious goal, but one I feel connects with the feeling not just of my generation but of the younger generations in our country.

The approval of the hydrogen roadmap, which will incentivise the creation of innovative industrial value chains, technological knowledge and the creation of sustainable jobs.

This roadmap will help us move down the path towards a green economy with a high added value.

And thirdly, or rather, lastly, something very important, because this is a country which has a very important automotive industrial sector, the presentation of the Safe, Sustainable and Connected Mobility Strategy 2030. This not only involves the automotive sector, but also a much richer, much more modern concept, which is sustainable mobility.

Together with the digital transition, the feminist commitment of the Government of Spain. And furthermore, now with even greater intensity, as a result of the fact that 51% of our population - women - are once again the main victims of this health, economic and social crisis.

Gender equality is its driving force. I firmly believe in growth, justice, social balance and also economic efficiency.

The pandemic we are going through and the economic crises have shown us that if you act to avoid them, the gender gap increases, and if you take steps, or rather, if you do not act to avoid them, this gender gap increases and progress is lost in rights, freedoms and opportunities for more than half of the population, and the government is firmly committed to ensuring that this does not happen.

The number of commitments tied into, and please forgive the expression, feminist Spain, amounts to 104. And at this time almost 60% of these commitments are underway and we have complied with practically 61% of the commitments in the first year. The forecast for June 2021 is to have complied, in less than two years, and hence, halfway through the term of office, with more than 47% of these commitments.

Some of the commitments complied with are closely related to the feminist movement, to feminist associations, in terms of historic claims; you have the approval of two regulations to develop the implementation of equality plans, the creation of a register of equality plans, the adoption of measures that guarantee equal pay in our country, thus enhancing equal treatment and opportunities.

The boost, mentioned earlier, to combating gender-based violence - the Viogen system - to increase and improve the safety of victims of violence within the framework of the new strategy of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Equality and the Guardia Civil Action Plan to Combat Gender-based Violence presented in November.

I don't want to go on for too long, but you also have the approval of the Third Equality Plan of the General State Administration, the boost reconciliation policies with the gradual extension of paternity leave. This is one of the main achievements of the General State Administration which, in 2021, will see paternity leave be extended to 16 weeks. And through the design of co-responsibility plans, the preparation of the Law on Co-responsible Time and the contact with the different regional governments to implement a governance plan on equality policies. The commitment, for example, to a plan with a greater presence of women in sport and also the approval and creation of observatories, also in the field of sport, such as the Sport Equality Observatory.

In fourth place, Spain's commitment to a cohesive Spain and to an inclusive Spain; in other words, all these transformations must be integrating rather than exclusionary, they must support equality and not such harmful inequality as our country has suffered from for more than a decade.

Spain's population is highly concentrated in cities, in medium-sized and large municipalities. The demographic challenge is now one of the main challenges we face, and moreover, it is one that we have seen we need to address and which is highly necessary to tackle pandemics such as the one we have suffered from and others which we will unfortunately suffer from in the future, hopefully in the distant future and that we are much better prepared for.

Hence, the demographic challenge is one we are facing now, one we are all facing, all the public authorities. We must overcome it with policies that reduce inequalities, not which further exacerbate a question that has been considered overcome for a long time.

The government has three clear goals, Firstly, to close these social and territorial gaps. Secondly, to develop an aspect that is so important for our country, like the rural environment. And thirdly, a question of intergenerational justice; in other words, we must think about young people, who are once again the worst affected by this triple health, economic and social emergency and who are very much at the forefront of the government's public action.

Allow me to digress on this point a little, because without this corresponding to the nature of this part of my speech, I wanted to make a specific allusion and underline the importance of the consensuses reached in the Lower House of Parliament to approve the consecutive extensions of the state of emergency we approved on 14 March.

I consider that territorial unity and parliamentary support have not only contributed to overcoming the first wave of the pandemic, but also to strengthening institutions in each corner of our country. The state of emergency and inter-administrative cooperation has tested our institutional architecture, but has also proven to be effective instruments to structure this co-governance.

Having said that, in terms of the commitments related to social and territorial cohesion, I can tell you that the number of commitments tied into social Spain amount to 520 and that more than 68% of them are underway at this time, and we have complied with almost 22% of all the commitments in the first year.

The forecast for June 2021 is to have complied with almost 32%. In turn, as regards territorial Spain, the number of commitments amounts to 277, of which 65% are currently underway, while we have practically complied with 24% of all the commitments in this first year. The forecast for June 2021 is to have complied with practically 32%.

Some of the commitments, for example, involve the approval of the National Budget, which is not just a progressive Budget but also a country Budget. I have said this on a great many occasions, and not just because this is essential at this unprecedented time, but also because it was approved by the largest number of political parties in our democracy.

The approval, as I said before, of the Minimum Living Income, the rise in the minimum wage, the rise in the salaries of public servants, the pension rise in line with the CPI and even higher for minimum pensions, the repeal of dismissals for justified absences from work, the regulation of remote working, both of the General State Administration and of the private sector, the approval of the Constitutional Law Amending the Constitutional Law on Education, which is fundamental to ensure a new education framework that guarantees excellence, but also fairness, at the heart of the state education system.

The approval of the draft Prevent and Fight Tax Fraud Act, the approval of the Financial Transactions Tax Act and the Tax on Certain Digital Services related to large digital corporations that do not currently pay taxation. We are one of the first countries to approve legislation to this end.

The regulation of advertising, as I said before, of games of chance, the redirection of the State Housing Plan 2018-2021 to boost affordable housing and their refurbishment.

And a 386-million euro increase in the allocation to grants for the academic year 2020-2021, a rise of 22%, in other words, the largest in the last decade.

And we have also approved, and I want to make this a reality, the third part of bringing the salaries of National Police and Guardia Civil officers in line. We thus concluded a process that began with their salary increases in October 2018.

There are other commitments that logically fall out of the main lines of action, but which could be placed, on a cross-cutting basis, within the four major transformations I have just mentioned and which enhance the rights under our Welfare State.

The commitments number 85 in total, in other words, 7% of all the government's commitments, of which 23% of them have been complied with and almost 73% of them are underway.

I would like to leave you with a thought, which is that history, if it has taught us anything, it is that there are many ways to exit a crisis.

You can come out of it with more inequality or with greater social cohesion; you can overcome it with an old-fashioned, in my opinion, view of the static economy or with a digitalised, more competitive and more productive economy.

You can overcome it with passive policies that may continue to degrade the planet or with policies that contribute to social well-being and an economy that respects the environment.

This government has it clear. Spain is capable of overcoming this crisis without leaving anyone behind, with more equality, with more social justice and with a positive response to the major transformations that have become more than obvious as a result of the pandemic.

What projection does the Government of Spain have for the coming months? Because, despite the difficulties of this such tough, complex and hard year, one of the worst in recent decades, the activation and compliance with the commitments has been greater than planned in a projection which, as I said to you at the start of my speech, provided for ongoing steps throughout the term of office.

In this regard, I can announce to you that we are about half a year ahead of the programme planned by the government, in terms of our commitments, but that is no reason to slow the pace down, but rather, on the contrary, to maintain it strongly and firmly. We came here to change things and we are complying with these targets to transform and modernise our country.

Aside from that, allow me to sum up for you some of the commitments that are underway and that we hope to firm up in the first half of 2021. I will follow the same pillars as in the previous balance I made of this first year.

Firstly, on the pillar of the digital transformation, work is being done to approve a Cybersecurity Plan. We have just seen a massive security attack on certain very important countries and also on some very important companies. I feel that Spain is not only under a responsibility, a duty, but also has an opportunity to become a benchmark country on cybersecurity.

Work is also being done on the draft General Telecommunications Act and on drawing up the Digital Transformation Plan of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises.

As regards the ecological transition towards a green Spain, work is being done on the draft Waste and Contaminated Soil Act and on the Mobility Act, which will include the creation of the National Mobility System.

As regards feminist Spain, work is being done on the draft Sexual Liberty Act, and to amend the legislation and tackle agencies that offer wombs for rent.

Work is also being done, I don't want to go on too long on the Spain Plan, to protect women from male violence and on the National Strategy to Combat Male Violence 2020-2025.

In the field of cohesive and inclusive Spain, an act will imminently be approved, as you are well aware, in Parliament we have the Constitutional Law Regulating Euthanasia.

Work is being done on the draft Measures for Universal Equity Act, or better put, for the equity, universal nature and cohesion of the National Health System.

In other words, we must come out of this health emergency much stronger from a health perspective.

Work is being done on pushing through a new Vocational Training Act. Most of the work opportunities for young people in our country will be found at the intermediate level of these courses. So, we are going to make a decisive and definitive commitment to vocational training in our country as regards people's CVs, as regards training, as regards the budgetary allocation under this very important heading in our education system.

Work is being done on a Family Diversity Act.

Work is being done on the first ever State Housing Act.

The Spain: Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy is being drawn up, above all tied into start-ups, which are very important in the development of this digital transition.

Work is being done on, as you know, on the Democratic Memory Act. This is a government looking to the future, but which also remembers and wishes to recall all those generations that fought for democracy in our country and for the constitutional order that we all fortunately benefit from today.

Work is also being done on the Demographic Challenge Strategy.

The time limit to bring criminal action has also been extended. Hence, this is a decisive and definitive step in the fight against corruption, above all political corruption.

Work is being done on the draft Constitutional Law on Criminal Procedure.

In short, these are some of the transforming and modernising proposals that will be implemented in the first half of 2021.

This is a long and wordy, yet concise, summary. We have tried to do this in the government's work over these first few months of our term of office.

We established commitments to our people, which we are upholding. Accountability improves the quality of our democracy. It reaffirms the value of promises made. And it is by doing this, and not in any other way, that democratic institutions are strengthened and the confidence of our people in politics is returned, fostering greater democratic quality. And this democratic quality is transparency and accountability, and exemplary conduct.

We want to give this exercise the greatest possible level of transparency. This is not an isolated action. This press briefing will be repeated over the course of the four years of this legislature. Hence, we want to see greater levels of transparency, precision and institutional importance.

And to this end, we specifically set up a department to plan and monitor government activity at Moncloa Palace, which is the unit tasked with implementing this project, unprecedented until now in our country, and which places Spain at the vanguard of accountability in the world.

Not just because of its robust methodology, the ambition of the goals and the scope of the conclusions, Spain is also on the international front line in accountability.

As well as submitting this balance to public scrutiny, we are the first of our peer countries to seek to establish an external and independent verification system that confirms the quality and veracity of all the work undertaken.

Accordingly, we have set up a methodological analysis group comprising independent experts from the best universities - the public universities - and with the utmost academic, teaching and research credibility.

Professionals specialised in the analysis, monitoring and evaluation of public policies, and in other relevant matters in this kind of study.

Their task in this initial phase has been to submit the methodology used in this exercise in accountability to contrast and analysis, with the fundamental goal of guaranteeing that it has the utmost internal coherence and rigour, incorporating the necessary standards and criteria to make a balance that is reliable, that must be objective and verifiable from an external perspective and thus independent from the government.

The commitment taken on by the government with the analysis groups was to promote and respect the utmost freedom and full autonomy in the development of their work, and in the formulation of the corresponding conclusions and recommendations.

And from this podium I wish to convey to all the experts our profound gratitude over their productive collaboration, over their essential work for achieving the excellence and efficacy that this government aspires to, and undoubtedly also their civic commitment to their country and to improve its quality. So, thank you.

We have taken the first step. We now need to progressively move down this path until it is fully developed. The aim is to step up external verification in the coming half year and even include a complete validation of the different results presented while decisively working to consolidate an instrument that we consider to be profoundly beneficial for the democratic health of our country.

It is essential that this exercise in accountability acquires an institutional status that is prolonged over time, and that becomes an obligation on all governments formed in the future and which is thus incorporated in the habitual performance of the Government of the Nation, regardless of any changes in the political situation.

I believe that this is what one of the world's full democracies like Spain deserves. And I also believe that this is what our people, who we owe everything to, want as well.

This 2020 is ending and with it, the toughest year in a great many decades in our country and around the world. This has been a year in which we have tackled challenges that we would never had imagined. A year in which we have made numerous calls for unity to tackle the calamity of the pandemic. Unity which has been less successful, I must acknowledge this, than the government would have hoped.

Unity was expressed through spontaneous reactions from people. Let's remember, for example, people applauding our health professionals from their balconies. And also the unity seen in the efforts made by our health professionals and the work of all security professionals in basic services. Unity, in short, in the response from civil society, which was extended to unity in the coordinated actions of the public authorities, of the Government of the Nation, of the regional and local authorities.

There was also unity between the social stakeholders. And we found unity in the European response to this crisis, a level of unity never before reached in the European Union, which took a definitive step as far as all those of us are concerned who believe in the integration process and in the European Union.

Unfortunately, this unity did not extend to the whole political spectrum, to all of Parliament and this unity, which the government sought to imbue, and which took place in homes, in neighbourhoods, in companies, in institutions, in social stakeholders, and even in Europe, was impossible in all of the political parties.

Let me be very graphic. 2020 has been the year of the great calamity, of the great pandemic, but also of great resistance. And 2021 can be, and ought to be, the year of the great recovery.

To achieve that, we need great confidence in ourselves as a country, in our capacity, in our efforts, to recover from such a tough blow as we have received this year. Confidence in one another to agree and join forces, confidence in our institutions, beginning with our Constitution, which has given us the tools, for example, the state of emergency, to combat this pandemic, this health emergency and to resist.

As 2021 is about to begin, Spain stands at a crucial crossroads.

It can opt for one of these two paths: the path of fear or the path of hope. We are clearly facing threats. We are not hiding them, we are not avoiding them, we are not forgetting them. There are obstacles in our path and we are aware of that. What we are facing is not easy at all and there will obviously be those who wish to harness this to discourage us, to instil pessimism and fear throughout society. As if the problems we face were not enough, they will invent fantasy and crazy conspiracies, imaginary problems, they will portray an apocalyptic panorama for our country.

But there is another way, which is the path the government wants to take, which it proposes for the whole of Spanish society. That is the path of hope and confidence. Progress is never made based on fear. All the collective progress we have achieved has been based on confidence and on hope.

Through confidence we reconquered liberty and did away with the dictatorship after 40 years. Through hope we joined Europe, and hence I trust in our country, I trust in Spain, I trust in the capacities of the Spanish people to overcome adversity. And this is not blind trust but based on facts, because our whole history in this last half a century is a history of overcoming adversity and of making progress.

Ours is a tale of confidence and of hope, as it has also been this last year.

If we think about this carefully, we have resisted because we trusted we would overcome the emergency. We have resisted because we had expectations of overcoming adversity.

Let's remember last Sunday. Last Sunday, the first Spanish woman was vaccinated against COVID-19 - Araceli Rosario Hidalgo. Araceli was born in 1924, and arrived in a backward world, where access to running water was a luxury, something our younger generations probably cannot even imagine. But back in 1924 running water was a luxury while day workers lived in misery with appalling working conditions; they barely earned enough to cover their basic needs. Back then, half of the people in our country could not read or write. 14 out of every 100 children born at the same time as Araceli died before their second birthday. Women needed authorisation from a man to even sell their properties. That was the outlook for someone born in 1924.

This generation has seen nine Popes, 17 US Presidents, and has seen and suffered the consequences of a world war, a civil war, two dictatorships and has gone through half a dozen crises and economic depressions.

But for the last 42 years, Araceli and the generation she represents have lived in a fully democratic nation which has grown and prospered, with public services that protect everyone and has built a country, a democratic country, a European country where discrimination is ever less suffered from.

Spain can once again achieve this. And, in fact, it is already starting to do so. We have the strength and we have the talent to do this. We only need two things: confidence and hope, to achieve this.

I wish you a Happy 2021, a year of hope, full of good health, prosperity and happiness for you and your loved ones.

And of course I will be delighted to answer any questions from the media.

Thank you.

Question: Lourdes Velasco (EFE): Hello and good afternoon, President of the Government. I wanted to ask you whether, after a year fraught with friction in the coalition government, the approval of the Budget will mark the start of an era in which the Socialist Party will be more decisive in response to the demands from its partners from Unidas Podemos. I am referring to the different outlooks you have on the minimum wage, the monarchy, the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary… And on this last matter, I wanted to know if you remain hopeful of an agreement with the People's Party (PP) to renew the General Council of the Judiciary, despite the criticisms that [Pablo] Casado has made today, for example, in accusing you of arrogance and of not having the humility to apologise to the Spanish people for you handling of the pandemic. Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Thank you Lourdes for your questions. Firstly, as regards the coalition government, I have spoken about this on many occasions. All of the ministers of the Government of Spain are ministers of the Government of Spain as far as I am concerned. They are not ministers from the Socialist Party or from Unidas Podemos, but ministers of the Government of Spain, That is my first point.

Secondly, this is the first experience at a national level of a coalition government, after 42 years of democracy in our country, which might sound easy to say, between two forces that have 155 seats in total. In other words, we are not only obliged to talk and forge a consensus on all the policies within the government, but we also need to reach 176 seats to push through Constitutional Laws, or the Budget, as has been the case in the last week. Hence, let me tell you something, experience is the mother of science and thus, clearly despite what we may have got right or wrong in the almost 12 months of this life as a coalition government, I feel that we obviously need experience to continue oiling the wheels of this coalition government.

I will tell you something else, which I feel is very important. It is true that this government, and I have said this on many occasions, is not a one-party government, but is one government. There are many voices in this government, but we speak as one. And this is materialised in the Official State Gazette, which is the guide for compliance, the roadmap drawn up by the government for the next three years of this legislature.

I believe we have made significant progress. There you have, in an objective analysis, scrutinised by independent experts that do not form part of the government, the degree of compliance with the coalition government agreement and also the agreements we have forged with other parliamentary forces that support us in the Lower House.

Hence, while I would say that there are many voices in this coalition government, we speak as one, which can be seen in the Official State Gazette. And I also feel that the huge volume of work carried out by each and every one of the ministerial departments has been outstanding, and hence I wish to thank each and every minister of the Government of Spain.

As regards the agreement with the PP… I mentioned this in my speech. Let's see. Spain finds itself at a time, let's say, in a sort of dilemma, if you will allow me the expression, where we must address many issues.

We are facing many challenges and we can opt for one of two paths, the path of fear, a path down which we can talk about problems that have nothing to do with the daily reality of our people, such as threats where the opposition describes the government as a sort of bogeyman, doesn't it? Who never comes, by the way. We could face up to all these challenges in this way, with fear, which is precisely what the opposition is committed to, or we could do this with confidence and hope. And that is what the Government of Spain is committed to. To tackling these challenges with confidence and with hope, with confidence in our own abilities, in our institutions, in our capacities.

We have done this on many other occasions. And we will do this again now, and also with hope. Ahead of us we face, we spoke before about the different visions, an exciting task - the task of modernising our country. The task of taking many people off the dole queues and of integrating them in the job market. The task of leaving a world and a country for future generations that is much more sustainable from an environmental perspective, adapted to the digital transition, cohesive from a social and territorial perspective, and more equal from a feminist perspective.

In short, I believe that this is a worthwhile task, and the government is clearly focused on these goals. And I would say to you that at a time like this, it is essential to strengthen our institutions, which means renewing them and complying with constitutional mandates. I have been waiting for the President of the PP for two years to renew the General Council of the Judiciary. I hear the PP give lessons, supposed lessons on constitutionalism, but it is true that it does not comply with the Constitution from the first to the last of its articles.

Look! If you are going to be pro-Constitution, you must be so in all of its articles, from the first to the last, and hence the PP should sit down with the government now and renew such a fundamental body as the governing body of the judiciary and comply with the Constitution. And the Constitution states that the General Council of the Judiciary must be renewed every five years, despite how much this pains Mr Casado and the PP. They must sit down with the government and comply with the Constitution if, as they say, they are a pro-Constitution party.

Question: Carlos Cué (El País): Good day, President of the Government. Can you hear me? Since this is an evaluation process, I wanted to ask you to evaluate the coalition, how do you see the coalition at the end of the year, better or worse than at the beginning? And specifically, because this affects millions of areas, how are you going to resolve the conflicts in the coalition on the minimum wage, which I believe a decision has been taken on today? Pensions, the labour reform, how will these end up? And the latest CIS survey detects a major division in the government.

In 2021, are you thinking about a cabinet reshuffle to tackle this new era with renewed vigour? Thank you very much.

President of the Government: As regards your last question, what do you want me to say? The CIS even reported a better election result than we had a year ago. So, you can look at things however you want. But what is clear is that all the surveys, not just the CIS, but all the surveys, show that a majority of our people trust in the parties that are heading up the government at this time.

And if you will give me the licence, well clearly, as General Secretary of the Socialist Party, this is even more vindicated in reference to the Socialist Party

As regards a cabinet reshuffle and the suchlike, Carlos, I have mentioned this on a great many occasions before, as in the answer to the previous question from your colleague Lourdes. Of course, I am tremendously proud of their work and I also said to them in this very room at the last Council of Ministers of the year how grateful I was for the work they have been doing in each ministerial department this year, in such a difficult year for the government, in which we have had to show and employ the very best of ourselves.

As regards your first question as to how to evaluate the coalition government. Look, I believe that our first experience of a coalition government in the history of our democracy, in the midst of the worst pandemic in the last 100 years in Spain, in Europe, and throughout the world, shows that the government has come out stronger, more united and with a clear view of its roadmap for the next three years. This is a roadmap for modernisation. And there I am referring to the issues you mentioned before: the minimum wage, the pension reform, the labour market, the reform of the public authorities, the ecological transition and the digital transition. These are huge challenges. But these historic circumstances have given this government the opportunity and the responsibility to address this modernisation task and this transformation of our country. And we will tackle this - both parties that form the government, and clearly the rest of the political formations present in Parliament.

I said as much in my opening speech. If I had to bring up a negative note in the government's action, it would precisely be what I have always advocated throughout this year of the pandemic - unity. Unity has been exercised at a European level, unity has been exercised at regional level, through co-governance, this unity has also been exercised at the level of the social stakeholders, with six agreements between the business organisations, the trade unions and the Government of Spain. But unfortunately, we have not reached an agreement with the main opposition party and I would like this dynamic to change in the coming year, because next year must be the year of confidence and hope.

And that is the alternative and the disposition with which the Government of Spain is acting and will tackle 2021. Given the great calamity that has befallen us, but also given the great exercise in resistance that Spanish society has shown, next year must be the year of the great recovery, to which end we need great confidence in ourselves. The Government of Spain has this attribute in Spanish society and I am convinced that next year will clearly be the year of the great recovery.

Question: Víctor Ruiz (ABC): Hello, President of the Government. Good day. Since this is an exercise in transparency, in accountability and in the future projection of the government's action, I wanted to ask you if you are already working, as part of these government plans for the coming months, on a new Crown Act. If you are working hand-in-hand with Zarzuela, you personally, what will the end game of this new law be?

And also with a view to taking stock, something that was committed to in the regulatory plan with the amendment of the Criminal Code in relation to the criminal offence of sedition. Can you plot out for us, since this was not complied with in 2020, when you are likely to approve this? Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Well, thank you very much Víctor. I will begin with your last question, because the aim of the Government of Spain is to be able to present and approve the draft law next year, in 2021.

This must be the year in which we update our Criminal Code, and bring this in line with other European countries, or at least with those countries, with those European democracies we want to be in line with, particularly because we are so similar.

And as regards your first question, well, I would also like to weigh up what the Head of State has done during his reign and specifically in his briefing on 24 December. I feel that this was a courageous public appearance, an appearance in which the Head of State, King Felipe VI, clearly mapped out the course he wants the Crown, and hence, the Head of State in our country, to take, which is a constitutional parliamentary monarchy adapted to 21st Century Spain. And what foundations is this 21st Century Spain and this constitutional parliamentary monarchy based on? The King told us, on renewal, and clearly this renewal must be tied into transparency, accountability and exemplary conduct.

That is what King Felipe VI has been working on since the start of his reign. And clearly this government, as I have said on many other occasions, respects, agrees with and shares and advocates the constitutional agreement on the parliamentary monarchy. And he can clearly rely on all our support and encouragement in continuing with this renewal effort that began years ago, when King Felipe VI became the Head of State.

Question: Sandra Gallardo (RNE): Hello and good afternoon, President of the Government. Happy New Year to everyone; I would just like to say that. I wanted to take up two questions asked by my colleagues. Firstly, I understand that if you ask the PP to sit down again and negotiate, would you totally rule out and wave this three-fifths majority required to renew the General Council of the Judiciary? And taking up again this last question about the exercise in transparency required of the Crown that you say the King is working on, regarding exemplary conduct. You have not specified for us whether the government will be backing this, given that the King, as Head of State, has no legislative capacity. Will the government push through a Crown Act or some type of reform or similar regulation? Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Well Sandra, first of all, a Happy New Year to you too and also to all of your colleagues in the media who are present at this press briefing. This has been a very tough year. I hope that you are in good health, and your families too, and that you are even healthier next year.

As regards your last question, you will find out step-by-step how this roadmap is being complied with that the Head of State, King Felipe VI, spoke about regarding the renewal of the Crown in terms of transparency and exemplary conduct.

And in relation to your first question, look, I truly believe that the Government of Spain has offered its good-will to all the political formations, to all the parliamentary groups, to renew the General Council of the Judiciary. And not just the General Council of the Judiciary. In the next half year, it is very probable, at least we hope this will be the case, that we will renew in the Lower House the governing body, the management, of the Spanish Public Radio-Television Corporation, after many years of this being blocked. We also hope to renew the Ombudsman. We also hope to renew the Constitutional Court, which has seen its mandate expire, and is hence in an acting capacity.

In short, I feel that it is very important for the PP to take on its role as the opposition party, its role as a minority parliamentary force after five election processes; it must take this on and accept it, and thus exercise a useful opposition that is important for the good of the nation and for the Spanish people. Of course, as I said before, if I have to apologise it is precisely because I have been unable to achieve this full unity with the PP in a time of such upheaval, that has been so complex and dramatic as we have gone through. I would have liked to have seen this unity. I would have liked, for example, the PP's support in the successive states of emergency that we approved, which have proven to be an effective constitutional instrument in flattening the curve and fighting the pandemic. But this has not been possible and I hope that this dynamic can change in 2021, because I feel that this would even be good for the PP. I truly believe that. In the end, those parties that aspire to govern must show how useful they are beforehand. If they are not, well they clearly become ignored and marginalised, at least from the point of view of social awareness.

And I should say with regard to the bill that you mentioned, the Government of Spain intends, we have shown this by setting up something that was necessary to regulate, through the Executive Power, what is the capacity, in this case of the governing body of the judges, to appoint members at a time when it is in an acting capacity, and hence, I feel that we have shown our good-will to reach an agreement with the PP and thus respect this three-fifths majority, not enacted precisely for those judges that are members of this Council who are elected through the judicial profession.

Question: La Vanguardia. Good afternoon, President of the Government. I wanted to return to one of the initial points of the question in relation to the coalition government and the expectations for the future, and just one point in particular on pensions.

I wanted to ask you what degree of requirement is being proposed at this time by the EU institutions, specifically the European Commission, on this point, and hence, what conditions will there be to the reform or the modification of the pension system in Spain in order to receive financial support?

And related to this, I wanted to ask you whether in the case that this point, which seems quite important on the Spanish political horizon, were to lead to confrontation, to a lack of agreement between the parties that currently make up the coalition government, if you, at any time, if there is no agreement on the matter of pensions, would propose the possibility of governing Spain by yourself, the Socialist Party by itself, seeking support on individual occasions in Parliament.

President of the Government: Well, thank you very much, Enric, for your questions. In relation to the public pension system, you have said that this is important for Spanish politics. I think that, as well as being important for Spanish politics, it is absolutely fundamental for Spanish society as a whole, because we are talking about the key to our Welfare State. It's that simple. It is that simple. This is, let's say, the policy that demonstrates the intergenerational solidarity of the Spanish nation, of Spanish society, and hence I believe it transcends any political debate.

So, I feel that this has been understood by the Government of Spain, and I would say this from a political perspective. Just a few weeks ago, the Toledo Pact Committee reached an agreement, establishing some recommendations to the government. It spoke, for example, about boosting collective pension plans, which I believe is one alternative to private pension plans which AIReF, in this case, has clearly shown are regressive and primarily benefit the upper classes, those groups that are more affluent. It proposed some recommendations also tied into pension increases, the amount of pensions should be in line with inflation and that, logically, those non-contributory pensions financed under the National Budget, if you will allow me the expression and not under the social security budget.

Hence, the first point, the Government of Spain is clear that any type of update, of reform, of modernisation of our public pension system must be done with the consensus of all parties. And we have started with an agreement not seen in years, which is the agreement of the Toledo Pact in the Lower House. Right now, in fact, the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Immigration is talking with the social stakeholders to reach an agreement, within the framework of social dialogue, which is the other pillar of the Toledo Pact.

This social approach is, let's say, underway, and the Government of Spain has its, let's say, approach on how we must modernise our public pension system.

In fact, if you look, the Socialist Party, when it was in power in 2011, reached an agreement to reform the public pension system with the trade unions and business organisations. In 2013, under the PP Government, this agreement fell apart and another pension reform was pushed through, and hence, what the government is doing, and this is the intention with which Minister Escrivá is working, is precisely to return to build a grass-roots consensus through social dialogue with the political forces and with the social stakeholders.

Regarding Europe. Europe clearly, not just Spain, but all European countries, are clearly asking, not just this year as a result of the Recovery Fund, but every year, and you have there the recommendations from each country you know, they are asking to guarantee the sustainability of the public accounts and within this framework of guaranteeing the sustainability of the public accounts, they have always paid close attention to the trend of spending on public pensions in line with the Gross Domestic Product. And not only in Spain, but in many other economies. In Holland, in France, in Italy, in Germany, in Greece, in Portugal, in short, in all the EU countries. And in our country, whenever the European Commission has made its recommendations, we have been told to address the sustainability of our public pension system. And the government will address this reform, not just because Europe says so, but because it is a commitment from the Government of Spain.

But it is not a commitment because two political parties have signed up to it. It is a commitment because we are under a commitment to today's generations, but also to tomorrow's generations, those who are currently contributing to the social security system, and we want to have a dignified public pension system, not reduced pensions and some pensions which, in short, do not reach the whole population.

Hence, I believe that this commitment transcends what may be a recommendation from an EU institution like the European Commission, or what may be a parliamentary dynamic. This is a real and necessary commitment. I would not say pressing but important for the years to come.

And I would like to be able to count on the support that we have counted on from all the parliamentary forces within the framework of the Toledo Pact.

And finally, as regards the speculations on which you have also written and which I read in the daily newspaper 'La Vanguardia' from time to time, on whether the debate in the Socialist Party, after the Budget, will not want to continue with a coalition government… Look, I said this in my opening speech; I also said this to your colleague from EFE, to Lourdes. This is a coalition government facing a long and fruitful term of office. And when I say a coalition government, I say that with its full meaning. Coalition government. This is a government that seeks to last in time and address an exciting task, with confidence, to modernise our country, our economy, our Welfare State and regenerate the democratic and political life of our country.

Question: COPE: How are you, President of the Government? A very good afternoon. As regards the potential pardon for those convicted under the 'Procés', I was wondering whether you agree with the words of Mr Ábalos on alleviating tensions. He has said this on several occasions. Yesterday, the First Vice-President of the Government, [Carmen] Calvo also referred to this. There is a great deal of talk about this, but the government has not firmed up its position. Will the government pardon them before the elections in Catalonia? Is this part of your government's plans?

And then, on another note, I wanted to also ask you about the Education and the Euthanasia Acts that your government has pushed through. These have gone through a fast-track process, in the midst of a pandemic. There has been criticism that this has been without a broad consensus, without including the education community and associations, and in the case of euthanasia without the full support of the medical community or the Bioethics Committee, and without investing in or researching palliative care. I wanted to know the reasons behind pushing them through in this way. Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Juan Andrés for your questions.

Firstly, as regards the pardons, I can firm this up for you a little. Let's see, the pardons process is regulated, by the way, in our legal order, our legal system, which proposes a series of reports. The Public Prosecution Service, the State Attorney's Office, in this case the Supreme Court, issue and present them to the Board of the Council of Ministers, which is then where I would make my pronouncement and state my position as President of the Government and that of my whole government, because it is a collegiate body.

Let me tell you something. This is a government which has not hidden its intentions from the outset. This is a government clearly committed to a rapprochement, to reconciliation and co-existence in Catalonia and between Catalonia and Spain. Hence, I feel it is very important to overcome dark episodes that put the whole country to shame.

I feel that when we talk about Catalonia no-one is free from blame. We have all made mistakes. We have all committed errors. And hence, what we must do is learn from these mistakes, look to the future and find a way to forge this rapprochement. That is what the people of Catalonia want.

That is what I believe the people of Catalonia will also commit to on 14 February, in order to overcome this dramatic period we have lived through, which is still being lived through and look to the future with a shared horizon between Catalan society and the whole of Spanish society.

As regards education and euthanasia, the truth is that I am surprised you have said these things. Euthanasia and education have been in their passage through the Lower House for almost two years now. The thing is that they have been blocked in Parliament, then we had fresh elections, both of which have made is impossible to culminate them.

In short, I have met with the education community and I can assure you that a broad section of the education community, which is clearly heterogeneous, that not only applauds the repeal of the LOMCE, which was imposed, by the way, by those who are now criticising us, and which we have pushed through with a great deal of parliamentary support while they pushed through the LOMCE by themselves. We have tried to reach an understanding, not just with the education community, but also with many other parliamentary forces that have pushed through a law that goes to the very heart of the state education system and places the student, teachers and families as the main figures in such education.

And this government will not hide its intentions. We will make a decisive commitment to state education. This is at the heart of one of the pillars of the Government of Spain's equality programme to enhance equal opportunities. And we are clearly going to commit to state education, because we believe it is a tool for progress, for opportunities which, in short, represents the well-being of our children.

Hence, these two laws are clearly laws that if you look back to 2018, then after the vote of no confidence, when I came to power as President of the Government, we have been debating in Parliament but which have not been approved until now, precisely because they were blocked in Parliament and we then held fresh elections.

Question: Irene Castro (Eldiario.es): Hello, how are you? Good afternoon, President of the Government. I wanted to ask you firstly about the minimum wage. I wanted to ask you why it has remained exactly the same, why it has been frozen for 2021 and not gone up by 0.9% like pensions and the salaries of public servants.

And secondly, I wanted to ask you about an issue that my colleagues have also addressed but which we are not clear about. What is the roadmap marked by the Head of State regarding transparency and exemplary conduct? And when you talk about step-by-step, that we will see this roadmap as it materialises, what do you mean? Will it be Zarzuela that takes the steps towards an internal regulation or will Zarzuela ask Parliament to pass a regulation that regulates its functions? You have always been in favour of eliminating the inviolability of the King. I would like to know if this is one of the aspects of the roadmap that defined the King. Thank you.

President of the Government: Thank you very much, Irene, for your questions regarding the minimum wage. I would like to say three things. Firstly, vindicate what has been done, and secondly, reaffirm a commitment.

And thirdly, recall the economic situation we are going through and thus answer your question as to why pensions have been raised, and the salaries of civil servants, but not those workers on the lowest pay.

I would like to justify what this government has done. Just look, I have the figures here of the minimum wage since 2018, which then stood at 740 euros, precisely 735.09 euros. This now stands at 950 euros in 14 payments. In other words, in two years it has risen by 29%.

No other country has raised the minimum wage by so much, by 29%, almost 30% in two years and furthermore in a scenario of low inflation or zero deflation.

Just look, for example, this year, thanks to the agreement between the social stakeholders and the government, the minimum wage for 2020 has been raised by 4%. Inflation will be practically zero, if not zero. That is the forecast made by the international agencies. Hence, I want to say that the effort has been made.

I am going to give you a figure that is quite illustrative, particularly when compared with other European economies that we must come into line with.

The average wage in Spain and its relationship with the minimum wage in 2019, according to figures published by the OECD, represents 42% of the gross average salary. In other words, in 2018 the minimum wage represented 35% of the average salary, whereas it now represents 42%.

In Germany it represents 43% and in Portugal 44%.

In other words, the effort made in 2018, when it represented 35% to 42% in 2019 and the comparison with Germany leaves us just one point lower, which I feel justifies what we have done and achieved to date.

Secondly, reaffirm our commitment. I not only head up a government that believes in raising the minimum wage and you now have the facts, but we should also reaffirm the commitment to develop compliance with the European Social Charter during this term of office.

So there you have the reaffirmation of this commitment.

And then we should recall. Because many of the measures that I took stock of earlier are related, for example, to moratoriums on the payment of taxes, moratoriums on the payment of contributions to the social security system, moratoriums on the payment of rent, for example on business premises for small- and medium-sized businesses, and for independent contractors. In short, when you ask me why public servants and pensioners are receiving a raise and not the private sector, it is because the agents make this effort and this pay-out in the private sector are precisely this business owners who we are alleviating the pressure on because they need this alleviation right now through moratoriums on the payment of taxes, social security and rent in order to survive.

We should remember that our country is going to see, like all our neighbouring countries, a double digit drop in its gross domestic product as a result of the lockdown stemming from the health emergency. We are 10% poorer than we were a year ago as a result of the pandemic and we must focus all our sights on this recovery, on saving lives, on saving companies, on saving jobs and on reincorporating the more than 700,000 of our fellow countrymen who are under an ERTE at the moment, and on reincorporating those people who are unemployed.

Hence, I feel that this is vindicated; we have done a great deal, particularly through the efforts of business owners. Secondly, we have reaffirmed our commitment to the European Social Charter, and thirdly, we also need to recall the dramatic situation affecting the business fabric in our country. I think we need to be coherent with economic policy.

And there is a last element that I feel it is also very important to remember when we are talking about the minimum wage. The Government of Spain's economic policy is defined in the National Budget. I said this in my opening speech. We are going to allocate the largest volume of spending, the largest social investment, in the history of our democracy in education, in healthcare and in dependence. We have raised the IPREM by 5% for the most vulnerable groups.

We have created the Minimum Living Income. In short, we are backing - thanks to the efforts of the Spanish people, thanks to taxes, thanks to solidarity from everyone, and also thanks to an integrating and progressive concept in the response to the crisis and with a great deal of effort - the business fabric and the human capital suffering from these dramatic consequences of the pandemic.

In short, I feel, as I responded to another of the question, Irene, that with both confidence and hope, 2021 could the year of this recovery and of this transformation that we have initiated and that could be, let's say, fully developed over the next six years.

As regards the Head of State, I feel that if you tell me, or better put, ask me, what the things are, then I feel that over the course of the reign of Felipe VI, he has shown through deeds, and not just words, his vocation to move towards a more modern constitutional parliamentary monarchy in terms of the standards, let's say, the values and the principles of a Spain in the 21st Century. I believe he has been doing this since the start of his reign. And I also personally acknowledge that as President of the Government and I believe that we must continue in this spirit of renewal.

The Crown is here to stay and the government is at the disposition of the Crown to help in any way we can.

Question: Iván Gil (El Confidencial): In this regard, as to the renewal of the Crown, you said before that you lacked more unity from the main opposition party. Am I right in thinking that you have spoken with Pablo Casado about this matter in your last phone call? Do you believe that the main opposition party, the People's Party in this case, should form part of this debate? And furthermore, if you don't feel it should respond in this regard, could a somewhat undesirable debate not be opened up by the government on monarch vs. republic? And a brief question to close. You also speak about the coalition government getting some things right and other things wrong. I was wondering if you have thought about some type of review of the protocols on coordination, above all at a parliamentary level, to smooth over this type of mistake you mentioned. Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Thank you, Iván. As regards your last question, there is indeed a heading in the coalition government agreement as to the way to settle the, let's say, dissent that may exist in the functioning of the government. Hence, this is specified in the coalition agreement.

Over the course of these almost 12 months of the term of office of this government, there have clearly been meetings, some public and others private between the two parties. And I will leave things in that field, not in that of the government but in that of the parties. Because quite clearly, as I stress, the ministers are ministers of the Government of Spain, and not ministers of one political party or another.

And that is my duty. What is my duty in the end? To ensure stability, to develop legislation and policies to respond to the pandemic and the whole roadmap of transformations we are facing, to be held accountable, as I am doing today. And hence that is clearly more in the area of political parties.

As regards your first question, I said this before in my response to one of your colleagues who asked me about the People's Party. Of course I mean the People's Party. What has it done throughout this legislature? Well, not far short of joining up with the far right to make the government out as some kind of bogeyman. Spain would break down in all areas under this Bolivarian Republic, this Soviet, Communist, Jewish, Masonic regime… In short, we are used to this from Mr Abascal and from Mr Casado. You can see what the agenda of the opposition is. What do you want me to say? That the government is a bogeyman who never comes, and hence we do not hear Mr Casado speak about real problems. And he is more or less saying that what I want is to instil a constitutional dictatorship as a result of the state of emergency. In short, what I was talking about is a roadmap on the position of the Head of State, despite the fact that every time I am asked about this matter, I reaffirm my commitment and that of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party to the constitutional pact. And I always recall that the Socialist Party, at the start of the democracy, was the only party to advocate a republic, but we lost this debate at the Constitutional Committee of the Lower House of Parliament and the speaker of the Socialist Party, when he came out of this Committee, said that he would accept everything, the whole constitutional pact, from the beginning to the end, in all its articles. So, what do you want me to say? Of course I am open to talking with Mr Casado. Of course I am also open to talking about how the PP can participate in this whole encouraging roadmap of transformations and of the modernisation that our democracy, our economy and our institutions need. And that door will remain open. But they shouldn't pretend they don't want that. What do they want me to say to them?

Question: Juan Antonio Nicolay (NIUS): Hello, President of the Government, good afternoon. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Having got to this point, I wanted to ask you about the vaccines, which are a part of the reason for this optimism regarding 2021.

I wanted to ask you if you fear that the opposition could in some way ruin the distribution or the success of the operation to distribute the vaccines, and about the criticisms heard when the first sign of the Government of Spain appeared on one of the boxes, and the criticisms that have been heard just today from Isabel Díaz Ayuso in taking stock of this year in which she complains about the distribution of the European Union funds. Is there any chance that this operation could be ruined? Thank you.

President of the Government: Thank you very much. I also wish you a Happy New Year. Look, the Government of Spain, and me in particular, we have not caused controversy in the fight against the pandemic, and we are not going to do so in the vaccination process.

I believe that this year 2020 that is now coming to an end has indeed been the year of the pandemic, but it has also been the year of science and the year of the vaccine. This paves the way for hope; this is the beginning of the end. And of course we are going to work side-by-side with all the regional governments to guarantee two fundamental things to calm our citizens. Firstly, the vaccines are safe; they comply with all the health and scientific formalities for their validation and control. So, the vaccines are safe. And secondly, the vaccine is accessible and this accessibility is fair; all the men and women of Spain will have fair access to it as the doses arrive, above all those groups who, for professional reasons, or for reasons of age, are clearly more exposed to becoming infected by COVID-19.

Thank you very much. I wish all of you from the press a Happy New Year. I wish you good health and good luck for the New Year that will begin in a few days. Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation