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Press briefing by President of the Government of Spain at presentation of Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan in Extremadura

Mérida, Friday 19 February 2021

PRESS BRIEFING BY PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SPAIN, PEDRO SÁNCHEZ

Good day, dear regional president, Guillermo, Dear Mayor of Merida, regional councillors, Speaker of the Regional Parliament of Extremadura, government delegate, leader of the opposition, presidents of provincial governments, representatives of the different parliamentary groups, and also workers' representatives, trade union and business association representatives accompanying us here today at this event. Thank you very much, Guillermo. It is a pleasure for me to be here today in Merida and in Extremadura.

Allow me first of all to mention, as there is a certain trust, dear Guillermo, the matter that gathers us here today, which is the presentation of the European Recovery Funds, to make a brief reflection. And I would like this reflection to be absolutely clear.

Firstly, Spanish democracy has a task pending, which is to extend and improve the protection of the freedom of speech. Furthermore, there is a broad consensus within Spanish society to better protect the freedom of speech in line with the regulations on this in other European countries. And the Government of Spain has already stated that it will improve the legal protection of the freedom of speech.

Secondly, in a full democracy, and Spanish democracy is a full democracy, it is unacceptable to use any form of violence. There are no exceptions to that rule. There are no causes, no places, no situations that can justify the use of violence. None, precisely because violence is not a liberty, it is an attack on the liberty of others. Violence is an attack on democracy. And consequently, the Government of Spain will combat any form of violence to guarantee citizen security.

In short, democracy protects the freedom of association, the freedom of speech, even the freedom of speech of the most shameful and absurd thoughts; but democracy will never protect violence. Violence is contrary to democracy. Violence is the denial of democracy. That is why the Government of Spain will proceed in accordance with the interests of our democracy, which is none other than enhancing the protection of the freedom of speech and acting forthrightly to combat any form of violence.

Having said that, dear regional president, I would now like to talk about what has gathered us here today. To do that, I would like to recall some words that very possibly some of you heard live, some words that many men and women of Extremadura will remember. I am referring to the words of María Ángeles Durán in the Roman theatre of Merida in 2015, dear mayor, on the occasion of the Medals Award on Extremadura Day.

There is a phrase from that speech that I would like to recover in this introduction to the presentation of the Recovery Fund, precisely speaking about the concept of wealth and development. Professor Durán said the following, "To work means to change the world for the better".

It is not easy to sum up the career of a woman who was the first to hold a Chair in Sociology in Spain, back in 1982, and who even now pushes on with her research work, in this case tied into the CSIC, with more than 250 publications behind here. Hardly anything really! A widely acclaimed, much-loved reference on all five continents and, in my opinion, an inspiration for many of the reasons we are brought here for at this event today.

Personally, I can tell you that I believe the essence of María Ángeles Durán is contained in this phrase. In the idea that work is the force that transforms the world to make it a better place.

I have come here today to Extremadura, dear regional president, dead regional councillors, dear mayor… I have come here today to Extremadura, to this land I love and respect as my own, dear Guillermo, built by ploughs over many years, talking about work. To talk about the importance of education, of vocational training, of research, of science, that have given us so much good news over recent months as a result of the pandemic and the discovery of the vaccine. To talk about the urgency of closing the gender gap. About the care economy. About the fight for those districts at risk of depopulation, which the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura talks to me about at every opportunity. I come here to take up this message of hope of María Ángeles Durán, with new resources, with a new vision of old problems, as Regional President Vara mentioned before. And with a clear message, which I would like to pass on to all the people of Extremadura, which is that the time has come for Extremadura, dear regional president. And the Government of Spain will support this land of Extremadura as never before.

It has now been almost a year since the outbreak of the worst global pandemic in the last 100 years of the history of Mankind. An unexpected circumstance that has tested us like never before, which has meant that we have had to mobilise instruments and initiatives like never before. We have resorted, as the regional president and those present here know only too well, a constitutional instrument - Article 116 of our Constitution - the state of emergency - to save lives. We are saving lives.

We have rolled out a raft of exceptional and extraordinary actions to defend our economic and social fabric, among other things precisely because this pandemic is affecting competitive and solvent productive sectors, and which hence, if it had not been for the close down we had to impose to avoid the rise in the curve of contagion, they would now be competitive sectors and job creators. Let's just remember some of these figures: more than 200 billion euros to protect companies and 3.6 million workers at the toughest times of the lockdown, following the outbreak of this pandemic in March last year, to protect 1.5 million independent contractors; and the moratorium on 220,000 homes with mortgages, and the Minimum Living Income, which we set up in record time in mid-pandemic - in four months since the start of this term of office last year - which reaches 160,000 households where more than 460,000 people live.

Consequently, what we have done is offer an extraordinary and unprecedented response, and we have done so, moreover - I want to praise the trade unions and business organisations for this - through the power of dialogue. Through social dialogue, first of all, we have forged seven major agreements to now extend the Temporary Lay-off Plans (Spanish acronym: ERTEs) until 31 May. To give you an idea of the efforts the State has been making to protect some 800,000 workers still at this time, over these almost last 12 months, and until 31 May, the State will spend, and this is money well spent, 40 billion euros to protect jobs.

And also dialogue with Europe - European unity - where Spain tirelessly promoted an agreement that is historic in my opinion, of the same scale as the creation of the single market or the membership of Spain and Portugal - of the Iberian Peninsula, in short - of the EU or the creation of the single currency, an agreement to set up this great Marshall Plan - the joint Recovery Plan that will mean our country receives some 140 billion euros over the next six years.

We have also bedded down, from the point of view of Title VIII of our Constitution, a system of co-governance at a regional level through the State Strategy approved by all the regional governments through the Inter-territorial Council to provide a response to the second and third waves of the pandemic and also to implement the vaccination strategy. And quite clearly the challenges we face are not over, as Guillermo rightly mentioned before.

But we know we are at the beginning of the end of this extraordinary and very serious situation - this calamity - thanks to the contribution from science and also thanks to the contribution from unified European action.

And I also want to remember this, because the European people, the Member States, have acted together and anticipated many resources so that the pharmaceutical companies can get ahead of the game and speed up all the clinical trials and have them ready in record time - and when you talk with scientists you remember what they said at the start of this pandemic - this will have happened to many of you here today - it definitely happened to me - in record time, which meant in less than a year. We have managed to get a vaccine ready and, since 30 December last, we have been vaccinating the people of Spain and of Europe.

We know what needs to be done. And this is a message that I would also like to pass on. We have a clear course set and we also have the instruments to steer this course, because you not only need to have the horizon clear of what we want for Extremadura and also for Spain and for Europe, but you also need to have the resources to implement this.

Firstly, as I just said, we have the vaccine. We were the first European country - together with Germany - to jointly approve with our regional governments - a State Vaccination Plan, which we began to roll out at the end of last December. 50 days later and more than 1.6 million people have been vaccinated in Spain, of which more than 1.14 million have received the complete cycle, that is, both doses.

We are the tenth leading country in the world in terms of the vaccination process and the fourth in the European Union in the number of doses administered. We are well ahead of other large countries and clearly those countries that are ahead of us in the EU are countries that have a size and a population that is much smaller than ours.

This fight against the pandemic is fraught with partial victories, with some battles lost, others won; of progress, of setbacks, of curves that are flattened, and that rise again to form an obstacle. Of milestones, in short, in our path to the final victory.

And there is one campaign that marks the path of the definitive end, which is what I would also like to convey to the people of Extremadura. And that is the vaccination campaign that we began less than two months ago. And there is a milestone within the vaccination campaign that indicates the final stretch of this race, which is the point where the number of people vaccinated exceeds the total number of people infected.

We will soon have more people vaccinated than infected, for the first time, in Spain. That, I feel, will be a very important milestone in overcoming this pandemic. There are already some regions that have achieved this milestone. The Canary Islands, for example, have already achieved this, and the whole of Spain is just a short step away from this.

We have exceeded the figure of 3.5 million doses distributed to the regions of the three vaccines that are being administered at this time, which you are familiar with: Pfizer-Biontech, AstraZeneca/Oxford and also Moderna. And we hope that in the coming weeks, Europe will approve the use of the Janssen vaccine, which, due to its characteristics - you know that it only needs one dose, not two - will, in our opinion, give a decisive and definitive boost to the vaccination calendar over the coming weeks.

And as we are working tirelessly, by the end of the first half of 2021, close to 20 million Spaniards will have been vaccinated. I also want to pass on to you the determination with which the regional authorities are anticipating, and speeding up as far as possible, the pace of vaccinations so that over the course of the summer, 70% of the men and women of Spain will have been protected by the vaccine. So, gradually and in an orderly fashion, we are going to move towards herd immunity and bring this nightmare, this calamity, to a close. That is the aim that the Government of Spain has set together with all the regional governments. Always protecting the weakest and most exposed until everyone is vaccinated, while guaranteeing equal access to vaccines.

And in this context I would also like to recognise the work being done by the public regional authorities, in this case those of Extremadura. This region is, dear regional president, among those regions with the highest rate of vaccine administration, with precisely 83% of the doses administered of the more than 103,000 delivered. I wish to expressly acknowledge this effort by the authorities in Extremadura, its public services, its health professionals.

Nor do I want to forget Spain's participation in this global struggle against the virus. I am referring to something very important that is maybe going unnoticed, under the radar in public chatter, but which makes me tremendously proud. I am referring to the role of such pharmaceutical laboratories as Rovi, Reig Jofre, Biofabri, Insud Pharma, which are in the process of bottling and manufacturing these vaccines, and also the very promising trials of the 12 Spanish vaccine projects, such as those headed up by Mariano Esteban at the CSIC, or Luis Enjuanes, whose contribution to achieving complete vaccination may be decisive before the year is out.

So, in the not too distant future, I am convinced, we will all talk about this year - about 2021 - as the year of the vaccination. And consequently, as the year of the economic recovery. I am convinced of that, regional president. But to achieve this, there is something very important we should not forget, and that we should always bear in mind. I already know, regional president, that you have this in mind, as does your health councillor. That is why I would also like to convey this message to all the public authorities and the men and women of this country as a whole - we must not drop our guard at any time. It is true that we are flattening the curve, that the 14-day cumulative incidence rate is dropping throughout Spain, but we must not drop our guard at any moment.

Now is the time to push on with the measures we have taken, the time to keep our guard up. Because we are well aware of the method: it is not a question of making progress quickly, and then falling back again; if not we will never make true progress. And that is the approach that the Ministry of Health and the Government of Spain has been taking at the Inter-territorial Council in respect of the regional governments.

We are aware of the method - we must not drop our guard because we must clearly not fall back and then to start to take steps forward again. What we must do is push on, and continue to make progress until we can definitively reduce and control the spread of the virus.

The vaccine is clearly our bridge to the economic recovery in 2021. That will be the case. But in order to cross this bridge we need an engine that drives and pushes us through this economic recovery, as the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura rightly mentioned earlier. This engine has a name - it is this great Marshall Plan we approved in Brussels back in July - this Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. In my opinion, this is the most ambitious modernisation and reconversion project in the democratic history of Spain. To give you an idea, we are facing the historic challenge of managing 140 billion euros under the Next Generation EU fund, of which 72 billion euros will be disbursed in direct transfers in the first three years; well, more than 72 billion, almost 80 billion euros.

And this is not only a question of managing these funds and of growing, as the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura rightly mentioned, but of understanding the changes that will define the competitiveness and economic growth of societies at this time, and then addressing them with an integrating vision of what both the ecological and the digital transition represent.

Hence, we must grow in another fashion, undertaking a path of no return towards a Spain that must be more digital, more sustainable, more cohesive and fairer, as well as clearly being more feminist.

That is the thought I would like to leave with you: the Government of Spain has understood that the two vectors of change are digitalisation and the ecological transition. But we must undertake these two vectors of change with the greatest level of integration possible from a social point of view so that we can spread these opportunities, let's say, around the whole of Spanish society.

Secondly, territorial cohesion so that no region is left behind in this great transition, this great transformation and reconversion of the Spanish economy and, what's more, so that they can enhance their growth potential. And finally, integration and a gender perspective, because what we are seeing is that it is women, and also young people, who are once again suffering from the consequences of this economic and social crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hence, these are four transformations traced out at a European level, that fully coincide with the government agenda, and which must also define the action of the regional governments in the development of the Plan.

The four transformations clearly have three priorities - jobs, jobs and more jobs. Because we clearly need to reverse the unemployment trend in our country, including in such regions as Extremadura, and primarily find opportunities for our young people, for those people who are personally suffering from the highest levels of unemployment, which means our younger generations.

Hence, we have two goals: the first is to protect the weakest, and the second is to make progress. Our economy is strong and resistant - we saw this in the first few months of the pandemic and what we clearly have to do now is incorporate economic resources to help the Spanish economy recover and modernise in the medium term. We also have a complex economic backdrop, and I would like to highlight this, but one which shows an upward trend of our economic growth.

Hence, we must be prudent, but also hopeful in what the vaccination process means, particularly in regard to the economic recovery in 2021.

The Spanish economy has now enjoyed two quarters of recovery; it is true that the third quarter of the year posted growth of 16.4%, in other words it even exceeded the expectations of a great many analysts, and then 0.4% in the fourth quarter, deriving from the restrictions we had to introduce to halt the second wave, but thanks to this, the second half of the year saw the recovery of more than 730,000 jobs.

And the forecasts indicate that the economic growth of our country will exceed that of our main peer countries in the EU this year.

So, to boost this recovery, we have a Recovery Fund and we also have a vehicle that will help materialise these Recovery Funds, which is the new National Budget for 2021, approved last year and which has been in force since the start of this year. And why do I say this? Because this National Budget will allow us to inject 27 billion euros of this Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Fund. The European Commission has not yet issued the debt through which it will finance this Recovery Fund, these 140 billion euros for Spain, but it has for the 700 billion euros at an EU level. What Spain has done, at any event, is anticipate these resources and include them in the public accounts and thus not wait for these resources to actually arrive from Europe, but rather anticipate them, because we want to boost this economic recovery over the course of 2021, and because we have no time to lose.

We want Spain to be a greener place, for it to head up the ecological transition, and also do this from a perspective of social and territorial justice, as I mentioned before. We aspire to things that may seem very ambitious, but which are very possible, because both Extremadura and Spain have been doing our homework on this for a while now.

We aspire to speed up the quantitative targets of our National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan by 40%; we want to bring forward the intermediate targets we had set for 2025 to 2023 in terms of reducing CO2 emissions.

Our goal is to have a 100% renewable energy system by the year 2050, with initiatives that will have a strong impact on our economy. They will involve the mobilisation of 100 billion euros over the next 20 years, which will also lead to the creation of solid companies and quality, long-term jobs.

And this is one of the areas in which I would also like to highlight that Extremadura plays a leading role, as the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura mentioned before. This land is already the leading region in Spain in terms of installed photovoltaic power, which may seem reasonable, but what was not reasonable was that until just recently in Spain, for example, Germany had better developed photovoltaic energy than Spain, which led to such lands as Extremadura clearly seeing that an opportunity had opened up in terms of clean energies.

The second area is solar thermal power, where Spain also has a great deal to contribute, which has one of the lowest carbon economies in Europe. These are the goals we have set, not just because this is good for the planet and hence for those who live on this planet, but this is also very good as a powerful opportunity to enhance the competitiveness of all economies and of Spanish companies.

Extremadura has the largest photovoltaic farm in Europe: the Núñez de Balboa plant in Usagre - owned by a large electricity company, Iberdrola - a company that, furthermore, is starting to build an even more powerful plant: Francisco Pizarro, between Torrecillas de la Tiesa and Aldeacentenera, which will generate enough clean energy to supply as many as 375,000 people a year.

This is undoubtedly a privileged starting point for Extremadura to successfully address this green revolution that we will go through and are already involved in. Accordingly, I would like to state that the government, in collaboration with the Regional Government of Extremadura, will promote the leading role of this region in the construction of the National Energy Storage Research Centre.

You know that just a few weeks ago we approved the Storage Strategy, one of the first to be approved at a State level in Europe, which consequently will see its implementation in the construction of this important National Research Centre.

This is a Centre with a clearly international vocation, with an investment of around 70 million euros to contribute to solving the scientific and technological challenges of green hydrogen and batteries, a sector that is clearly arousing a great deal of interest, as Regional President Vara reminded me, in a great many business owners in the region.

Secondly, together with this aspiration to be at the forefront of the green revolution, and the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura mentioned this before, we want to have a more digital Spain. I believe that we are all aware of the leap we have taken in digitalisation in all areas of our lives; you only have to see the stock market value of the large technology corporations on the different markets around the world.

I believe that Spain can make a clear commitment to science and innovation, to modernise our business fabric, to guarantee the international competitiveness of our economies. In Extremadura, I feel that we also have some very interesting examples of this digital transformation.

There are companies such as Eureka 3D - a young company made up of engineers, doctors and surgeons, specialised in 3D printing in a very important sector with a very bright future, which is the health sector. Companies like Mobbeel - a company that has forged a presence in 40 countries thanks to cutting-edge technology in biometric recognition. Or like the headquarters in Caceres of Gamma Solutions - the beneficiary of one of the eight projects of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation - which focuses on the fields of mobility, medicine, tourism, teaching and electricity supplies. In short, I believe that there are also some clear examples in this land, some bright examples of what this digital transition represents and the potential it has.

There are also traditional companies, as Guillermo said before, that have found new openings to channel their sales through digitalisation. You have, for example, the EA Group - the largest mutton group in Spain, present here in Extremadura, which last year very successfully set up the sale of fresh and prepared products online.

They all show that digitalisation is, due to its cross-cutting nature, the process that will most condition the economic activity of companies in the near future. A train that we must not miss - neither in Extremadura nor in Spain.

Thirdly, as I said before, this threefold version of integration of these two transitions, of these two green and digital revolutions. We want to see a cohesive and inclusive Spain.

Just look, the logic behind this great Marshall Plan approved at an EU level is to defend our single market, because we could not exit this pandemic with a territorial gap between some much richer and other much poorer countries, because this would clearly make our single market - one of the great EU achievements - not work properly. Well, this is also true in Spain. What we cannot allow is to come out of this pandemic with wider gaps, not just at a social, but also at a territorial, level.

In this regard, what I wanted to say is that we want to close these social and territorial gaps, and we also want to close these intergenerational gaps and others like the gender gap. And in this regard I would like to underline the Government of Spain's commitment to developing the rural environment.

There are companies, like Fissa and Pretty Me, for example, that highlight the efforts at cohesion and social justice here in Extremadura. The former has a special job centre that seeks the full integration of people with disabilities, while the second employs women who have been victims of male violence.

And, in this regard, I would also like to underline, under this perspective of development and integration, the work of NGOs, of the third sector, such as the Extremadura Education League, which works with girls above all, with young people who live in underprivileged rural areas and which offers services related to education and employment. Two areas of action that are essential, in the Government of Spain's opinion, for ensuring this much sought after economic and territorial structure, which I will obviously continue to insist on.

And in fourth place, something very important from the point of view of not only social justice in our country, but also of economic development, which is gender integration, doing away with gender gaps, in short, making equality between men and women in our country real and effective. Equal opportunities are something that Guillermo mentioned, saying that it is not only generational or territorial but also related to gender.

We want to step up the number of such references as Ana Fernández-Sesma, virologist and Professor of Microbiology at the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York (United States), or María Escudero Escribano, Director of the Nano-electrochemical Group at the University of Copenhagen, whose career has been acknowledged with many prizes.

And as well as these four pillars, I would also like to remind you that this Plan contains ten guiding policies, with a very fixed distribution of funds and priorities, as Guillermo mentioned before. For example, 33% of the resources, of these 140 billion euros, will be allocated to everything related to the ecological transition.

To give us an idea of what this Recovery Fund represents in terms of opportunities for our country and for this region, we should remember that the Structural Funds amounted to 8 billion euros over six years and yet here we are talking about 140 billion euros over six years.

This Plan, as you know, is also accompanied by a royal decree-law, already ratified by Parliament, approved just a few weeks ago, which will be a major administrative revolution to eliminate bottlenecks, to make not just the implementation, but also the necessary oversight by EU institutions, quicker and guarantee how these funds are structured and managed. A reform which, and I have said this to all the regional presidents, must go hand-in-hand with similar initiatives on the part of the regional governments, to achieve, between us all, the utmost effectiveness in managing these funds.

Not only do we have to manage these 140 billion euros over the next six years, dear Guillermo, but we also have to manage the Multiannual Financial Framework and everything related to the CAP, for example, which is so important for this region, as the regional president mentioned before. Hence, I believe that we must strike a blow for the management capacity of the regional governments.

I wish to acknowledge that Extremadura, in this question as well, regional councillor, is a good example, because I have been made aware that this very week, the regional government has approved a decree to improve and speed up the implementation of the funds which I feel will clearly be a wake-up call to help manage these funds as effectively as possible.

And finally, I wanted to complete this outline by highlighting two principles that guide the Plan, and which are closely related.

The first is related to an essential goal, which is the creation of huge potential labour exchanges in the short term. The question is to create jobs immediately and urgently, in the short term. I stress this, hundreds of thousands of dignified jobs that are sustainable and inclusive. Jobs that will mean progress and help us move towards the Spain that we all deserve.

So, first and foremost, jobs.

And secondly, and absolutely tied in to the first, we must undertake a revolution in education and training. We must do this, and it is something we are proposing, including to the European Commission. Without a commitment to education and vocational training, the content and purpose of this Plan makes no sense.

Almost 20% of all the resources under this Plan are concentrated in the field of education, which in the case of the National Budget, will receive 70% more than in the previous Budget to reach a figure, which I believe is unprecedented in the history of our democracy, of 4.9 billion euros for education.

Resources to boost, for example, the Digital Education Programme, which will facilitate more than 430,000 devices for students at public centres at risk of digital disconnection. We saw in the first few long weeks of the lockdown how a digital gap also existed that affected young people, above all in public education. We cannot permit this.

The #PROA+ Programme, with 40 million euros for the regional governments to strengthen the functioning of the most underprivileged pupils at education centres. These resources will guarantee the connectivity of the university network through a mass digitalisation plan in our universities and will also enhance equality, allocating 2.09 billion euros - the largest allocation in the democratic history of our country - to the grants policy.

This revolution, which I like to describe as educational, needed to be founded within the right legislative framework. In this regard, the Government of Spain considers that the LOMLOE introduces the right legislative framework, above all because it complies with a twofold objective: firstly, the transformation and modernisation of our education system; and secondly, because it strengthens public education with more modern and inclusive, quality parameters, so that no child is left behind.

One of the main tasks we face in our country, and we are well aware of this, is the high school drop-out rate, because we also want to offer the right response and opportunities to these 90% of children without adequate resources in our state schools.

And together with the education revolution, I would also like to underline something that is very close to my heart, if you will allow me the expression, which is precisely the vocational training revolution.

Quite clearly, the high rates of youth unemployment we have in our country, dear regional president, are tied in to an inadequacy and, let's say, a weakness in our vocational training system.

Hence, we must make the vocational training revolution one of the main goals on the joint horizon of our public authorities.

We want to enact a new Vocational Training Act, which will be approved in the coming months and which will culminate the legislative initiatives initiated since the start of this term of office, because in the end, the future of new jobs, as rightly mentioned before by the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura, will significantly involve two actions: the first is to reduce the unjustifiable school drop-out rate that Spain has traditionally suffered from and that is closely related to the weakness of the vocational training system; and the second is to make vocational training high quality and avant-garde.

Let me just give you a figure, because just a few days ago the Council of State approved the report on the Royal Decree on Professional Accreditations. In Spain, a good number of our workforce does not have any official qualifications. Over these last ten years, the regional governments, with help from the Government of Spain, have professionally accredited some 3 million people. We, dear regional president, want to accredit another 3 million people over the next three years, rather than over the next ten years. This is something we clearly want to do alongside the regional governments.

What this new Vocational Training Act will do is make the system more dynamic. It will create a comprehensive vocational training system in which we will unify vocational training under the education system with vocational training for jobs. This great achievement will be accomplished. We will create, to this end, some 200,000 new vocational training places over the next three years; we will update, as we are already doing, professional qualifications; we will create others tied in to emerging sectors, which are clearly related to the Recovery Funds that we will set in motion. When we talk about cybersecurity or clean energies, or when we talk about urban renovation and reconditioning or anything related, for example, to nanotechnology.

So, education and jobs are, let's say, the way forward, the horizon traced out by the Government of Spain, together with these four guiding principles I referred to at the start of my speech.

We are working hard, thinking about the recovery of our country, dear friends, in the wake of this terrible pandemic, this terrible calamity that is ravaging the world.

The other day I read that the schools have not been open in the United States for 11 months now. Every day that we open the schools in Spain is another day that we have beaten the virus and this is an effort made by the whole of the education community, but also of the regional governments and the whole of the institutional architecture of our country.

That is why I feel that when faced with this empty noise that we hear in the political debate on many occasions, what we must do is address the real problems of our people and appreciate that jobs and education are two of the primordial goals for all families, and particularly for our young people. And hence, I feel that we are facing a possibility, as Guillermo, the regional president rightly mentioned before, whereby we can harness an historic opportunity, thinking about Extremadura and thinking about Spain, as the regional president rightly said.

We are thinking, dear regional president, dear friends, about a region that will receive a volume of resources of around 3.73 billion euros, with a real investment of 415 million euros, in other words, 7.5% more than that assigned under the 2018 Budget which was extended until this year. We are thinking about the almost 230,000 men and women of Extremadura whose contributory pensions will rise by 0.9% in line with the CPI and the more than 13,000 who will see their non-contributory pensions rise by 1.8%, in other words by more than the CPI.

We are thinking about the families in Extremadura who will be relieved by the 600-million euro increase in the allocation to dependency, which has been one of the main areas forgotten in recent years.

We are thinking about the care-providers in Extremadura, whose National Insurance contributions we have recovered for a benefit estimated at around 3.3 million euros as part of the 19 million euros to drive the care economy and bolster the Welfare State in this region. I believe that the care economy, after what we have seen in this pandemic, above all in the care homes for the elderly, needs a transformation, something that we have also spoken about, regional president, over these long months of the pandemic.

We are also thinking about the 4,500 men and women of Extremadura that will enjoy an increase in paternity leave to 16 weeks. I feel that this is also one of Spain's great achievements, which starts to close the gender gaps, by also bringing the rights of men and women in line and thus, let's say, overcoming hurdles in the professional development of the 51% of the population that are women.

And we are particularly thinking about the effect of the items allocated to employment. As I said before, to education, to training through the 53 million euros quite simply invested in grants, in the 17,000 young people from Extremadura who will be able to find an opportunity thanks to the 18 million euros that we will invest in the Action Plan for Youth Employment, in the recovery of the Comprehensive Job Plan in Extremadura, with an allocation of 15 million euros and in the 11 million euros that will be allocated to the region under the Action Plan for Vocational Training and Employability.

We are thinking about Green Extremadura Verde, about Digital Extremadura, and also about an Entrepreneurial Extremadura, which will receive more than 66 million euros for the ecological transition from the Recovery and Resilience Fund. We are thinking about the more than 17 million euros allocated by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge to the sanitation and treatment of water under the Crece Plan and the items under the scope of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which will amount to 753 million euros.

And we are particularly thinking, dear regional president, about the Budget that allocates around 117 million euros through ADIF to the high-speed railway line between Madrid and Extremadura as part of the line from Madrid to Lisbon. This investment clearly symbolises, like no other, not just the need and the value of specific and tangible works, but also something that is perhaps even more important, which is the justice and recognition that all the regions of our country must be connected.

And I want to be very clear about this. This land has been promised a train on many occasions, but the people of Extremadura cannot live off of promises. I am aware that they live off realities, as does the President of the Government; and I will humbly say that I want justice for Extremadura. Justice for Extremadura, I stress, and I will stop there out of respect for the men and women of Extremadura.

I also want to underline that there are investments tied in to other infrastructures, such as the Zafra relief road off of the N-432, the Extremadura Corridor from Merida to Puertollano, the refurbishment of the María Luisa Theatre, the extension and air conditioning of the National Roman Art Museum - both in Merida - dear mayor, and the new Cabezuela del Valle bridge.

In other words, dozens of actions that have already been decided upon, which are varied and cross-cutting, which will have a concrete and real impact, not just in terms of well-being, but also in terms of job and business opportunities in this land.

We are aware, dear friends, that the Budget for Extremadura is aligned with the transformations and priorities declared by both the EU institutions and the Government of Spain.

There are many examples of that, dear regional president. The 7.7% rise in the healthcare budget, the 8.3% rise in the education budget for Extremadura. These are absolutely historic percentage rises.

The 46 million euros to help foster self-employment and the almost 34 million euros for dual vocational training schools. A huge 78% increase in items under the digital transformation and the 10% increase in R&D+i policies.

The 9% rise in promoting renewable energies, the 63% rise in the development of sustainable mobility… in short, a long list aligning your policies with European and national policies.

I think that Extremadura, dear friends, was one of the first regions to present its own climate emergency plan - the Integrated Energy and Climate Plan of Extremadura. It is at the forefront, which I wish to underline, in terms of installed power in photovoltaic energy. Half of all the new installed megawatts in Spain are generated in the region of Extremadura, which I feel is a very significant figure.

All of this precisely shows the capacities of Extremadura to tackle these new times with every chance of success.

I began my speech - and with this I will definitely bring it to a close, dear friends - by recalling the words of María Ángeles Durán and I will like to also close off my speech by recovering another delightful idea she raised in her speech back in 2015.

She said that, "We need to trust in ourselves". And she also said at the end of that speech that, "We know we are good, but we must not be selfless. We are so that we can stay here and raise up this land of ours that is Extremadura".

Dear regional president, I wish to also take up this call for confidence and do so with the strength of the resources we are deploying, with the nobility of the proposals made and the force of the solutions.

So, dear friends, regional president, you can count on the Government of Spain, because as you rightly said, Guillermo, when you commit to Extremadura you commit to Spain, and the Government of Spain has that absolutely clear.

Thank you very much for your attention.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation