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Appearance by the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, together with the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic, António Costa, before the media at the 32nd Hispano-Portuguese Summit

Trujillo (Cáceres), Thursday 28 October 2021

President.- Good afternoon.

If you wish, we will begin the press conference. First of all, I would like to thank the media for their work and for covering this important summit that we are holding in Trujillo, in Cáceres, in Extremadura.

I would like to thank the host, the President of the Junta de Extremadura, and of course the Town Council of Trujillo for the extraordinary hospitality and welcome.

I would also like to thank the Vice-Presidents, the Ministers of the Government of Spain and the Ministers of the Portuguese Government for their extraordinary work, and all the departments of all the ministries that have made it possible to sign important memoranda of understanding between Spain and Portugal, between Portugal and Spain.

And of course, to welcome Prime Minister Antonio Costa to this wonderful city of Trujillo.

Well, we have just concluded the 32nd bilateral summit, number thirty-two, no less.

After a lot of hard work, we have dealt with many, many issues. We shared our concerns and also made proposals for the future.

Some of these have been set out in the joint declaration and in the nine agreements - I would like to underline this fact - the nine agreements that we have just signed and others that will come to light in the coming months. This work is far-reaching.

We have maintained our commitment to meet annually, to give content and impetus to the extraordinary relationship that we have between both governments, both countries, at all levels, with a very clear objective. And it is that this spirit of agreement should have concrete effects on the daily lives of the citizens of both countries.

In Guarda a year ago, dear Antonio, we said that we wanted to renew the treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and we have done so today in Trujillo. We have signed a new treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries which, I would like to remind you, is already 40 years old. It is an immense achievement.

I think it sends out a key message, at a very important time when the pandemic is being overcome. Our relations have evolved, they have evolved over the last forty years, they are richer, they are more diverse and they are taking place in an increasingly integrated Europe.

Especially after this pandemic, the response we are giving in a complex world.

Prime Minister Costa reminded us earlier that we are also NATO allies and that next year, in June, we are going to hold a major summit in Madrid.

And I would also like to point out that we are going to take up the baton from Lisbon, because it was the Lisbon NATO summit that defined NATO's strategic concept. At that time. And now we are going to define it for the next ten years also in a Spanish city, in this case in the capital of Spain.

We regularised our meetings, listed new challenges. As I said, digitalisation, climate change, health challenges, the fight against transnational organised crime, terrorism, issues that unite both governments, both societies, such as gender equality, decent work, demographic challenges and mobility.

We also recognise for the first time the concept of cross-border cooperation for outermost regions.

And in this regard, I would first like to thank the Portuguese people and, no doubt, the Portuguese Prime Minister for their expressions of solidarity with an island that is very dear to them, an island that the whole of Spain is looking at and in solidarity with, such as the island of La Palma.

In this new spirit, we are getting down to work right away.

Therefore, something that the Portuguese Prime Minister and I shared, in a conversation we had after the A Toxa Forum in Galicia a few months ago, was that the bilateral summits should have a concept, a term that explains them, that justifies their being held.

In Trujillo we have started this, I think it is a very good custom. We have called it the Sustainable Mobility Summit, and in this sense I believe that both Spain and Portugal share a common geographical reality, and consequently we have very similar objectives in the field of ecological transition and undoubtedly also in the field of sustainable mobility.

This requires a shared collective effort, of which I would like to highlight to the media some of the results of the meetings we held today.

Firstly, I would like to highlight, I believe, a very positive milestone for future summits, and that is that we have put together the recovery, transformation and resilience plans of both countries, of Spain and Portugal, of Portugal and Spain. Because they represent an enormous opportunity not only for the societies that are going to receive these resources directly, but also for our brothers, in this case for Spain, the Portuguese people. An opportunity that we cannot miss, that we will not miss.

And in this respect we have decided to start by strengthening the collaboration of our two countries in four key areas within the framework of the plans and therefore of the European funds.

The first of these is related to an industry that is very dear, very important for Spain and Portugal, which is the automotive industry and therefore this project that is so important for both countries, the electric vehicle and the recovery and management of the entire value chain, starting with lithium up to manufacturing the car.

Secondly, the ecological transition, renewable energies and in this sense, a jewel, a wealth that both countries have, which is the promotion of green hydrogen, to which both governments are committed.

Thirdly, all those programmes linked to space technologies for Earth observation.

And fourthly, the development of digital skills and infrastructure.

In each of these areas what we have done is to identify projects on which we are going to work together and we have made progress on how to specify them and also how to turn them into reality.

And in this sense, we have reaffirmed our commitment to electrify mobility, which will entail a radical transformation of the entire value chain of the automotive sector, from the extraction of lithium - and here in Extremadura, obviously you know this very well - to industrialisation, to the manufacture of batteries and electric recharging stations.

Prime Minister Costa and I have also assessed several projects within the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan to promote the positioning of the Iberian Peninsula as a whole in technological development and innovation in the production of renewable energies and, in particular, green hydrogen.

And also for our peninsula to become a digital hub with the development of the Iberian Digital Alliance that we have signed today.

Secondly, I would like to stress that we are going to promote the modernisation of the Terrestrial Infrastructure Network with our commitment to railways, as well as the provision of recharging points on the road network, the digitalisation of the network that interconnects us and a new motorway, but which will also be fundamental to meet the demographic challenge, such as the extension of 5G throughout the Iberian Peninsula.

And finally, we are going to reinforce progress in the Iberian electricity market with the definitive boost to the interconnection projects we had pending.

I believe that this is also a fundamental element for our Portuguese friends and we have given a definite boost to this at this summit.

I would now like to refer to another issue that I think is very important to highlight here in Extremadura, and that is, you know that in Guarda we launched the cross-border development strategy a year ago, and today in Trujillo we are making this commitment a reality, which will directly benefit the inhabitants of La Raya, a huge common area that in the past was a dividing line and which we have proposed to transform into an example of closeness, collaboration and shared development, fighting against those evils, those challenges that both countries face, which is the demographic challenge, depopulation and the lack of opportunities for its inhabitants.

And we are committed to its development. Firstly, with the signing of a protocol for the creation of the Cross-Border Workers' Statute, which is one of the long-standing demands that is finally materialising today. Among other advances, this Statute will allow such important issues for the citizens of La Raya as the following, for example, a census of cross-border workers, eradicating any discrimination that may still exist, combating fraud, facilitating access in both countries to public employment, health and education services. In short, I believe that we are giving a boost for the benefit of the citizens of both Spain and Portugal, who need public commitment.

Secondly, what we are doing is pushing for greater coordination of the 112 emergency services. In other words, we are committed to protocols, to implementing the protocols signed, to enabling swift and effective cooperation in the event of forest fires and cross-border disasters, and to speeding up the exchange of information and best practices.

And also in the framework of this strategy, we have continued to work on facilitating border crossings for minors by studying how to facilitate the compatibility of documentation on each side. I think this is also very important for the families of La Raya as a whole.

That is why, dear Antonio, I will end by saying that I am very pleased to be able to say that we are fulfilling the commitments we made last year with the cross-border development strategy.

We are going to continue to do so with new innovation projects linked to the research teaching centres located in the cross-border area, with the idea of bilingual intercultural schools, which is also very important for both governments; with the identification of resources for the coordination of care against this scourge - that both governments also share - of trying to eradicate violence against women; or with the development of the cross-border tourism sustainability strategy.

The new friendship treaty, mobility projects and the implementation of the cross-border strategy are therefore three key pillars of our bilateral relations.

Furthermore, today we have once again reaffirmed that Spain and Portugal will continue to deepen our cooperation in the framework of the European Union following the excellent Portuguese Presidency. So we want to continue to promote social Europe, the Porto Summit and the Porto mandate together, and to support each other in debates that are crucial for our compatriots, for our industry, for our economy, such as the energy debate, where we both agree that greater ambition is needed from the EU institutions.

In short, I believe that it is a summit that in a way picks up the baton from the Guarda summit a year ago, where we have realised many of the ambitions that we set ourselves a year ago in the Portuguese city of Guarda.

I therefore believe, dear Antonio, dear Ministers, dear Vice-Presidents, that we have reached another milestone in the building of this formidable relationship between Portugal and Spain.

So you have the floor, Antonio, and I would simply like to end by thanking you and all your team for the work you have done during these months, which has also made it possible for us to have signed these agreements that are so important for both countries.

[Speech by the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic, António Costa].

President.- Thank you very much, dear Antonio, if you like, we could give the floor to the director, to Carmen, so that she can direct the press conference with the media.

Q. [Daniela Santiago, Radio Televisión Pública Portuguesa]. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Mr President, Prime Minister, I apologise, but current political events have taken us all the way to Portugal. And I will ask two questions.

First, to the Portuguese Prime Minister. Mr Prime Minister, you say you want to respect the possible dissolution of Parliament, but what do you think would be the best option? Would you prefer to govern to more life beyond the budget?

If we have to hold an election, what do you think would be the best date? And then you say you won't resign. Why? As a case of political stability I remember that. Five or six years ago you said it was a good government solution, how do you see it now after what happened yesterday, and would you split if you were in the same situation?

Thank you.

[Speech by the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic, António Costa].

President: Well, thank you very much. Anyway, it's just two points.

The first is that it must be remembered that the political system in Spain is different. In other words, unlike in Portugal, where it is the President of the Republic who calls elections, in Spain, it is the President of the Government, so they are completely different realities, aren't they?

But if you will allow me Antonio, with all the confidence that we have, I think that Portugal is an example of stability and I have seen it not only in the bilateral relations that we have with both governments, but I have also seen Antonio working in the European Council.

I can guarantee that there are few presidents of governments that I have seen in the European Council with the capacities and skills that the Portuguese Prime Minister has, in terms of dialogue, working to reach agreements and to achieve these agreements. That's the experience I have with it.

Q.- [Irene Castro, El diario.es]. Hello, how are you, good afternoon. I had a question for both of you. Both govern thanks to left wing parties. Portugal seems to be heading for an election and Spain has just gone through a major crisis within the coalition government.

I wanted to ask you if you have discussed this issue at lunch or at some point between the two presidents and if you have given any advice to each other.

And given that you are committed to making these summits annual, if you believe that the two of them will be the representatives of both countries at next year's summit.

And I wanted to ask President Sánchez whether he considers the crisis within the coalition government to be resolved or whether he believes that we are heading for a few weeks or months of internal conflict over the content of the labour reform.

And specifically, I wanted to ask you what the Government's proposal will be at the dialogue table, at the social dialogue table, with regard to ultra-activity and agreements. Whether the company or the sectoral one will take precedence.

Thank you very much.

President.- Thank you very much Irene for your words.

And besides, that is the purpose of the whole government and that is what I have been saying every time I have been asked. The legislature will last until 2023. Then, of course, it will be Spaniards who will decide who continues as President of the Government of Spain when they vote. Or in my case, or if they decide on other groupings.

But, well, we are going to work effectively so that it will be with even greater parliamentary representation, that of the progressive forces, so that we can have a reinforced majority to make many of the social advances that we are making. First of all.

Secondly, on your question and the debates, I would like to say several things.

The first is that this is a government that delivers on its commitments. We have fulfilled our commitments: we said we were going to raise the minimum wage and we are raising it; we said we were going to pass, for example, a law on euthanasia and we have passed a law on euthanasia; we said we were going to pass a new education law and we are passing a new education law; we said we were going to set up protection mechanisms for workers, such as the ERTEs, and we have done so.

In other words, we are a government that delivers. And I made a commitment. I made a commitment in the investiture agreement. I made a commitment in the coalition government agreement. We are also committed to the European Commission in the framework of European funds and the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.

And it is also necessary. It is necessary in two areas that seem fundamental to me when we are talking about the workplace.

Firstly, I think it is very important that we recover the consensus that was fractured, that was broken in 2012 with a counter-reform carried out by an absolute majority of the Partido Popular at that time, and there are issues that were left unresolved, that were broken, and that this government is called upon to rebuild, to reconstruct, and that is the consensus between the different social agents.

I would like to highlight the fact that throughout these more than twenty months of legislature, in the midst of the pandemic, the Government of Spain has reached twelve agreements with the social partners.

Therefore, the Government of Spain's will to achieve these social agreements is unequivocal and robust.

So this is a Government that delivers. It is a government that will fulfil its investiture, coalition and Brussels commitments.

And thirdly, it is essential that we do so. Because, today we have spoken of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan Of the more than 70 billion euros we are going to invest over the next three years in the modernisation of our economy, which is a great opportunity.

And in modernising our economy, what we have to do is to modernise our labour rules.

And obviously, the issues you have mentioned clearly form part of the roadmap that this government shares and that will be implemented when it comes to tackling this labour reform.

Therefore, all I can say is that the Government of Spain wants coordination in tackling this reform, maximum dialogue and the greatest possible consensus in order to achieve a reform that is going to be very important for the entire task of modernisation that Spanish society and the Government as a whole have ahead of them.

[Speech by the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic, António Costa].

Q.- [Rubén Caballero, Televisión Española in Extremadura] Good afternoon. The first question is addressed to both. On the train: the Extremadura high-speed line was planned at a summit in 2003 as a connection between Madrid and Lisbon, and in Spain the route to the province of Toledo has not even had the informative study approved. Will the two countries speed up this connection?

On the other hand, the second question, tomorrow is the deadline for tabling amendments to the budget in its entirety here in Spain. Esquerra and the PNV are threatening to table an amendment to the entire bill. Is the Government going to have any problems, Mr Sánchez, in moving the budget forwards?

And the third, brief: today we have learned of the conviction of the PP and Bárcenas for the use of dirty money to finance the refurbishment of the head office in Calle Génova. What do you think the party and Casado should do?

[Speech by the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic, António Costa].

President.- Thank you very much, Rubén, for your questions.

In relation to the railways and their structures, the Prime Minister and also in the agreements, as you can see, the commitment that we are going to develop over the coming months and years is explicit.

But since I am in Extremadura and I had the opportunity, moreover, with the President of the Junta de Extremadura recently to reaffirm the commitment of the Government of Spain to the people of Extremadura in the summer of 2022, this connection between Plasencia and Badajoz will be a reality, as has been requested on many occasions both by your Government, the president, and by Extremaduran society.

On the second issue, which is the processing of the General State Budget. I believe that what is clear is that right now, what citizens are demanding from politics as a whole in Spain is firstly stability and, secondly, social progress.

I have defined this budget as one of fair recovery. This is a budget that raises social investment to historic levels and that will also channel European funds for the great transformation that our economy requires. Therefore, what I would ask of all the parliamentary groups in the General Courts is that we put the interests of our country first, the interests of a society that needs a public response, a budget that consolidates this recovery, but at the same time protects the most disadvantaged people from a social point of view. So let us put that first, the consolidation of a fair economic recovery.

Today we have had some extraordinarily positive data on employment. That's thirteen years. We have not had more than 20 million people employed, as the Labour Force Survey has told us, since 2008. Therefore, what is being achieved by the economy as a whole in Spanish society after a pandemic such as the one we are going through and have suffered with such particular drama during the first few months, I believe, is formidable. And this requires from everyone, and in this case of politics, an even greater dose of responsibility towards the country and society.

And with regard to the third question, I would say the following. Look, beyond the sentence, what is clear is that the context in which what we know today to be a case of corruption took place, the context was really dramatic, because we are talking about a time of enormous economic crisis, of adjustments and austerity that implied very dramatic cuts in the welfare state, in health, education, dependency, in short, in everything that protected the most vulnerable people. An even greater demand on the working middle class to pay more taxes. And then, effectively, to see these cases of corruption that sentence after sentence is making the judiciary more visible.

Well, from a partisan point of view, I respect what each political party does to assume and also respond to the cases of corruption that they have. From the point of view of my responsibility as President of the Government of Spain, what I want to convey to the Spanish citizens is that this time has fortunately passed. It happened because there was a vote of no confidence. Because that government was brought to an end and because today there is a government that is committed to the citizens, that manages public resources in a transparent and exemplary manner. I think that is how I could answer this question.

Well, it seems to me that we have ended with many thanks to the media, thanks to the ministers, vice-presidents and above all to all the people who are not so well known but who are behind us, making it possible for this summit to be a success once again. And to thank the host, in this case the President of the Junta de Extremadura and the people of Trujillo, for their kind welcome.

Thank you very much, prime minister.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish

Non official translation