Joint appearance by the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland, Sanna Marin, before the media at Moncloa Palace

2022.1.26

Moncloa Palace, Madrid

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SPAIN, PEDRO SÁNCHEZ

President- Good morning.

Thank you to the media for attending this press conference and thank you to the Prime Minister of Finland, welcome to Spain.

The truth is that it is a real honour to welcome you to our country, a visit for which I am sincerely grateful.

As you know, the European Council gives us many occasions to be able to talk about Finland and Spain, but there are really few opportunities like today's, to be able to sit down and talk about our bilateral agenda, to discuss both this bilateral relationship and the intense European agenda and the enormous challenges ahead of us in depth.

The Government of Spain values its relationship with the countries of northern Europe, to which it has always felt particularly close in many aspects.

That is why I attach particular value to this first visit of the Prime Minister to our country. Spain and Finland are more similar than could be concluded from an analysis based solely on the geographical dimension, and the meeting we have held has allowed us to underline precisely these similarities.

We are both countries that have an external border with the European Union, both in the north and in the south, in the east and in the west, but this reality gives us a better understanding of certain issues, such as the complexity of neighbourhood relations.

And it also reaffirms our Europeanist conviction.

We are both governments led by the social democratic family, which, I believe, reinforces the new political direction that citizens in Europe and elsewhere in the world are taking in choosing different solutions to the crisis resulting from the pandemic, logically based on dignity and justice.

We both see the consequences of climate change in our own experience. We share the urgency and centrality of carrying out this green transition, this ecological transition that must be just, as a collective objective of the European Union and also of our societies.

And the configuration of this collective commitment, to which we must add something very important in which Finland is at the forefront of Europe, which is digital transformation, must take into account two national aspects whose approach is also shared by Finland and Spain. The first is the demographic challenge of large areas of the national territory and the insular reality of some parts of our countries. All these similarities explain our determination, reaffirmed today, to strengthen our bilateral ties and our bilateral cooperation.

We are going to pay special attention to the field of digitalisation, where Spain has a lot to learn from Finland, taking advantage of the framework and opportunities offered by the European funds, the Next Generation funds. We also hope, of course, that we will soon be able to recover pre-pandemic tourist flows.

We have a lot of Finns who want to come to our country to enjoy our coasts, our culture, our heritage, and we hope that this will indeed pick up as the months go by.

We will boost coordination at the multilateral level, in the defence of our shared values as in the past, with the promotion of gender equality, of the women, peace and security agenda, or of dialogue as a solution to disputes and mediation efforts.

And we will continue to work together in the European Union to address constructively many of the debates ahead of us.

As you know, in recent days the Government of Spain has been in permanent contact with the various representatives of the European Union and NATO, as well as with various European leaders, such as the Prime Minister, to assess the situation on the Ukrainian border.

Spain, as you know, I had the opportunity, as well as passing it on to President Zelenski, is the one that supports the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine.

I believe that Europe shares the concern about the evolution of events, as well as the conviction that we must demand respect for international legality, for international law, which requires, among other things, respect for national sovereignty, for the territorial integrity of nations.

And also that this is the time for diplomacy, distension and dialogue.

And finally, I would also like to say that both governments, as social democrats, are committed to embracing the social and feminist dimension of politics and to bringing a progressive approach to the European agenda through dialogue.

Finally, I think issues such as climate, taxonomy, new fiscal rules, the migration pact, which is also important, and asylum. Finally, the governments of Spain and Finland share the need to address them from a perspective that is not that of blocs, but from the perspective of integration within the European Union.

I believe that pandemic has taught us to work on the basis of what unites us and visualises the spaces that lead us to benefits and to the common interest. And this is the field in which the Prime Minister of Finland and myself are committed to developing.

I conclude by thanking you Sanna, thanking you, Prime Minister, for your visit to Madrid and I hope to reciprocate it shortly in Helsinki with a visit from the Government of Spain.

ADDRESS BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND, SANNA MARIN

Thank you very much, Pedro, for this visit. Dear media representatives. I am happy to be in Madrid to discuss the international situation, EU cooperation and bilateral issues with President Sánchez. Finland and Spain think alike on many issues and have good possibilities for cooperation both bilaterally and in the European Union. Bilaterally, seeking to increase cooperation and business contacts in digitalisation and green technology, circular economy, energy, efficiency, as well as water and waste management, all of which are interesting areas for collaboration between our countries and economies.

Finland and Spain share the same vision when it comes to European values such as the rule of law, human rights and gender equality. Finland has just started a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council and gender equality is one of our priorities. I very much appreciate the support that Spain and President Sanchez have given on this issue. It is particularly important and topical in the face of the so-called "anti-gender" movements. Working together in the European Union is especially important for Spain and Finland, particularly with regard to global challenges. Hosting a strong partnership with Africa and finding concrete ways to collaborate on green transition and digitalisation are also shared priorities.

The upcoming EU-Africa summit is also an important milestone in this effort. The insecurity situation in Europe is of course of deep concern to us. The European Union needs to stand united and send clear messages. The fundamental principles of European security and stability must remain intact. Any bloc-based approach should be rejected. The freedom of states to choose their security alliances must be respected. Security in Europe can be strengthened through dialogue that allows us to continue arms control and confidence-building measures. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE is a very useful forum for this kind of dialogue, and now is the time for dialogue and diplomacy.

It is important to underline the EU's support for Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity. As we said at the December European Council, any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine would have enormous consequences and very high costs. Political dialogue and the implementation of the Minsk agreements must be the basis for avoiding conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Within the European Union we are currently completing the strategic analysis for security and defence, which will enable the European Union to be better prepared to defend its interests, promote stability in our neighbouring regions and contribute to the defence of Europe. Finland has been actively contributing to this effort, especially in civilian crisis management and peacekeeping tools.

President Sanchez, media representatives. The French Presidency of the Union has presented a very full agenda of priority issues. We will have to discuss the measures needed to continue to emerge from the Covid pandemic. In March, the summit will discuss economic and financial issues, which were also a priority at our bilateral meeting today. On the agenda at EU level, negotiations on climate and energy legislation to reduce emissions are one of our top priorities. Finland has an ambitious programme and we want to strive for even more ambitious emissions reductions. Our national target is to be emissions neutral as early as 2035. And this legislative package is very complex and there are many interrelated issues. To get the best results we need to focus on tools that are effective, have a good cost-efficiency profile and improve European competitiveness. Finally, it is important to use financing, European funds to accelerate the green transition, as Spain is doing, and this is very important because it is also a very good opportunity for collaboration between Finland and Spain.

We have many smart and sustainable solutions to share, and I am sure this will also be the case for Spain. I hope that we can work together to promote growth that is environmentally and socially as well as economically sustainable, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with President Sánchez. Let us move on to questions. Thank you very much.

Q.- [Jyrki Palo, Kauppalehti].

Yes, thank you very much. I would like to ask the question first in English to our Prime Minister, and then I will ask a question to President Sánchez.

First of all, Prime Minister Marin, could you explain to us, more specifically, what you have been talking about in relation to the new security and stability pact, the new rules for debt and the possible social fund financed by Eurobonds, and also on the issue of taxonomy, because as we know Spain is very much against nuclear energy being included among clean energies.

[Question to the President of the Government of Spain] I wanted to ask what more specifics could be said about the possibilities for Finnish companies that are going to participate in projects that are financed by European funds.

Prime Minister of Finland. - Well, thank you very much for this two-part question. Firstly, as far as the taxonomy is concerned, Finland obviously believes that nuclear energy is currently an important part of our energy mix, will continue to be so in the future, and it is important that nuclear energy is defined in the taxonomy as part of the European energy mix, as it is in so many Member States, and indeed Finland is, right now, about to complete the construction of a new nuclear power plant which will start generating energy soon.

Nuclear energy is therefore an important aspect for Finland. We have been more critical on the issue of gas which we see only as a fuel for the energy transition, although we understand that there has to be a way to find solutions, and that some kind of solution or understanding will have to be reached on how to use nuclear energy and also gas in this energy transition.

I believe that President Sánchez's proposals are very balanced proposals and we will continue the dialogue at that level, in fact, we didn't go into too much detail on the taxonomy issue today in my conversation with Pedro.

We will continue to talk about the Fit for 55 package and also taxonomy over lunch today, and we will also talk about the EU's financial fiscal rules, because we have not yet covered that in detail in our meeting either.

And also with regard to the social fund, we are quite critical of the proposal, because Finland does not want this type of initiative, because we have our own Nordic welfare state model, which we want to maintain in the future, and therefore we have been very critical of this type of proposal made by the Commission in terms of the financing the social initiative that has been proposed.

President- Thank you very much for your question. I would say that there are plenty of opportunities for Finnish companies in Spain. A few weeks ago we had the opportunity for Nadia Calviño, our Vice-President for Economic Affairs and Digitalisation, to travel to Finland to share policies and strategies with the Finnish Minister of Economy, and on the digital side, I think we have a lot of opportunities for bilateral collaboration.

I know that Finland is one of the most advanced countries in terms of data analysis in the health system, we have a lot to learn from Finland and that is why we are going to sign this MoU between the two countries, this agreement between the two countries, to develop collaboration in the digital area and also in the area of health care and the health system.

As for the other issues that you mentioned to the Prime Minister, I would say that with regard to fiscal rules, it is a very necessary debate that we need to have at an EU level precisely because we have gone through a pandemic and we are still going through this pandemic, and therefore all the European policies that have been launched during the pandemic and which fortunately have been very positive for our economies since we are seeing a very strong recovery both in terms of macroeconomic data and job creation, at least in Spain we are seeing a very solid economic recovery and a lot of job creation, and that is why I think it is so important that these types of policies that have proved so effective are maintained and then, of course, I think it is important not to repeat past mistakes, debates that took place, not during the pandemic, but in the previous financial crisis, and is that blocks are not created in these debates, that we have a European perspective in which all Member States can share their opinions on how to reconcile two different challenges: the first, which is fiscal sustainability, and the second, which is how to prioritise investments towards neutrality in emissions, the energy transition and digital transformation.

So these are the challenges we face in the European debate, although I fully agree that it is a fundamental and very necessary debate and for our part, and I am sure that the other countries will have the same perspective, we want to be absolutely constructive and not to establish a bloc policy.

This is a fundamental European debate and of course we are going to contribute proposals to guarantee fiscal sustainability and at the same time prioritise green investment and digital investment at a European and national level, and this is something with which the Government of Spain is very committed, which is why this visit by the Prime Minister is so important in order to strengthen bilateral collaboration in the digital area.

Prime Minister of Finland: Yes, if I may add that I also think this is a crucial debate for all of us. And that is all.

Q.- [Carina Verdú, Antena 3].

Good afternoon. President Sánchez, we wanted to ask you where Spain stands in the conflict in Ukraine, whether it is closer to the warmongering opposition of the United States, sending troops, or whether, on the contrary, it is in favour of distension and the escalation that the European Union is betting on? I also wanted to ask the Prime Minister, where does Finland stand?

And on the other hand, President, the leader of the opposition has called you to talk about this crisis in Ukraine. Why wasn't this call the other way round? In this type of crisis, isn't it usually the president's initiative to call the head of the opposition? And by the way, he is going to appear in Congress as the opposition is asking him to do.

Thank you.

President- Thank you very much for your questions Carina.

With regard to the first, I think it is very important to stress that what we are seeing so far is absolute, resounding and clear unity among the member countries of the European Union and also within the Atlantic Alliance with the other allied countries. I would therefore simply allow myself to qualify that first premise. I believe that the most important thing right now, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs said yesterday in the Lower House of Parliament and which all the member countries have reiterated, is the absolute and total unity of all the member countries, both within the European Union and within the transatlantic alliance in the response to this serious crisis, which in reality is a crisis that has one nature, one essential basic cause, which I believe connects with most of the feelings of our society, and that is respect for international law, respect for the territorial integrity of a country such as Ukraine, in this case, respect for national sovereignty. And that has to be seen to be guaranteed. It has to be seen to be guaranteed even when we are talking about the presence of significant numbers of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

The Prime Minister will also remember that we recently had the opportunity to meet with the European Union's Eastern Partnership, and I had the opportunity to speak with President Zelenski, where I naturally conveyed to him the Government of Spain's commitment, solidarity and support for Ukraine's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is what is being called into question, and therefore, what is being called into question is respect for international law and international legality. And from there, that is our objective within the European Union and also within the Atlantic Alliance, respect for international legality.

What does this mean? Well, we are going to use instruments such as those that have been highlighted and which you yourself have mentioned: unity within the European Union, unity within the transatlantic alliance, the time for diplomacy, the time for dialogue, the time for de-escalation and also the time for unity in deterrence. As the Prime Minister of Finland rightly said, it is important to convey that if what nobody wants to happen happens, there will obviously be major sanctions against the government and Russia. And I think it is also important to pass this on.

Therefore, from this point of view, I believe that, on the contrary, I believe that we are all on the same line of de-escalation, dialogue, diplomacy and unity in deterrence. And, above all and fundamentally, in a world in which we want peace, international legality must be respected in order to guarantee that peace. I think we can all agree on that, and I think it is also the feeling of European society as a whole.

From that point onwards, the leader of the opposition and I have had the opportunity to speak throughout this morning. I must remind you that the Minister for Foreign Affairs held a meeting with the parliamentary groups last Friday, where he stated and shared the current state of the crisis and, logically, the position of the Government of Spain, which is the one I explained earlier.

In this regard, I would like to say that I have thanked all the parliamentary groups and also the People's Party for their support for the Government of Spain in this crisis. I think it is important that the government and Spanish politics also give this message of unity, this message of unity that we are giving.

And also, logically, I have also included two other aspects that seem to me to be relevant. And one of them is to ask the main opposition party, after the responses given by the European Commission to the European funds, to cease and rectify its position, because I believe that it is not good for Spain if even the image of the main opposition party is damaged in the eyes of the European institutions, which is what is happening, and I believe that this is something that can be avoided.

And, secondly, in view of the forthcoming vote on an important reform agreed between the social partners and the government, such as the labour reform, if it does not want to vote in favour, it should at least facilitate the validation of this important agreement for companies and workers in our country.

And finally, with regard to the addresses, I would like to say that, well, this is obviously a government that appears and is accountable before the Lower House of Parliament. The Minister for Foreign Affairs did so yesterday and, obviously, as the crisis progresses, which we hope will be for the better, I will of course be open to addressing the Lower House of Parliament when appropriate.

I believe that right now we are at a time when what is important is dialogue, diplomacy, de-escalation, deterrence and, above all and above all, the unity of the Member States of the Union and of Europe with NATO.

Prime Minister of Finland: Thank you very much for the question. The truth is that I share President Sánchez's view. I think it is very important that we show our support and solidarity with Ukraine in the current situation and we have to send a clear and unequivocal message as the European Union that if Russia continues its aggression it will have massive and serious consequences and it is also very important that we all work with our allies, the United States, NATO, and of course the Member States of the European Union. We have to stand united on this issue, that is the most important thing, and that is Finland's position, that we are united on this issue and that we make it clear that there will be consequences if Russia goes ahead with these messages of aggression towards Ukraine.

Q.- [Diego Urdaneta, France Press].

[First question to the Prime Minister of Finland].

[Question for the Spanish Prime Minister] With the sending of warships, the NATO summit that is going to take place here in June, Spain is taking a more frontline position on these issues. Doesn't your government fear reprisals from Russia? I am thinking in terms of hybrid warfare, cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns as there have been in the past.

Thank you.

Prime Minister of Finland: Regarding the first question, the truth is that it is not for me to say what Ukraine should do, that is its decision and we have to respect its decisions and its sovereignty, and that is why we have to express our solidarity with Ukraine and with the citizens of Ukraine in this situation. Finland is not a member of NATO, but we are a NATO partner and we have the possibility, if we wish, to apply to become a full member of NATO, but it is our decision and not Russia's or anyone else's, and they cannot dictate what we will decide. And in the case of Ukraine, the same applies, their right to decide on their future must also be respected.

President- Thank you for your question. With regard to the sending of ships, it was a decision we took in December. This always goes through the Council of Ministers.

What we have done, at NATO's request, has been to bring forward, to bring forward by a few days the deployment of some units that we had already planned before in December, before this crisis arose as it is arising right now. And we do so because we are a reliable partner, because we are an ally.

In fact, I imagine you know, but Spain has had troops and units deployed in the Baltic countries for years, and I believe that this, if it demonstrates anything, is precisely that the security of the borders of the Baltic countries, as may also be the case with Ukraine, is a security issue for the European Union as a whole and therefore it is not a question of distances in kilometres, but on the contrary, of solidarity between allied countries to protect our borders and guarantee security and respect for what I said earlier in the speech, respect for international law and the territorial integrity of nations.

So I think I have answered your first question and with regard to the second question. I think the important thing is not so much what the answer is. As I said before, we are now in the field of diplomacy, dialogue, de-escalation and deterrence, and Spain, together with the other Member States of the Union and of the Atlantic Alliance, will obviously be showing solidarity and, in short, we will be committed to the countries that are currently suffering this threat first-hand.

Remember, we focus a lot on Ukraine, but there are also manoeuvres taking place on the Belarusian front and this is also affecting the border of countries already in the European Union, such as the Baltic countries and others.

Q.- [Carmen Mariño, Servimedia 1].

Good afternoon. I will start with the prime minister. From your strategic position and your relationship with Russia, how far do you think Vladimir Putin can go in this situation? Do you think it is even possible to talk about invasion? And after your words, which you have spoken about NATO, do you think that this situation can accelerate your rapprochement with the Atlantic Alliance? And a small note on the EU tax rules you mentioned, do you agree or disagree as a social democrat on relaxing tax rules a bit at the European level? Thank you very much.

And for President Sánchez, you have emphasised the need for unity in the face of the crisis and so on, but we are listening to statements by the minister, Ione Belarra, who speaks of fussiness, or the criticisms from Unidos Podemos of the Minister for Defence.

Have you taken any action within the executive? Do you share these words? Are there disagreements in the Government? Is there only one voice? What is the Government's real position and what does it convey to citizens about this situation? If there is concern that it could spiral into war.

And allow me to ask a domestic question, because yesterday we were told that negotiations could not take place outside the labour reform, I mean negotiations in the field of labour, of the labour market, but we are seeing how the second vice-president, even from Unidas Podemos, is saying that she is negotiating with other parties on labour issues. Has the Minister for Labour been authorised to conclude labour market agreements outside the agreed labour reform?

Thank you.

Prime Minister of Finland: Thank you very much for the question. I am not really going to speculate here on what Russia will or will not do. I think it is essential that we find a diplomatic way to de-escalate the situation, I think that is what is essential, and as I said before, it is also very important that the EU stands united and expresses its solidarity with Ukraine with as united a stance as possible.

As for NATO, as I said earlier, Finland has the possibility to apply for full NATO membership, but this is not being discussed at the moment. It would require a majority in the Finnish Parliament, and also a majority of Finnish citizens, and that is not the situation right now, although there is the possibility of applying for NATO membership in the future and it is important that this possibility is kept open and is ours and that nobody can tell us what to do, that it is our own sovereign decision, because that is something we value very much and that we want to keep in Finland.

As far as tax rules are concerned, I think it is important to discuss the issue, as I said, it is important to make the necessary investments for the green transition, for digitalisation, to make sure that the EU is competitive in the future, and I think this is one of the components of that debate. But there are also many other issues where we have different positions within the Member States and it is still too early to reach agreements. There are some areas where our position can be very critical, but we are, of course, always ready to continue the debate and to be very constructive in the debate on the future of the EU, although there are very many issues where we have a very critical position and one of them is the Social Fund, which we do not think is necessary and we would be against it and that is a very clear position on the Finnish side.

President- Many thanks [inaudible] for your question.

Indeed, we are living through a very difficult, very complex and very critical time, as the High Representative of the European Union said on Cadena Ser a few hours ago. We are living through a very difficult, very critical moment in our relations as the European Union and also as NATO with Russia.

This is so. Having deployed more than 100,000 military troops in Russia on the borders with Ukraine clearly sends a message of questioning the territorial integrity of a third country, a sovereign country, and therefore calls into question something that seems fundamental to me and which I believe is in line with the feelings of the social majority in our country, which is respect for international legality and therefore, the government's position, which is, in short, the position of practically all the parliamentary groups yesterday, which we saw in Congress with the minister's address, and I also believe that of Spanish society as a whole, is that despite the concern that is logically conveyed through the media and which we all have about the situation, we have to guarantee this, respect for international legality. And the mechanisms, the channels that we are putting in place together, from the perspective of unity that I referred to earlier, are deterrence, which is important, that is to say, to convey to Russia that in the event of a possible military intervention, it will have massive and extremely serious consequences for its economy in terms of sanctions by the European Union. You know that at last Monday's Foreign Affairs Council, ministers began to work together in this direction in order to prepare this response with sanctions. And, obviously, along with this unity in deterrence, unity in dialogue, in diplomacy and therefore, in the hope that there will be an escalation of all this tension that logically has us all busy.

And in relation to the labour reform, I would first like to take a step back, because I believe that this government is doing things that other governments did not do and that we are demonstrating, therefore, that we can get out of these crises, of the crises, in different ways. You can go forwards or backwards in social and labour rights, and I believe that this government, unlike what happened in the past, in 2012 and 2013, when counter-reforms were imposed in the field of labour and pensions, which were met with strikes and massive demonstrations by workers and pensioners, we have spent years seeing pensioners demonstrating in the streets of our country against the counter-reform that was proposed by a previous government. The government is doing its homework and the government's duty is to rebuild the consensuses that were broken in the early 2010s in the area of labour, in the area of pensions. We have reached an important agreement on labour and we have also reached an important agreement on pensions. Trade unions, employers and government. That is the job, the task of the Executive Branch. That is what we have done.

And now, with all due respect for the autonomy and competences of the Legislative Branch, we in the Executive Branch say to the Legislative Branch that this important, necessary and good reform in the labour sphere is valid.

The Government of Spain does not envisage any other position than to validate this social agreement in the labour field and we would also like it to have the support of the largest number of parliamentary groups. That is why I have asked the main opposition party, if it does not agree, to at least allow the validation of this important agreement because, among other things, it is not an agreement between the government alone, it is an agreement between employers, trade unions and also between the Government of Spain.

Therefore, the Government of Spain, the Executive, is doing its job, it has undertaken its duty, which is to rebuild these broken consensuses on pensions, on the labour market, and now we ask the Legislative Branch, with all due respect, to validate this important agreement.

From there, negotiations with the different parliamentary groups are underway and, as the spokesperson said yesterday at the Council of Ministers press conference and as I repeat again today, we do not envisage any other scenario than the validation of this important agreement.

Thank you very much.

Prime Minister of Finland: Sorry I didn't reply to this earlier. Obviously it is interlinked, the investments we need and the tax rules and of course the Social Fund is part of the "Fit for 55" proposals (the interpreter says "Fit for 50") but there is also a connection when you talk about the investments we need for the future, so I wanted to answer about both.

President.- Thank you to all the media for attending.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish and English

Non official translation