Press conference by the President of the Government of Spain on the occasion of the opening of the General Debate at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly


  • x: opens new window
  • Whatsapp: opens new window
  • Linkedin: opens new window
  • Send: opens new window

New York


I am appearing before you from New York, where we are celebrating the opening of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This meeting comes at a momentous time for the Organisation in the wake of Russia's unjust and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine.

Putin's actions are a flagrant violation of the fundamental principles of international order enshrined in the UN Charter. Putin's actions and statements this week are totally unacceptable. This is yet another example of a headlong rush that we know is doomed to failure.

Spain condemns in the strongest terms the announcement of the holding of referendums on annexation in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson. Such fake referendums would constitute a further violation of international law by Putin if they were to be held.

Their outcomes will never be recognised. Neither by the international community, nor by Europe, nor, of course, by Spain. We will always support the freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity of a people under attack, in this case by a power such as Russia.

Following President Putin's statements, we are entering a different and more critical phase of the conflict, because the aggressor is realising that he is not fulfilling his objectives for the war. He is not winning the war. Now Putin, like all autocrats, is toughening his stance to hide his weakness. And so now, we need to remain united in defending the principles of the UN Charter and in supporting Ukraine.

Against this backdrop, discussions over the past few days have focused on how to address the challenges posed by Putin's invasion of Ukraine from a multilateral perspective.

I am referring to the energy and food crises, which are already affecting millions of people around the world. But also, to the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

All these issues have been the subject of debate throughout the week. I had the opportunity to speak with UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, as soon as I arrived in New York on Monday, as well as with other leaders with whom I have met over the past few days.

We have also organised our agenda around these issues. Firstly, the food crisis, which I believe has been the focus of debate over the days of the United Nations General Assembly, which is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity as a matter of urgency and which can only be tackled by combining the efforts of governments, multilateral organisations and institutions, as well as financial and civil society organisations.

That is why on Tuesday we convened, together with the President of the European Council, the Chairperson of the African Union and the US Administration, as well as Chancellor Scholz and Colombian President Petro, a Global Summit for Food Security with 18 Heads of State and Government from all regions across the world, as well as leaders of the United Nations, including its top representative, the Secretary-General.

At this event, I would like to recall the very important announcement we made that Spain will mobilise EUR 151.5 million in donations and another EUR 85 million in credits to face this crisis through specialised international organisations.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the meeting convened by the UN Secretary-General of the Global Response Group on the Energy, Financial and Food Crisis with the members of the G20. In it, I announced that Spain will contribute EUR 1.5 million so that this Group can fulfil all its functions, its mandate for this year and next year, and find effective solutions to these three challenges.

Spain was the first country in the world to sign a very important agreement to meet the needs of middle- and low-income countries, an agreement with the International Monetary Fund whereby we cede 20% of Spain's Special Drawing Rights to IMF instruments to fight poverty and promote sustainability.

And this has been widely recognised by all middle- and low-income countries, because we are the first and we are setting an example with deeds, not just words.

The purpose of this measure is to ensure that only the most vulnerable countries - including, I insist, middle-income countries, because they are countries in the Latin American and Caribbean area - can make use of these resources to tackle the food crisis.

Secondly, we must not forget, and I will also highlight this today in my speech to the United Nations General Assembly, that in many parts of the world, there are still very low vaccination rates against Covid-19 and are, therefore, still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

For this reason, I have placed special emphasis on global health issues.

In fact, I participated in a Global Fund Replenishment Conference to fight TB, malaria and AIDS chaired by the US President, where I announced that Spain will increase its contribution by 30% over the next three years, contributing a total of EUR 30 million.

We also announced that Spain will contribute EUR 15 million to the new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response.

The third issue that has marked our agenda from the Government of Spain's point of view has been the need to not forget what is important. Of course, we must address what is urgent, but we must not forget what is important, and that is that we have self-imposed objectives, set by the United Nations, which are the Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030. It is clear that the energy crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine has further highlighted the need to accelerate our ecological transition.

And the food crisis referred to in many of the speeches we have heard at the UN General Assembly is also closely linked to the effects of Climate Change, for example, land quality, desertification, loss of biodiversity, lack of water and droughts, as we are seeing in many parts of the world.

Spain remains committed to making ambitious progress on the commitments made and is working with the other Member States and international stakeholders to ensure that COP27 in Egypt is a success and a step forward once again.

In this context, I was invited yesterday to participate in the opening of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Goalkeepers event. I was also able to talk to the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, a very eloquent and powerful person, and the need to ensure accomplishment through increased funding to combat Climate Change and achieve the SDGs was raised.

We are particularly concerned, and, of course, this is the case for a government that defines itself as feminist and has a feminist foreign policy, about the gender gap in the face of the processes of regression that we are witnessing in many parts of the world, such as here, for example, in the US. Spain is a leading country when it comes to winning rights and defending real and effective equality between women and men. That is why, this afternoon, I will announce a contribution of EUR 100 million to organisations working on gender equality, including UN Women.

Another issue of great concern is that of radicalisation on social media and incitement to terrorism. You know that after the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, both Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and the President of the French Republic launched this appeal and we participated, together with the private sector, to continue to make progress on the need to control and remove any terrorist and violent extremist content from the internet.

I also had the opportunity to meet with the editorial board of the New York Times and, yesterday, we had a really moving event on the 50th anniversary of Chilean President Salvador Allende's speech to the United Nations General Assembly. I had the opportunity to meet President Boric personally. I think it was, as I said before, a very moving event, which if it reflected anything, was not only the inspiration that Allende still represents today for progressivism around the world, but the enormous emotional connection between Spain, Latin America and, above all, Chile. An extraordinary mutual resource with which we must continue to build partnerships.

As I said, these three issues - food security, global health and sustainable development - have shaped an intense agenda of events in which I have had the honour of participating and of bilateral meetings with various leaders: Turkey, Niger, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Incidentally, I would like to take this opportunity once again to convey the full solidarity of the Government of Spain and Spanish society as a whole in the face of the dramatic consequences of the floods we have seen in Pakistan.

In addition, as usual, I wanted to take advantage of my stay in New York to promote an economic agenda. I participated in the US-Spain Chamber of Commerce event in New York with a large representation of leading Spanish and US companies and, this morning, I met with a group of senior executives from investment funds and banks.

I think these meetings are very useful. They are useful, because they have allowed me to explain the country's economic situation, the outlook and, undoubtedly, also the ambitious programme of reforms and modernisation of the Spanish economy that we are tackling, and, above all, to tell you, as you have heard me say on many, many occasions, that the Government of Spain is committed to this roadmap. Of course, we are not going to use this energy crisis to take steps backwards, but on the contrary, to speed up the fulfilment of our green agenda.

Finally, this very morning, I had the opportunity to participate in the Presidium of the Socialist International, of which I am a Vice-President, where I announced my intention to present my candidature for the presidency of this important organisation.

I believe that it is more important than ever to have a progressive voice, a social democratic voice that provides multilateral responses to global challenges, which require the structuring of this progressive movement on a global scale.

As you know, the Congress of the Socialist International will take place in Madrid from 24 November this year, and I hope that I can count on the confidence of my comrades to be able to open this new stage. As you can imagine, I will not be using my car during this candidacy.

In short, these have been intense and fruitful days, in which Spain has sought to demonstrate its commitment to the most fundamental values of the Organisation and to the search for solutions to the great global challenges, and that Spain is on the side of those who build bridges and facilitate consensus in order to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable future in such a difficult international context as the one we are experiencing.

It is important that our allies know that Spain will be on the side of progress and against those who defend the opposite and want to return to the past, a past that was not better, because it was in the past. On the contrary, I believe that we have to move towards a much better future from the point of view of respecting the sustainability of the planet and also fighting for equality across the planet as a whole.

Thank you very much.

Agencia EFE - After the meeting of the Security Council it has become clear, I will not say the futility, but the ineffectiveness of the United Nations bodies in containing the crisis and liberating Ukraine. Are there any ideas that could be explored by international bodies, i.e. something more effective? And a more specific question. What is the Government of Spain's position on the current unrest in Iran over the death of a girl who was not wearing her hair correctly?

PS - Yes, I saw that you were on the social networks, and the truth is that I didn't have a chance, sorry about that. I cannot comment on this, because I do not know the details. We will announce our position on this at a later date. I cannot describe our position without knowing exactly what the issue entails.

In relation to the first question, I can tell you that this war has a quick solution, because the one who started the war was Putin, and the one who can end the war is Putin. And in this sense, I believe that the situation is extremely serious, because it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council who is violating the international order based on rules, and one of the fundamental principles of this international order is respect for territorial integrity, national sovereignty and the freedom of peoples to decide their own future, whether they want to be Europeans or not and, in short, everything that Putin's war has called into question.

I also believe that, after Putin's announcements during the days of the General Assembly, the conclusion today is that Europe is more united and Putin has been weakened.

Therefore, from these reasons and from this position, what would be important is to tell the Russian president to abandon this war, to end it, to leave Ukraine, to respect its territorial integrity and national sovereignty and, therefore, to restore what it has violated.

I think that the announcement that has been made to call illegal referendums is very serious, because, ultimately, an illegal invasion cannot be dealt with through illegal referendums, and I think that it is essential that the voice of the international community and, in particular, of the European countries is heard, that we are not going to recognise this masquerade. What he needs to do is to leave Ukraine and respect what he has violated since 24 February.

For the past two years, the Government of Spain has participated in an informal group sponsored by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, different leaders from different countries around the world in favour of effective multilateralism. I believe, and I have been listening to President Biden's proposals, in the need to reform the UN Security Council. I think it is clear that we need to reform the United Nations system. It would probably be good, given the state of the world, if we could articulate specific proposals step by step that would make our multilateral system more effective so as not to fall into frustration.

In any case, it is true that the National Council of the United Nations is fundamentally blocked by Russia, but it is also true that the international community has expressed its opposition to Putin's illegal and unjustified invasion through the General Assembly of the United Nations in a forceful and wide-ranging manner by many countries.

Cadena SER/ Inma Carretero - On the one hand, Mr President, I wanted to ask you about something that many citizens are probably also wondering about after Putin's latest moves: Are we really facing a greater nuclear threat than a week ago? Is this risk real? I understand that, this week, you have had the opportunity to speak with various leaders here in New York. On a national level, I would like to hear more about this tax on large fortunes. The Finance Minister has said it is temporary, while Podemos' partners say they want it to be permanent. I would like to know what it would apply to, what the government considers to be large fortunes and how they are going to approach it.

PS - In relation to the first question, it is clear that Putin has used every instrument, he is using gas, he is using oil, as a weapon of war. He has done so with disinformation and, now, he is doing it with energy. I therefore believe that it is important in our statements to appeal to prudence, not to contribute to a verbal escalation that could justify any unilateral action Putin might take in this or any other direction, but obviously, the concern is there after his words. This is a concern that should be recognised and alerted not only to European society as a whole but also to international society as a whole.

For many years, nuclear power has been based on treaties as a deterrent capability, not a real threat, which is what he meant to do with his statement.

In any case, it is important to say that we are in a new phase of the conflict, and it is clear that he is publicly acknowledging that he is not fulfilling his aims with this war and, therefore, I insist, I believe that what is important now is the unity of the international community as a whole, of Europe in solidarity with a people that is being attacked, referring to Ukraine.

With regard to the second question, you will be aware of the details of this tax proposal. I would like - because I have also seen the proposal that has been made in Andalusia and also Murcia - to see proficient taxation in our country, at such a difficult and complex time and where we are counting, by the way, on European solidarity. Over the next few years, we will contribute EUR 140 billion to modernise our country and change our economy for the better.

I believe that the reflection that society as a whole needs to make during this legislature - in which we have seen how important it is to have quality public healthcare, how important it is to have quality public education, where students have digital access and teachers have training in digital skills and abilities to be able to teach, and how important public investment is to face this climate challenge thanks to the energy transition - is to ask ourselves what kind of welfare state we want.

And I think the lesson we have to draw from all these challenges we are facing and we are overcoming, for example, like the pandemic, is that we need a strong welfare state. And what does this imply? That everyone has a duty to contribute according to his or her means to finance this welfare state. It is not only a duty, it is also a great opportunity for everyone, because society as a whole benefits when societies are more egalitarian, more cohesive.

Therefore, I believe that the debate is on what joint effort we make and what solidarity society as a whole has in order to have a welfare state that protects us from diseases, pandemics, that educates our children or that allows us to tackle major transformations in an inclusive manner, such as the digital or ecological transformations we are undergoing. And this is the approach. The Government of Spain has always understood that the main challenge facing our country is inequality.

And well, evoking the words of Olof Palme to a question put to him by President Reagan who said, "I have heard that you are against the rich"; he said, "You are wrong. Our goal is to reduce and end inequality, not wealth". This is the debate. The debate is how we make social justice possible in our country. And the equation is quite simple. Social justice will come hand in hand with tax justice. And that is good for everyone, for those who have the least, but also for those who have the most. Because we will all live in a much more cohesive society.

La Vanguardia/ Francesc Peivon - On building bridges and talking about fiscal issues, the President of Catalonia, who was also here in Washington yesterday, accused the PP, Mr Feijóo and Mr Moreno Bonilla, of acting with fiscal "catalanophobia". What do you think of the position that Andalusia has taken and how Catalonia has felt attacked for thinking that, well, Bonilla said that they were trying to attract Catalan companies.

PS - As I said before, the debate is on which welfare state we want. Do we want a weak welfare state that does not address the main challenge facing our society, which is inequality, social inequality, gender inequality and intergenerational inequality? Do we want a health system that protects us from disease and pandemics? Do we want an education system that educates our children on digitalisation in which they are immersed? Do we want quality vocational training? Do we want a quality national dependency system? Do we want a system of science that in the face of adversity can give us an answer, as we have right now with the Covid vaccine being developed in record time?

All this costs money. All this costs money, so the question is whether we all have a duty to contribute based on our means and resources. And from there, I believe that this is a collective effort of solidarity, which benefits the whole of Spanish society, irrespective of its income level. And, therefore, I believe that calling for fiscal co-responsibility at a time when the Government of Spain is making selective tax cuts - for example, VAT on gas, VAT on electricity, saving over EUR 12 billion for taxpayers - must also be compensated with a greater effort by those who have greater capacity.

I insist, social justice is equal to fiscal justice, and this is the path that the Government of Spain is working towards.

On the question you raise, I think that with the tax relief that some territories like Andalusia and Murcia have suddenly entered into, who really benefits? It benefits the most powerful territory due to the capital effect, which is Madrid. And all this downward tax competition, this downward tax reduction that is being proposed by territories, ultimately, it is Madrid that is benefiting.

No high net worth individual is going to move his or her tax residence from Madrid to another location. On the contrary, arguments are being given precisely to a territory which, because of the potential it has from the point of view of the capital effect, already justifies the attraction of this heritage.

I believe that these territories, Andalusia, Murcia and others, should compete in a different way, with their strengths, with their attributes, committing to quality public education, quality public health, committing to energy transition, making societies more cohesive. I think that is the way forward.

El País/ Carlos Elordi- We are already seeing some divisions in the European Union on Russia. Hungary is threatening a national consultation on sanctions, Greece and Cyprus are reluctant to support measures on crude oil, in Italy, let's see; things could change on Sunday when elections are held. I wanted to know over these recent days, when I have spoken to European leaders, whether European unity is really at risk and what the President of the Government of Spain is going to do to try to recover this unity.

On the question of the tax on large fortunes, I wanted to ask you a more fundamental question. Why now, President? Because we have talked a lot about the tax on large fortunes and, on many occasions, you yourself have told us that you did not see it and now you are going to do it. What is changing and could this harm the communities that have not removed the wealth tax, because there the rich are going to have this double taxation?

And finally, all week in Spain there has been an issue, which is what García-Page said about Fijo not being insolvent. What I wanted to ask you, more for the future, is whether you fear that, now that the elections are approaching, other barons will try to distance themselves from the government in some way.

PS - Thank you very much, Carlos, for your questions. Regarding the first, yes, I have been talking to different European leaders in bilateral meetings and also in telephone conversations. I do not perceive a division in Europe. On the contrary, I perceive a strength in the united response of all Member States to Putin's blackmail, solidarity with Ukraine and certainty that Putin is not achieving his goals, that he is not winning the war and that we, therefore, have to continue this solidarity towards Ukraine.

What is clear is that we are 27 Member States, but we have to sit around a table, talk, negotiate and come to an agreement. But, well, on many other occasions, there have been disagreements with economic sanctions packages and, in the end, we have sat around the table and come to an agreement.

From the point of view of European unity in the face of this aggression, I believe that it is resounding, and that it has been strengthened by Putin's words and the statements he has made.

With regard to the second question, it is clear that what you were saying, Carlos, and I would like to stress this to you, is that the economic context has changed. From the point of view of the Government of Spain, we are making selective reductions for a large part of the Spanish population, for the working middle class in our country, and selective reductions in VAT on electricity, in VAT on gas, for industry, for small and medium-sized enterprises. We are also proposing new taxation for extraordinary and temporary economic sectors that have emerged and are benefiting from this crisis, such as, for example, large energy companies or large financial institutions as a result of the tightening of monetary policy or the increase in prices.

The tax on large fortunes is not the same. It does not have the same cause, but it does have the same goal, the same objective, and that is to build greater tax justice in our country.

Because, especially now, we need a much fairer distribution of the economic and social consequences of this war. And, therefore, if we want to continue to have a strong welfare state that protects us in the face of adversity, whatever it may be, be it a pandemic, a health emergency or a crisis such as the one we are experiencing, we need everyone to contribute according to these resources.

And I insist, this is a joint effort of solidarity, because, ultimately, in addition to the duty we all have to make our welfare a much stronger welfare state, there is also a collective benefit for society as a whole, because we will be making our society a much more cohesive society.

And with regard to the last of the questions you asked me, I began my service in 1992, before the 1993 elections, which were won by Felipe González. I think that, after 30 years of militancy in the Socialist Party, I will tell you that I have rarely seen such unity as the Socialist Party has now.

TVE/ Almudena Guerrero - Good afternoon, Mr President. Firstly, on the war, I wanted to ask you whether Spain is considering sending more arms to Ukraine unilaterally, outside the framework of the European Union. Returning to the tax on large fortunes and taking up a question from a colleague, what do you think of your members' proposal to make this measure permanent? Whether this will be on the table in the future. And I also wanted to ask you about some statements made by the President of the Employers' Association who says that what you have said about the economic powers is a lie, that in Spain the person in charge is the one who has the (inaudible). Thank you.

PS - On the first question, we have never done this unilaterally. It has always been at the command, if I may say so, of NATO, the NATO command and, of course, also with the agreement of all the Member States and the High Representative, Borrell.

We have not and will not do so. We will always do this in coordination with the rest. We have already sent over 400 tonnes of material and military equipment to Ukraine. We are contributing EUR 200 million to the (inaudible), which is the one that finances Ukraine's arms procurement at the European level and, therefore, we are moving within those parameters.

And as to whether it is permanent or not, we are discussing it; this has not yet been decided. Let's give this debate some space. I think the debate is not so much whether it is permanent or not. The debate is now about tax justice to ensure social justice in a context of economic crisis. All the administrations have to be fiscally co-responsible; we cannot enter into a downward tax competition between territories.

(Inaudible) some of the territories are cutting taxes for 0.2% of their citizens with one hand and, with the other, they are asking for economic resources from Europe, from the General Spanish State Administration. This does not make much sense.

And finally, the most important thing, I insist, is that we are aware that the debate is about which welfare state we want. The Government of Spain is very clear about this. I will never forget the pandemic and the lessons we have to learn from it.

Nor will I forget how important it is that many private sectors are encouraged to embrace the energy transition, if the government is committed to such public investment as a driver for change and modernisation of these economic sectors. And these are economic resources. This costs money. And that money obviously comes out of the public coffers, and those who have the most must contribute the most. And above all at a time like this, when the General Spanish State Administration is obviously reducing major taxes, such as VAT on gas or VAT on electricity, so that our citizens can see some of this crazy price drift, which we are seeing throughout the global economy and, in particular, in Europe, cushioned.

And on the third question, I do not know what the President of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE) said. I will have to listen to the comments first before I can give my opinion. In any case, I have always thanked the social partners for all the agreements we have reached on this legislature and, therefore, there are some things with which I disagree, but I cannot take a position, because I have not heard the President of the CEOE's statements.

Antena 3/ José Ángel Abad.- Following your initiative to bring together 18 Heads of State and government at the summit on the food security crisis, what commitments can you say your government has achieved? And returning to the so-called "tax war", does Urkullu's proposal to reduce personal income tax in the Basque Country affect the relationship with the PNV?

PS - We will always advocate for the Basque Country and Navarre, which have a much greater fiscal autonomy than other territories. We will always respect our division of competence. But we do call for fiscal co-responsibility of all territories, because right now what is needed is security, certainty and protection, and all this is guaranteed by a strong rule of law and welfare.

In relation to your other question, I think the event we held on food security and on the food crisis was one of the most important events of this UN General Assembly, and several fundamental points were raised there. Firstly, that the response must be multilateral. The second point is that we have to coordinate all the scattered efforts currently being made by Europe, the United States and the UN Secretary-General himself. The third is to call for the doors to international trade not to be closed, and in this respect, there are some elements that we can improve from Europe in order to be able to guarantee the export of fertilisers and cereals and, ultimately, the commitments that we have made, which I announced in my first speech, and of which you are already aware.

Thank you very much.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish

Non official translation