Speech by the President of the Government of Spain at the 10th anniversary of 'elDiario.es'


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Thank you. Thank you very much, Valencia. Thank you to the director of ElDiario.es, Ignacio Escolar. Thank you also to the president of ElDiario.es, José San Clemente. And of course, thank you to Ximo, the president of the Regional Government of Catalonia, to the mayor for his hospitality, to the deputy mayoress, to the president of the District Council, authorities, friends and friends.

That amid this complex situation we are living in, we are celebrating the fact that a digital medium has reached its tenth anniversary, is always a reason to celebrate. And that it does so with the vitality that ElDiario.es shows every day is a credit to you in my eyes, and especially to the professionals who make it possible.

And I would like my first words to be for them. To them: thank you for exercising journalism with soul, with independence, with a critical spirit. And thank you for showing everyday life from a humanist, social angle, committed to the great causes worth fighting for in our time.

Your first decade of life has been no ordinary decade. It has been a complex, difficult decade. Rarely in history, I think we can all agree, have there been so many changes, so many transformations and, why not say it, also many shocks and fatalities that we are still overcoming, such as the pandemic, in a short period of time. And ElDiario.es has been there, bearing witness to everything that has happened during this period.

And I would like to take the opportunity of this 10th anniversary to reflect on this decade, and to do so with a plea that should always look back to the not so distant past, which is still conditioning our present; to learn from the experience, and draw valuable conclusions and lessons that will help us to overcome the difficult times we are living through.

Look: I think one of the main lessons we can draw from this decade is that there may be crises, but the responses are diametrically different.

The one we saw ten years ago, based on individualism and lack of solidarity, in which the majority of people paid at to benefit a minority; or the one that we set in motion with the progressive coalition government, together with many other governments - including the coalition government here, in the Valencia Region - which is what we have done with Covid-19. And now also with the economic consequences of Putin's war in Ukraine, in which Spain and Europe have acted with determination, with unity, with solidarity and with social sensitivity; protecting families, companies, the middle class, the working class and those people who are most vulnerable as a result of these crises.

One response, based on neoliberal dogmatism in the face of the financial crisis we suffered at the beginning of the 2010s; and another, of clear progressive and, if I may say so, also social democratic inspiration, to face first a pandemic and then the economic consequences of Putin's war.

I believe that looking back a decade from the present offers valuable lessons not only in words, but also in data, in facts. If, after the financial crisis, it took our country a decade to recover what others had achieved in three; in the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has taken us just two years to reach the levels we saw in March 2020.

Today, Spain has more workers paying Social Security contributions than before the pandemic, with a significantly higher volume of permanent contracts, and 50,000 more self-employed workers registered with the RETA than before the pandemic. In 2012, a three point fall in Gross Domestic Product as a result of the financial crisis destroyed more than half a million jobs - or, 3% of all jobs. In 2020, with a ten point decline in Gross Domestic Product resulting from restrictions we had to put in place, employment only fell by one and a half points at the worst moment of the crisis - and today, we have already reached pre-pandemic employment levels.

In the face of this evidence, therefore, it is inevitable to ask - how much of the pain caused by the response to the financial crisis could have been avoided, with policies other than those applied at the time? How many jobs could have been saved? How many companies? How many young people would not have had to look abroad for what their country could not give them then? How many families would have been able to provide decent care for their dependents, had they not suffered the brutality of the welfare state cuts we suffered during the 2010s?

And in the answers to these questions - which are legitimate and timely, now that we are seeing all of these downward fiscal challenges - we must remember that the important thing is to preserve and strengthen the welfare state, which is what binds societies together from a social and territorial point of view. And undoubtedly, what it also does is defend us against disease, against adversities such as the pandemic that we have suffered since 2020.

I think the paradigm of social democracy regarding neoliberal orthodoxy in 2012 is the main lesson we can draw from how the financial crisis has been managed, how the pandemic crisis is being managed and also Putin's crisis in Ukraine.

And to those who want to buy the story that, well, that in 2012 the winds of austerity were blowing against Spain's interests in Europe, and therefore there was little any government could do, including the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy at the time, I would like to discuss with all of you a date: 26 March 2020. Two weeks after the start of lockdown in Spain.

On that day, we were holding an important European Council Summit - which we had to do by videoconference, as we could not travel to Brussels - there were significant differences between all European governments on how to deal with the economic and social response to the pandemic. Some countries sought to reissue conditionality schemes for any kind of aid, in terms that were very similar to those applied in 2012 with the bank bailout in Spain: pension cuts, cuts in labour rights.

And on that day I addressed the other European leaders on these terms, which I would like to share with you. What I said to them is that there is a unified, powerful and effective response today, or the impact of this crisis will be harsher and more prolonged. I went on to tell them that we cannot make the same mistakes that we made during the financial crisis, because those mistakes sowed the seeds of disaffection and division in our societies and also towards the European project.

What do I mean by this? So we fought, we put up a fight. Much as we have done subsequently to achieve something that seemed impossible, such as intervention with the Iberian mechanism for Portugal and Spain to protect the middle and working classes, to protect many industries here in the Valencian Community. I am thinking for example of ceramics - we fought the battle, and we are now also fighting for reform of the electricity market that will allow us to contain electricity and gas prices.

We are also fighting for European funds, that are a great opportunity for all territories and Spain to be able to modernise and face colossal challenges - such as, for example, the fight against, and adaptation to, climate change.

We do not give up. We will not give up until we have overcome resistance and forged a forceful and united response, a response that we can finally feel proud of, which is that Europe is also protecting its citizens in the face of this adversity.

I believe that it is fundamental to recover the credibility of the European project where it declined the most a decade ago, among the citizens, by demonstrating that we are implementing policies to defend and protect the majority of people in Spain.

Look, today we have received a very important piece of information, which is an upward revision of GDP in our country in the second quarter of the year. I said in the State of the Nation debate that the forecast we had was 1.1% growth. Well, we are at 1.5% growth, which is higher than expected. And this encourages us. We are encouraged, because we believe that protecting the majority of people and making investments in order to modernise our economy - and make us more competitive than we were before this crisis - is the way to overcome complex situations such as that caused by Putin in Ukraine.

I believe that today, Spain and the European Union are facing very difficult, very complex crises, with a great deal of uncertainty. This time, against the backdrop of a war on Europe's doorstep. And the difference, as a result, is that now no one, or almost no one, is in any doubt about what the answer should be.

Where there was once a bank bailout, an extraordinary tax is now being proposed - not just from the initiative of a progressive coalition government, but also of liberal governments and even conservative governments in Europe - on the large corporations that are benefiting from this situation; financial institutions, due to the tightening of monetary policy, or large energy companies, as a consequence of the extraordinary profits they are making due to the rise in prices. Well, we are doing that. We are proposing a redistribution of tax towards those who have the most, so that they contribute to financing that which belongs to everyone, which is the welfare state.

Where there were once indiscriminate VAT increases, today there is an equitable distribution of burden, so that the working and middle classes aren't sacrificed again.

Where there was once lack of solidarity and North-South division - remember how they talked about Spain, Greece, Portugal and other countries during the financial crisis - today we have forged a joint response with the vaccine rollout that has succeeded in defeating the virus.

And where there were once amnesties and tax giveaways for the wealthiest, there will be tax reforms to ensure that those who have more, contribute more to public finances, in order to have a much stronger welfare state.

A decade ago we endured policies that caused much suffering for the middle and working classes of our country, and the vast majority of Spaniards refused to pay a sort of triple bill: the bill for brutal cuts in public services, the bank bailout and the tax amnesty for the big fraudsters; and, all in all, the unbearable corruption that you, dear President, obviously suffered very severely here and which is now a thing of the past.

In 2022, ten years after the launch of this elDiario.es adventure, the progressive coalition government has increased the minimum wage to 56% more than a decade ago.

Today we know, by the way, with deeds and not just words, that it is possible to create stable employment and break the chain of temporary employment; that it is possible to protect the self-employed and ensure that pensioners do not lose purchasing power. And today we know that the shortest route between two points is always agreement and not imposition, as happened in 2012 with a regressive labour reform. And this government has demonstrated this not once, but 15 times in these two and a half years of legislature, reaching agreements with employers and trade unions.

Look: between the beginning and the end of this decade in which you were born - dear Nacho, dear friends, elDiario.es - there is a gulf as wide as the response to the challenges of a country that no longer wants to have to choose between protection and progress. Such a dilemma has never existed for a government that keeps its eyes on the horizon. We do not look for excuses to postpone our duties. You are well aware of the advances, for example, in the ecological transition here in the Valencian Community.

Because of the war in Ukraine, there are other political movements not only outside Spain, but also inside Spain, that tell us that gender equality and ecological transition are very interesting debates - but during difficult situations, we are going to leave these things aside, because they are only for affluent societies, and for societies that are growing. No: I believe that it is important to affirm and redouble all efforts on the ecological transition, and to align our response to the energy crisis to the major challenge we have, which is the climate emergency.

We are not postponing social gains because the fight against inflation monopolises public debate, as is only logical. We are going to continue to make progress on rights such as those achieved, for example, with the law on euthanasia, with reproductive freedom, with the law on child protection; while obviously combating price rises with a package of benefits that is unprecedented in the history of Spain.

We did not let territorial disputes fester, as they did for much of the past decade. We continue to promote an agenda of dialogue, of reunion, to heal wounds and rebuild coexistence in Catalonia. Let us remember that in 2017, our country suffered an attempt at rupture, at unilateral secession; and today, on the other hand, I believe that together we are helping to restore coexistence and, therefore, to truly guarantee the unity of Spain. But doing so through dialogue, not impositions; and through reunion, not confrontation.

And today, thanks also to European funds and all the reforms we are carrying out, the Spanish economy has much more solid principles and underpinnings than it did a decade ago for tackling the crises we are experiencing. And Spain returns to the heart of the European Union, from which it was absent for many, many years.

So, my friends, we are faced with great uncertainties, arising from a conflict with an uncertain outcome. And we do so with the awareness that we are on the right side of history, because sooner rather than later, we will bend the inflation curve, just as we bent the pandemic curve. And when peace returns to Ukraine and to Europe, we will have a country that has been able to prepare and take advantage of this period. A country that will be more competitive for having promoted dignity: the dignity of work; the dignity of our students when it comes to accessing quality public education; the dignity of our territories, which deserve all our support to be able to develop; the dignity of our research and scientific staff, who have helped us to have not one, but 40 Covid vaccines in less than a year and a half; and the dignity also of the cultural sector, a sector that is important for our country.

Quite the opposite of those who have always contended and continue to contend that in Spain, and in all its territories, it is only possible to compete by lowering salaries and cutting rights while giving tax gifts to the wealthiest minority; as we are unfortunately seeing, it will be the historians who in the end will have to write the definitive account of this decade.

But I would venture to say that in ten years' time, when we come together to celebrate two decades of ElDiario.es, we will look back and better understand the scale of the challenges we have faced as a society and the scope of the changes we are implementing. And we will do so, I believe, from a better country. A country that seized opportunity in the midst of the storm. A much more sustainable, more feminist and more cohesive Spain. A Spain that is a leader in energy transition and a world leader in rights and freedoms that today are being called into question; not in countries without democracies, but in established democracies such as the United States, and the questioning of a woman's right to decide when to be a mother and when not to be. In short, a Spain that will have demonstrated that there is no wealth more solid than that of shared well-being, nor greater progress than that of achieving justice and dignity, as well as higher growth rates.

So I wish a long life to ElDiario.es; congratulations to its workers, and it is a pleasure to be here with all of you in Valencia.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish

Non official translation