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16. January 2019
Future of Europe 15 - President of the Spanish Government Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón
This is the written version of Manfred Weber's speech at the future of Europe debate in the European Parliament. President of the Spanish Government Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón was present and talked about the importance of bringing Europe back to the people.
You can also follow Weber's speech recording here.
Dear Prime Minister,
Mr President, welcome.
Your presence is a great way to kick-off for the year 2019. As a person, as a politician and as a leader, you are a committed and clearly pro-European Prime Minister. And your country is clearly pro-European. That is why it is great to have you here. For Spain, Europe has meant peace, stability and prosperity for more than four decades. For Europe, Spain means strength, fresh ideas and leadership. It is great to have you here also because 2019 is the year when we will celebrate democracy in the European Union: The European elections will give the people a say over the future of Europe.
I wish to thank you for your commitment to the so-called lead candidate process. Your support to Frans Timmermans in your capacity as a Socialist party leader gives us a clear indication that you believe in the democratic future of Europe and we have to keep this idea alive after the elections too.
When we discuss the future of Europe, we have to speak about extremism and nationalism: The founding fathers of the European dream were Christian Democrats, Liberals and also colleagues of your political colour: Socialists and Social Democrats. We are on the same boat when it comes to our love for Europe. And this is why the anti-Europeans and demagogues are attacking us: Our common love for Europe stands for everything that they hate. So yes, the extreme right is a danger for all of us - there is no doubt about this. But please let me stress that extremists have no colour: Mr President, you are a committed pro-European, but your government could not exist without the support of the extreme left and the pro-separatists in the Spanish Parliament. We are worried about this.
We believe the best answer to populism is to create stability by delivering good results as politicians. Frans Timmermans praised the very good development of the Spanish economy during the last few years following the economic crisis. In this regard, please allow me also to remind everybody that it was because of the efforts of Mariano Rajoyʼs Government and Partido Popular that the conditions for economic success in Spain were created.
Nevertheless, you are considering backtracking on Mariano Rajoyʼs labour market reforms. We believe this would send the wrong signal. To create opportunities for the future, to create good economic perspectives means to be ready for reforms. A real social Europe means creating jobs and increasing people’s income. Therefore, please do not follow the populists: keep the reforms in place that have allowed Spain to grow again.
I also wish to underline that we have the utmost respect for your Government, even if we do not share the same political values and ideas. However, we are concerned about the political stability of Spain. So far, you have been unable to secure a constructive and stable majority in your Parliament for the 2019 budget. Mr President, you represent one of the biggest economies of the European Union and of the Eurozone. Leaving such a big economy without a stable budget would mean less stability and more uncertainty not only for Spain but for the whole European continent. And your cooperation with the extreme left and the pro-separatists in the Spanish Parliament only increases this feeling of uncertainty throughout Europe when it comes to Spain.
Finally, I wish to mention the issue of migration, which you already touched upon. We, as EPP Group, have a clear picture with clear priorities.
First, we care: we demand a true Marshall Plan for Africa, along with a strong and ambitious resettlement programme. We help the most vulnerable refugees from the terrible war in Syria. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: illegal migration has to be stopped and our external borders have to be secured. We have to destroy the inhuman business model of the smugglers and human traffickers and - following a fair procedure - send illegal migrants back home. Your government holds a special responsibility in this regard: illegal crossings to Spain have doubled for the second consecutive year to over 65 000 people in 2018.
I very often hear the argument that it would be difficult to protect a border. During the summer break last year, I could convince myself of the opposite: I went on the other side of the continent, to the Bulgarian-Turkish border, where Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his authorities installed a 5 metre-high fence over a length of more than 180 kilometres. As a consequence, last year only 1.800 illegal crossings were registered at the Bulgarian-Turkish border: that is 36 times less than in Spain.
The Bulgarian example shows that if there is a political will, then it is possible to protect the border and stop illegal crossings, for example with a fence, such as in Ceuta and Melilla. We must find common solutions to one of the main European challenges: therefore, we count on Spain to effectively protect the border against illegal migrants. This will be the best way to fight right-wing extremism in Spain and in the whole of Europe.
But another dangerous form of extremism is nationalism. The old ghost of nationalism is alive again, and it has a concrete name in Spain: It is the Catalan question. We, as EPP, stand behind the Constitution of Spain. We stand behind the territorial integrity of Spain and we stand behind the Spanish Government in preserving the unity of Spain.
Europe is built upon the rule of law and Spain is built upon the rule of law. We stood beside the Government of Mariano Rajoy and we would do the same for you if you needed us. We must fight together against the nationalists of this continent. Together we can guarantee that nationalists will never decide about the future of Europe.
Once again, thank you very much for your presence. We have a lot to do ahead of us. My Group and I thank you for your clear determination in supporting the European path of Spain. The EPP Group has a clear direction: no more fears, but hope; no more egoism, but solidarity; no more nationalism, but a common European future. Thank you for your contribution.