Spain’s Primie Minister Pedro Sánchez said in the Lower House of Parliament that the Executive is fulfilling its social commitments in matters such as the minimum wage, pensions and scholarships. In addition, he defended the need to tackle rising energy prices at both national and European levels.
In the Government control session in the Lower House of Parliament, Pedro Sánchez has assured that the Executive aims to reach 42.6 per cent compliance with the investiture agreement by the end of this year.
Among the commitments he is implementing, he highlighted the increase in the Minimum Wage (SMI), the revaluation of pensions in line with price increases, the reinforcement of scholarships – which reach 850,000 students – and the creation of the Minimum Basic Income, which already benefits 800,000 Spaniards.
In his reply to Pablo Casado, a member of the Popular Parliamentary Group, Sánchez said that political leaders must weigh up their interventions and avoid statements that are contrary to the interests of Spain and the Spanish people. “Spain is growing and creating jobs, we are at pre-pandemic employment levels, and Spain has a low risk premium,” he said.
Furthermore, in his reply, the head of the Executive advocated coexistence, respect for constitutional order and compliance with democratic legality in all its aspects, including that relating to the renewal of constitutional bodies.
Dual front on the cost of energy
With regard to the impact of energy costs, an issue raised by Aitor Esteban of the Basque Parliamentary Group (EAJ-PNV), Sánchez indicated that he shared the concern about the rise in prices on wholesale markets and its effect on the viability of industry. “In fact,” he pointed out, “if European funds are destined for anything, it is precisely to create employment and to reindustrialise our country in this energy transition that has to be fair”.
Among the initiatives undertaken by the Government in this area, Sánchez referred to the approval last December of the Intensive Electricity Consumer Statute, the compensatory aid for indirect CO2 emission costs and the tax measures being taken by the General State Administration, such as the reduction of VAT and the special tax on electricity and the suspension of the tax on the value of electricity production.
In addition, Sánchez reiterated that it is “social justice” that those energy companies that are charging significantly above their costs “pitch in and lend a hand so that this increase is not passed on in electricity bills”.
In the current circumstances,” Sánchez said, “it is essential to ensure the electricity prices agreed with industry before the gas price rise and to facilitate the signing of new bilateral electricity supply contracts at affordable prices, “and that is what the Government of Spain is working on with the electricity companies and with industry”. To underpin this objective, Sánchez has shown himself to be in favour of clarifying and specifying what is necessary in the urgent measures approved on 14 September to mitigate the impact of the rise in natural gas prices.
Sánchez argued that it is “key” to also act at the European Union level, as it is necessary to reform the European electricity market, improve Europe’s negotiating capacity with regard to those who produce and export natural gas and stop speculation in the CO2 emission markets.
Strong and full democracy
In his reply to Mertxe Aizpurua, a member of the Euskal Herria Bildu parliamentary group, Pedro Sánchez argued that the best way to decide the political, economic and social future of the country is through the General Courts, where “the popular will expressed at the ballot box is expressed with complete clarity”. To say otherwise, he added, is to feed the discourse of those who deny the legitimacy of democratic institutions.
Sánchez also stressed that Spain is a “solid” democracy, according to international benchmarks. Like any democratic system, he argued, it can improve its functioning, transparency and exemplariness, but the will of the Spanish people is already articulated in the parliamentary procedures, the amendments and initiatives presented by each group and in the votes in the plenary session of the Upper House of Parliament.
“Ultimately, this is a full democracy. And what we will not accept is dividing Spanish society or, in this case, Basque society on the basis of self-interested and binary referendums”, Sánchez said. This type of initiative, he explained, not only has no place in the Spanish Constitution, but represents “the worst thing we can do” at a time when EU integration is accelerating and it is essential to work towards unity and agreement, as has been demonstrated, for example, by the social partners.