Spain will welcome Ukrainian refugees, support sanctions against the Putin regime and provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine “as long as necessary”, Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain, told participants in a special address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.
“Our support is firm and unwavering because we know what is at stake: the territorial integrity of a sovereign country; the lives, dreams and well-being of its citizens; and the cause of international law, of liberal democracy and of Europe.”
Democracy and multilateralism may get messy, noisy and imperfect on occasion, he said, but they are the only road to peace and freedom in the long term. It was a historical mistake to believe that economic growth, interconnectedness, freedom of thought and speech, and human progress were predictable and inevitable.
“What we are witnessing is not just a reminder that history did not end three decades ago. We are witnessing the end of the age of naivety,” he said, “There is nothing inevitable about the rise of extremism and tyranny. On the contrary, there is a clear chance for the values of democracy, freedom and international law to continue to thrive.”
Sánchez warned that there was “no vaccine against climate change”. He said countries must not allow events such as the Ukraine war to derail their climate plans and pointed out that 57% of Spain’s installed energy capacity was renewable last year.
Europe has likewise responded with efforts at deepening the single market, diversifying supply chains and reducing dependencies on energy, critical technologies, raw materials, semiconductors and health products. “We are both becoming more resilient and accelerating our transition to a new economic and geopolitical reality – that of the post-fossil fuel era,” he said.
“The same logic guides the initiatives to strengthen European defence. We want to reduce our strategic dependencies and invest not just more, but better, in increasing our security and defence capabilities.”
Championing a renewed Social Agenda for the European Union, Sánchez highlighted Spain’s own reform agenda, which includes the provision of quality, stable employment and an end to precariousness and temporality. “With the previous law, only one in 10 new contracts were permanent. Today, there is one new permanent contract for every new temporary contract,” he said.
Spain’s job creation rate is at 5% year-on-year, and both youth and women’s unemployment rates are decreasing steadily. “And, for the first time in history, there are over 20 million employed people in our country,” he said.
As important as economic opportunity, he said, is the fight against tax avoidance and unfair tax practices, at home and abroad. “It means being brave enough to truly provide the opportunities that emerging economies desperately look for,” he said, “We should not be afraid to truly invest in the human development of these communities, going beyond the financing of infrastructure projects, crucial as they are. Long-term engagement and inclusivity are the best possible medicine against authoritarianism and nativism, both at home, among our citizens and elsewhere.”
In response to COVID-19 and the Ukraine war, Sánchez said Spain has worked on reducing its vulnerabilities and improving its strengths in health products, energy, raw materials, microelectronics and defence, and he praised the private sector for rallying towards this end. He added that employment is up, fiscal deficit down, exports and tourism doing well, and “we are containing the damage much better than other economies”.
Looking ahead to the NATO summit in Madrid in June, he said the issues topping the agenda would be unity between the European Union and its allies, the challenge on the eastern and southern flanks, and the entry of two new members, Finland and Sweden.