At the investiture session, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for the parliamentary groups to search for a “shared and stable solution” to the main national challenges and offered a “reliable and predictable” government. Rajoy also expressed his interest in “seeking formulas to better accommodate the necessary inter-regional solidarity”, within respect for legality, the unity of Spain and national sovereignty.
In the opening speech of the investiture debate, the acting Prime Minister of the Government and candidate to the PM proposed by the King, Mariano Rajoy, requested the confidence of the Lower House because “Spain urgently needs a government”. Political uncertainty and institutional paralysis have become a major risk for the Spanish economy, he said.
Rajoy recalled that Spain remains the country to enjoy the fastest rate of growth among the leading developed economies and that, thanks to the approval in the autumn of 2015 of the General State Budget, it has been possible to maintain benefits, subsidies, investments and allowances.
Rajoy also pointed out that the caretaker government obtained a fiscal consolidation path from the European Commission that is more compatible with growth and, following a “frank understanding” with the regional governments and parliamentary groups, it has been agreed that the regional governments and local authorities can update their deficit targets and debt ceilings.
“During these months with a limited government, we have been able to observe that Spain is a mature democracy, capable of continuing its course, provided that the responsibilities of governing are attended to in advance, as has been the case here”, he pointed out. Mariano Rajoy also argued that we might go off course if “the cornerstone of our prosperity: confidence” fails, and hence it is necessary for Spain to have a government that clears away “every last shred of uncertainty”.
Avoid third round of elections
For Rajoy, it is “reasonable” for the political formation that has the greatest support from citizens to govern, above all when its lead over the second largest force is more than 2.5 million votes.
Rajoy also highlighted that, in the two months since the last vote of confidence, “certain very important changes have taken place that improve the political situation and open up the possibility of this debate ending differently to the previous one”.
Finally, Rajoy argued that his candidature responds to MPs finding themselves facing a dilemma of choosing between offering the Spanish people a government or asking them to return to the ballot box for the third time in less than a year. These elections would mean “discrediting” Spain’s image, in his opinion, which would be a “let-down” for our citizens and “seriously weaken” our economy.
Reliable and predictable government
The PM candidate underlined that since the general elections were held on 20 December, he has always advocated the need for a “stable government, capable of governing and of inspiring confidence”, one that is “reliable and predictable”. Taking into account the election results, he added, this government must also be founded on agreements that allow the implementation of the major reforms which the country needs.
In this regard, Mariano Rajoy described the commitments made with other political formations before and after the elections of 26 June as “steps in the right direction”. “I am aware of the importance of these agreements, it is my intention to maintain them and uphold them, have no doubts about that”, he declared.
Employment and the Welfare State
In the presentation of his government’s program, Rajoy highlighted that it contains two “basic” and “inseparable” goals: job creation and maintaining the pillars of the Welfare State.
Mariano Rajoy recalled that, at the end of 2011, 1,400 jobs were being shed on a daily basis, while at present more than 1,400 people are finding a job each day, but he claimed that “there remain too many people in Spain looking for a job opportunity”. Employment must also be our top priority because those who work pay the National Insurance quotas and taxes that maintain social expenditure, which makes up 63% of all public spending.
Main national goals
Rajoy advocated understanding on “the main State affairs” and to search for “a shared and stable solution” to the main challenges, the first of which is sustaining pensions, the guarantee of which “particularly depends” on achieving the goal of ensuring 20 million people in work by the year 2020. He announced that if he receives the vote of confidence of the Lower House, he will ask the parliamentary groups to call the Toledo Pact before the end of the year.
The candidate also proposed to give a new boost to social dialogue by immediately calling on the social stakeholders to “tackle new measures” that strengthen the creation of quality jobs and provide aid to the long-term unemployed, among other issues.
Rajoy added that the next legislature will also offer the opportunity of definitively achieving a “national education pact” with the aim of creating a stable model that guarantees equal opportunities and stresses efficacy and quality. Mariano Rajoy undertook to propose the creation of a parliamentary sub-committee in the first month of office “that allows a consensual agreement to be drawn up within six months” and that also includes “the consensus and collaboration of the education community”.
The statute on teaching staff, the reform of the governance system of universities, a program to combat the school drop-out rate and boosting vocational training are all features of this pact, he specified.
Another of the main challenges, he argued, is to agree on “a system of stable and sufficient regional financing”, that guarantees the quality of public services under conditions of equality for all citizens, since “education, healthcare, long-term care and other social services provided by the regional governments are, together with pensions, the foundations of our social policy”. In this regard, he announced that his government “will immediately tackle the preparatory work to call a Conference of Regional Presidents in the Upper House”.
Mariano Rajoy pointed out that “the commitment to cleaning up public life and the smooth functioning of our institutions” affects all political groups. He also stated that “there is no impunity in Spain for corruption”, and stressed that he has also been open to “promoting as many reforms as are necessary to boost the confidence of our citizens in politics and help make politics an activity that is increasingly transparent and exemplary”.
On this point, he referred to the raft of measures on the issue of the fight against corruption agreed with Ciudadanos in the month of August and offered the rest of the groups the opportunity to “enrich this agreement through their contributions”.
Dialogue and cooperation with Catalonia
Rajoy underlined that “the most serious challenge facing Spain” is the breakaway attempt that some are proposing in Catalonia. In this regard, he reiterated that “the only sovereign people are those made up of all the people of Spain” and that “no-one can deprive the Spanish people of their exclusive right to decide on their own future and on their own land”.
Moreover, he stressed that if he obtains the confidence of the Lower House, he will defend “national sovereignty and thereby defend the unity of Spain and the equality of the Spanish people, alongside respect for the law and fundamental rights”. “I will meet this obligation and I will do so by seeking, at all times, understanding between the groups that share the defence of the principles enshrined in the Constitution”, he added.
Rajoy underlined that he has always maintained and continues to maintain his interest in dialogue and cooperation with the Regional Government of Catalonia. “I have tried to offer a response to the real needs of the Catalan people because whatever affects them, affects me and is important to me”. He also stressed his interest in “looking for formulas that better provide for the necessary solidarity between regions”.
Rajoy called for an agreement between the different parliamentary groups in order to complete the approval of the General State Budget for 2017. To that end, in the next few days he will submit the budget stability and public debt targets to both Houses of Parliament, as well as the ceiling on non-financial State spending.
In his opinion, budget stability “must remian a commitment respected by the government and not ignored by Parliament”
Shared responsibility and dialogue
Rajoy highlighted that any draft law, reform or project that is debated in Parliament “must be the result of a prior agreement, of negotiations, of give-and-take and understanding”. “We must take on the need for dialogue, not as a hurdle, but rather as an opportunity to consolidate broad and lasting reforms and leave to one side the slogans of the electoral battle to move towards designing solutions to the problems of our compatriots”, he argued.
Rajoy requested the collaboration of other formations to ensure a government that inspires confidence, is reliable and that can take decision at the speed demanded by the circumstances. “If the government is in a minority and by itself lacks the strength or stability that Spain needs, then it must look for collaboration to achieve this”.
This support, he specified, does no “mean forcing anyone’s hand, or that anyone has to renounce their own principles”, but rather that “the exceptional nature of the circumstances requires that all ideological confrontations be put to one side and that everybody pulls together”.
“I have taken on the idea that we must build a majority on each issue in order to govern. To that end, we need a government that is open to dialogue. That is what I can offer. I am prepared to negotiate whatever is necessary to take decisions. I will do whatever is in my hands so that we can work together for the good of the Spanish people”, he concluded.