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Palabras de Su Majestad el Rey en la 48ª reunión del Foro Económico Mundial

24.01.2018

Good morning every one.

It is truly a pleasure to be here in Davos and be part of this year’s WEF. And, indeed it is also a great honor to address all of you at a Forum that has set the standard for distinction and excellence. I appreciate very much your presence and time to hear a bit about today’s Spain in the European context.

Please allow for a reasonable dose of national pride and self-esteem, not chauvinism... So to cut straight to the main subject: How can we deny that Spain –no surprise– is a great country? My intention this morning is to reinforce this idea, and help brush away the remaining doubts you may still have. Therefore, I humbly ask for your indulgence in permitting me to praise my country.

So allow me to start by taking you on a tour of a few facts that might surprise you and may help in better understanding our reality. You are probably not yet aware that, according to the latest figures, more than 82 million people visited Spain in 2017, almost double its current population of 46 million; and also that a large part of them have already done so once or several times. Why? What really draws them to Spain? Is it just our beaches and our weather or the food that attract them? Well, all that too. Even football.

But it is also clear that many people visit us because of the quality and excellence of our tourism industry, which, incidentally, is now number one in the world. However, this powerful −and still thriving− Spanish industry is of course also built upon a set of privileged pre-existing qualities that visitors certainly also admire and enjoy: like our outstanding historical and artistic heritage, and not to mention the country’s natural and diverse beauty. We are proud to have the 3rd highest number of World Heritage Sites globally —46 to be exact, only behind Italy and China—, and to protect twice as much extension of natural reserves than the second ranked European country.

But on top of all that, we must admit there are other important things people tend to consider when deciding where to travel or visit…or even to invest: like security, and Spain is today one of the safest countries in the world, with one of the lowest crime rates; or the confidence they place in other public services like transport and communication infrastructures, and we fare really well in these areas.

And what about the healthcare system? Isn’t that important? Well rightly so. According to many surveys this is strongly appreciated and valued by tourists, migrants and above all foreign residents.

But let me share with you a very impressive and concrete fact about our healthcare system: we have consistently led the field of organ donations and transplants for more than 20 years, and continue to do so; which reflects not only how effective the system is, and the technical or medical skills, but also the humane quality of donors. Actually, the clearest proof of our general good health is that our life expectancy is the best in Europe and one of the highest in the world —4th in fact— at over 82 years, and more than 85 years for women, surpassing the EU average by over 4 years.

Another appealing factor is probably found in character: we are an open, friendly, and welcoming people that like to share our passion for life. But, more importantly, we are also a peace-loving people. According to the Global Peace Index, Spain is one of the select group of 25 countries with a “very high state of peace”. Furthermore, over the past decade, Spanish society has successfully received millions of immigrants from very different cultures and places of origin, without any xenophobic or racist movements materializing.

So, what all of these elements basically demonstrate is that the people of Spain have long abandoned the old clichés and outdated stereotypes that were attributed to us, as well as the obscure legends about Spain. And now, Spaniards are determined to take their rightful place in the world of the 21st century.

A place earned by our formidable history, by a language spoken by more than half a billion people and home to a rich cultural diversity that has given us and the world large numbers of acclaimed men and women in science, literature, philosophy the fine arts, business, sports...

A place earned through the threefold privilege of having European roots, a strong Ibero-American identity and a Mediterranean vocation and responsibility.

A place earned by being loyal and steadfast partners in international relations, and of course because of our democratic values.

And I should say that, quite obviously, our economy —the 14th largest in the world and the 4th largest in the Eurozone— plays a large part in all this, in our capability and ambition to harness a better future. So it is also what I will talk about next.

Spain suffered greatly from the effects of the last crisis. Our economy underwent a substantial contraction with painful consequences for most spaniards in terms of the social compact, decreased living standards and unemployment. But through their shared efforts, together with the economic policies and reforms that were introduced, the economy has enjoyed steady growth since 2014.

Spain has seen 3 years of sustained economic growth of over 3%; more than 2 million jobs have been created; current account surpluses have been obtained in 5 consecutive years —an unprecedented achievement in our recent history—; and the public deficit has been reduced by more than 70 billion euros.

The external sector has undeniably played a key role in the recovery, where exports of goods and services hit new records every year. The tremendous dynamism shown by our exports is closely linked to our economy's increased competitiveness, and also to the internationalization of Spanish companies during the crisis.

This trend of clear and steady economic improvement has also drawn greater interest from international investors. Foreign direct investment flows have grown for 4 years in a row, and we are one of the top 10 economies in terms of openness to foreign investment.

I think it is also important to emphasize that we have an outstanding infrastructure network, which is a key factor in competitiveness. In fact, the 'Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016' rated Spain as one of the top ten countries in the world.

Added to all this is yet another strength: the leadership and global presence of Spanish multinationals in industries such as energy, finance, textiles, telecommunications, infrastructure management and transport. Some of them are present here today.

The present uncertainties should not deter us, they should allow us to see clearly that the solutions must be equal to the challenges. Europe must reinvent itself and the soul of that new Europe should mirror the soul of its citizens and for this it can count on Spain

However, it must be said that the economic improvement must not only lead to effectively fight unemployment, but also to reduce the economic differences and social inequality, favoring the indispensable social cohesion with a more inclusive economic growth.

In short, we can state that Spain now has a very competitive economy and represents an outstanding investment opportunity. Despite being a cause for concern in the EU just a few years ago, today Spain is driving growth and making a positive contribution to the consolidation and strengthening of the European Union.

But let me now turn to politics. As you well know, the Economist Intelligence Unit produces an annual index of the state of democracy in the world, analyzing more than 140 countries. The conclusion of the latest index was that there are only 19 “full democracies”, and Spain is one of them —ranking 17, just behind another celebrated parliamentary monarchy, the UK, which sits in 16th place. On its own, this speaks very highly of where we stand and illustrates how strong, how solid and how mature our democracy actually is.

Indeed, after a lengthy period marred by divisions and conflicts, over 40 years ago the Spanish people found their way to freedom and democratic co-existence. The spirit that drove the transition to democracy —a success story held up as an example the world over— inspired the Spanish people to come together in pursuit of a shared goal with far-reaching, historical implications.

Our national cause was to build a new Spain that would become a common house for all Spaniards and would encompass our diversity, endowing our Autonomous Communities with extensive, deep and meaningful self-governance, to a degree that is not easy to find in other countries both in or outside Europe.

In these past few decades of stable and democratic co-existence, Spain has accumulated substantial wealth in civic, social and political capital under a strong institutional framework. This capital has been further strengthened by Spain’s membership of the EU, NATO and by its full integration into global society.

This year we will celebrate our Constitution’s 40th anniversary; a perfect opportunity to remember and to vindicate the enduring importance of the spirit of understanding and solidarity that enabled our country to embark on a path of peace, freedom and prosperity as never before in our history.

With all this in mind, I don’t wish to conclude this part of my speech without addressing the recent crisis in a truly fundamental part of Spain’s soul and diverse identity: Catalonia; where we have seen an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system.

A lesson to be learned from this crisis —a lesson not only for Spain, but for democracies in general— is the need to preserve the rule of law as a cornerstone precisely of democracy, and to respect political pluralism and the basic principle of national sovereignty that —in fact— belongs to all citizens. Political disagreements and disputes must be resolved in accordance with the democratic rules and values laid down in our Constitution and legal framework.

Spain’s Constitution —as you can all well understand—, is no mere ornament. It is, rather, the very expression of the will of our citizens and the key pillar of our democratic coexistence. As such, it deserves the utmost respect from each and every one of us. My country is a law-abiding State where legal certainty prevails and therefore the Constitution and the laws are effectively enforced.

Furthermore, Spaniards know well enough that the welfare and progress of our people in the XXI century will not be obtained by –neither found in– solitude, isolation or division; but with unity of purpose, common goals and concerted action, together with a lucid forward-thinking strategy. We need to be fully aware of the interdependent world we live in, where truly global answers are required. So things like integration movements, joint partnerships or loyal cooperation among citizens, societies and States, and sharing commitments, all pave the right way to find those answers. And that’s why we are here today.

Allow me to speak now of Europe. As we Spaniards see it, Spain and Europe are tightly interrelated realities. Europe, for Spain, is our historical home and our future, a future in which we firmly believe. Europe is not only a geographical point of reference: it is our common endeavor.

Spain is a nation with a well-known European spirit and vocation, a fact that all surveys systematically confirm. I believe that fundamentally this is because the European project represents an international embodiment of peace, solidarity, rule of law and social and economic development, all values which Spain embraces as its own.

For this reason, Spaniards do not view the European integration project as something external we wish to adhere to, but as the most complete expression —at an international level— of our national project. Since our accession, the European project has helped us to shore up our democracy, develop our economy and share our values and our culture.

And Spain has also helped advance this project with its broad pro-Europe consensus among leaders and its deep grass-root energy. Along the way, since 1985, we have made specific contributions, such as the idea of European citizenship, furthering the idea of the EU as a space of freedom, security and justice. We have also championed the idea of cohesion among the Member States.

In the external action of the EU we have also promoted specific initiatives, such as the strengthening of relations with Latin America, the promotion of the Transatlantic Agenda with the US or the special connection to the southern rim of the Mediterranean. More recently, together with other European partners, we have contributed to the ongoing development of the Common Security and Defense Policy. —of growing importance !

But our ambition for Europe, and hence for Spain, does not end there. There are numerous and pressing issues to which more effective European cooperation is the only solution. This has been made obviously apparent by the euro crisis, the refugee and migratory crises, by international terrorist attacks, and by the new challenges to European security. And let us not forget the challenges that technology and the digital revolution represent for the workforce; for its organization and for the new skills they urgently need.

This common European response is, however, sometimes difficult to achieve in the present institutional setting. For this reason, the current Spanish External Action Strategy calls for the re-founding of the EU, which is to say, for a far-reaching transformation, but performed step by step, in a pragmatic manner. In areas such as the Economic and Monetary Union, or with regard to our common security, we need to continue moving forward, to be prepared for the changes that the future will bring. The consensus among the main Spanish political parties is that the ultimate goal of this evolution can be nothing other than a closer political Union.

At such a time, not to go forward is to go backward. And I’m sure many here will agree that we cannot allow for that to happen.

The present uncertainties should not deter us, they should allow us to see clearly that the solutions must be equal to the challenges. Europe must reinvent itself and the soul of that new Europe should mirror the soul of its citizens and for this it can count on Spain.

I shall finish here. Thank you for your time and patience. It’s quite possible that for a number of you this speech may even seem unnecessary or easy to relate to, since you may very well be among those 82 million people I mentioned earlier, and therefore know well what my country is about and has to offer.

All I ask from you, is to kindly continue visiting us and investing in our success story. You won’t regret it and we’ll make it very worthwhile. It is always an honor and a pleasure to welcome you to Spain. Your presence among us is proof of your trust and confidence in my country, and for that I am sincerely grateful.

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