Juan Carlos I

King of Spain

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 8 October 1979

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I should first like to thank the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and its organs for kindly inviting me to speak to you. I am particularly pleased to find myself in Strasbourg today, addressing the oldest and most representative of the European institutions, which is this year celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of its inception. Thirty years of hopes and disappointments, of progress and of obstacles, but, in any event, of untiring toil towards the union of the European peoples, through which the Council of Europe has responded positively to the hopes expressed in the Message to Europeans.

In addressing this Assembly I cannot forget the crucial part it played in Spain’s accession to the Council of Europe, causing it to depart in some ways from custom, in both form and timing, so that its faith and hope in the transition to democracy in Spain might prevail. For it was this Assembly which, with an impatience which we Spaniards greatly appreciated, was the first to put its full trust in the legitimate representatives of the Spanish people, as soon as it gained control of its destiny. But, to go beyond the specific case of my country, I should like to pay tribute here to this Assembly for its essential contribution both to the realisation of the concept of European unity and to the furtherance of values which are an inherent part of our civilisation, particularly the freedom, dignity and fundamental rights of the individual, which form the basis for political stability and social peace.

From 1949 to 1979, no significant event occurred, nor did any way open offering cause for hope, without this Assembly making a real contribution, or ensuring it of a resounding impact, if indeed it had not already taken the initiative itself.

Mr President, the unity of Europe and of Europeans is a reality which existed before plans for European union. We Europeans have been aware of it throughout our chequered history. It was this view of European society which induced Francisco de Vitoria to study in Paris and Juan Luis Vives to teach in Louvain and Oxford, while El Greco painted in Toledo and Domenico Scarlatti composed in Madrid, to mention only a few examples from my country.

The European fact is the basis for a European plan, a European design. It is to this that the European organisations respond, towards this that the oldest of them, the Council of Europe, directs its efforts, well aware that, in the words of Robert Schuman,

“Europe, before becoming a military alliance or an economic entity, must be a cultural community.”

What are the factors which constitute this European identity? Of all those which have been proposed I should like to emphasise three, because it seems to me that they also characterise the work of the Council of Europe and should continue to be the basis for all its activities: humanism, diversity and universality.

If there is a driving principle in European civilisation, it is the primacy of human values, of mankind and of the individual.

The best example of this key concept, and at the same time the Council of Europe’s most remarkable contribution, is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which establishes an as yet unrivalled international system of guarantees in which Spain was included a few days ago when it deposited the instrument of ratification.

Although we can all consider ourselves satisfied with the results obtained, we can also feel encouraged to go further. This Assembly, which played such an important and dynamic part in the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, is particularly aware of the need to broaden the range of rights to be protected by adding economic, social and cultural rights, and by giving human rights a new dimension and new frontiers. Thus, after the important declaration adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 27 April 1978, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 838 on widening the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights, the impact of which is undeniable. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the European Communities have proposed that they should accede as an entity to the European Convention on Human Rights. This proposal is both an obvious demonstration of the vitality of the Council of Europe’s most eminent achievement and an important step towards the gradual realisation of Europe’s most significant contribution to human history: the dignity and freedom of mankind.

The Council of Europe’s work devoted to man, his rights and his fundamental freedoms prompts me to mention some of its aspects. First, the measures taken to bring about a constant improvement in the environment and the quality of life; second, the efforts to help migrant workers and their families, for whom whatever is done can never be enough; and, finally, the deep concern for youth and for stimulating the enthusiasm of young Europeans for the construction of Europe. This last aspect is essential, for the Council of Europe has never, at any time, ignored the need to be concerned with the European citizen of tomorrow, the need to encourage the young to participate in a noble task which spans the generations: to this end, it set up the European Youth Foundation and the European Youth Centre, within which young Spaniards and their organisations are already actively participating.

Pluralism and diversity are also characteristic features of Europe. It is Europe’s allotted task to unite and integrate the European peoples in accordance with their true genius, which lies in diversity, so as to open up to the world the path it pursues – that of organised freedoms.

This idea was expressed by the European Communities in their document on “the European identity”, when they declared that diversity of cultures within a common civilisation, profession of the same values and determination to build up unity in diversity is what gives the European identity its originality and vitality.

It is not incompatible with the preservation of diversity – quite the reverse, in fact – that the Council of Europe should concern itself ever more deeply with the grave dangers for economic development of territorial imbalances, which set Northern Europe against Southern Europe, Central Europe against peripheral Europe. The harmonious process of European unification demands that we should tackle this problem resolutely, and in that endeavour the Parliamentary Assembly has served as conscience and stimulus by encouraging the efforts of governments and other European institutions.

Europe cannot truly be Europe if its influence is not felt throughout the world. That is why the process of building up Europe cannot be a parochial self-centred task. Europe must, on the contrary, be very heedful of the changes occurring in the modern world, including the increasingly universal character of social relations and of the problems which confront mankind.

Let us build up Europe, said our compatriot Salvador de Madariaga, not only as a common market but also as a great human family, and let us keep this principle intact in all our institutions.

The universal interest which already inspired the founding fathers of the Council of Europe remains present in its work, and particularly in that of the Parliamentary Assembly, which is ever heedful of the fresh challenges of science and technology and of the constantly changing chessboard of international relations.

The European spirit is a spirit of dialogue. And you will not be surprised that I, who come from Spain, would especially stress an aspect of this world-wide dialogue which is particularly dear to our hearts: I refer to the historic need for a dialogue between Europe and the Americas. The example of the Council of Europe has already had a deep significance for the American countries, as the Convention of San José de Costa Rica on human rights bears witness. But there is also much we can receive, because all genuine dialogue is give and take. You may be sure that in developing these exchanges and seeing that they bear fruit you will receive from Spain nothing but encouragement, support and enthusiasm.

Mr President, it has been said that Spain sees itself reflected in Europe and nothing could be more natural, because if humanism, diversity and universality are the features which characterise Europe, the same applies to a high degree to Spain, whose European commitment is quite clear.

Much remains to be done in the task of building up Europe. We still have a long road to travel, strewn with obstacles and intersected by crossroads. The important thing is that we have decided to take this road and to follow it, all of us together, since there is no difficulty that we cannot overcome if we show the necessary determination and imagination.

And with man as the starting-point and ultimate goal... As was said by Miguel de Unamuno – a Basque, a Spaniard, a European and a universal figure:

“The final purpose of history and of humanity is man, every man, every one of us... The individual is the ultimate aim of the universe. We who are Spaniards feel this in our hearts.”

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you.


“The King of Spain I always honoured.” That is the sentence that I had the good fortune to sing more times than any other as it is the last sentence of the first verse of the Dutch national anthem. “The King of Spain I always honoured.” Today I realise exactly how true that sentence is.

If all my colleagues had been Dutch, if singing had been allowed under our Rules of Procedure and if the interpreters had been trained to sing at La Scala, Milan, I would have suggested that we should all now sing that part of the Netherlands national anthem.

May I, Your Majesty, instead express our gratitude, which the spoken word is inadequate to convey well enough. Your message was marked by the traditionally Christian and humanist thinking which marks your entire reign, which is also a liberal reign influenced by the great philosopher Salvador de Madariaga.