Juan Carlos I

King of Spain

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 26 January 1988

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first, I should like to thank the European Organising Committee for the North-South campaign for their kind invitation to me to assume the honorary presidency. I am also grateful to the President of this Assembly for giving me the opportunity to appear once again in this Chamber to say a few words about a subject of such great significance and repercussions as that which is now under discussion.

When we celebrated the launching of this campaign last November in Madrid, I pointed out the profoundly European nature of the ideals that inspire this initiative by the Council of Europe — an institution that, in the highest sense of the word, is representative of the democratic principles that govern the political life of our countries.

There could hardly be a better framework than this for understanding the sense of the campaign that is now getting under way. The Council of Europe was the fruit of a long process of rapprochement between nations that had often known confrontation among themselves in the past and that now work together in the building of a common future.

The meeting is taking place in this Assembly of the legitimate representatives of the citizens of Europe, who have chosen organisational models of collective life based on social solidarity, respect for the beliefs and rights of each individual, and the democratic legitimacy of the public authorities.

In promoting this European Public Campaign on North-South Interdependence and Solidarity, the Council of Europe is in fact reaffirming the universal nature of these noble aspirations, convinced that the grave problems that we shall have to face in the future have already acquired this dimension, and that any attempt to achieve a solution based on partial approaches will be discarded by future generations.

The problems of economic and social development have been a cause for growing concern in the most diverse spheres over the past decades, giving rise to initiatives of different kinds on the part of agencies, institutions and people who have placed their experience and their resources at the service of these goals.

It suffices to recall in this respect the task undertaken by the United Nations and its specialised agencies, starting in the so-called "first decade for development”; the increasingly important role of the international financial institutions; and the proliferation over the past few years of private agencies and organisations which day by day perform valuable work and are an example of solidarity and dedication.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that in international public opinion development problems are subject to increasingly wider concern, the conditions in which the populations of most of the countries of this planet live have not improved but have even worsened in some regions. Moreover, its dangerous effects have combined with those of new factors that have made their appearance on the international economic scene, thus creating a situation in which the difficulties tend to take root and to perpetuate themselves.

Over the past few years, the critical situation of the African continent has been aggravated by natural disasters and economic difficulties. External debt, which affects Latin America with special intensity, compromises the development expectations of medium-income countries, whose political and social stability is constantly endangered. To this can be added the significant drop in commodity prices, the exports of which constitute the main source of foreign exchange for many of these countries.

When, eight years ago, the Brandt Commission chose “A programme for survival” as the title for its report, is accurately underlined a reality whose confirmation is a corner-stone of this campaign – in other words, interaction between the different processes and problems in which all the countries in the world are involved, whatever the degree of their economic and social development.

Therefore, the campaign’s first goal is to attract the attention of Europeans to this concept of interdependence. No nation can seek out the roots of its problems and adopt possible solutions exclusively in respect of its own situation or its own history. All peoples and individuals share a past, a present and a future with the rest of mankind.

Indeed, the success or the failure in the struggle of each one to overcome his own difficulties transcends the limits of individual responsibility and in the final analysis constitutes an additional encouragement to, or a brake on, the aspirations of others. Only thus can the failure of those nations who have set out to materialise their own dreams to the detriment or absolutely independently of other peoples, be explained.

The Council of Europe, in co-operation with the European Economic Community, is preparing to make a considerable effort through the campaign that starts today. Especially important is the role that this Assembly and its members are called upon to play in it. The legitimate representatives of the citizens of Europe are undoubtedly the main vehicle for conveying social concerns to the authorities responsible for making and implementing political and economic decisions.

The purpose of the campaign is to ensure that, far from adopting lazy or fatalistic attitudes, most Europeans will keep hope alive for a better future in which solidarity and the spirit of collaboration will prevail over selfishness and short-sightedness.

Mr President, through the initiative of the campaign, the European institutions are making a very important contribution to this long process, by directing their efforts to the arousing of public opinion. The dedication of this Assembly to the campaign is in itself a promising omen for the way in which it will undoubtedly be received and supported by the citizens, the governments and the institutions of Europe.

A group of distinguished figures in political and cultural life, belonging to very different countries, have generously contributed to this effort by agreeing to become honorary sponsors of the campaign.

From this forum, and on behalf of all of them, I wish to repeat my appeal to the public authorities, to private organisations and to public opinion, to give their backing to the campaign, thereby contributing to the success of such an important initiative.

If, thanks to it, we Europeans become more aware of the interdependence that characterises our world, and we make more room for individual and collective solidarity, we shall indeed be laying the foundations for a world that is freer and more just. (Prolonged applause)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Your Majesty, thank you for agreeing to act as President of the campaign and for entrusting this mission not just to all the members of this Assembly, but to the whole of Europe.