President of the Spanish Government

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 31 January 1979

Mr President, as I address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I feel an emotion compounded of widely different feelings, all of them deep and powerful.

In expressing my thanks for the honour and satisfaction that I feel at this moment, I should like to acknowledge the prominent role played by the Assembly in Spain’s entry into the Council of Europe and, in my gratitude, I wish to pay a deep-felt tribute to President Karl Czernetz, your predecessor, who contributed so much to bringing about the final return of Spain to the European institutions.

The idea of Europe has often served in the history of Spain as a reference mark: to reject it has been a sign of political incapacity and impotence; to affirm it, a stroke of imagination and an act of faith in the future. Europe was believed in because it constituted the best example of the ideals of democracy and freedom. Europe was thought of, in the last analysis, not as an abstract aspiration, but as if it were a programme of the utmost political urgency.

A great Spanish writer – José Ortega y Gasset – wrote that “Europe’s existence as a society pre-dates that of the European nations”. And we came to believe that Spain would not be a full and integrated society until it affirmed its European character with the same strength and persistence with which we maintained that Europe would not be wholly itself until it could count on the presence of a democratic Spain. This was the principal idea behind the words of His Majesty the King in the Message from the Throne to the Spanish people, which marked the opening of the new political process:

“The idea of Europe would be incomplete without a reference to the presence of the men of Spain and without taking into account the achievement of many of my predecessors. Europe must include Spain in its reckoning, for we Spaniards are Europeans. It is highly important at the present time that both parties should understand this and that all of us should draw the relevant conclusions.”

In the debate held in this Chamber on 11 October 1977, the chief Spanish political forces entered into an undertaking towards the European peoples: to continue working together so as to establish democracy fully in our country. You trusted their word and the Assembly adopted the recommendation which opened the doors of the Council of Europe to Spain in a space of time and under conditions that were quite unprecedented. In so far as this was an act of faith in the Spanish people and in its legitimate democratic representatives, I wish to tender you my thanks.

Just two years and a few months have passed since our country embarked on the process of transition to democracy. Two years are a short time in human life and are almost always imperceptible in the history of peoples. It often happens, too, that periods of warfare are memorable, but it is very rare for two years of orderly change to take on such great significance. Herein perhaps lies the peculiarity of the case of Spain: in having been able to carry out so intense and sincere a change in such a short period.

Political reform was first envisaged under difficult circumstances of economic crisis, with political parties leading an underground existence, with serious concern among the citizens over the present and future of Spain, and with street demonstrations against the existing power structures. The radical nature of the different positions gave rise to daily conflict between the desire for continuity and for a revolutionary break with the past. The risk, consequently, was very great, because both positions implied a rejection of the possibility of an overall solution that would lead us to reconciliation. The great merit of the political reform was to convince those who clung doggedly to irreconcilable positions that, in harmony with the wishes of the Spanish people, they should seek a peaceful formula for national concord.

The political reform which took place in Spain consigned to the past, consequently, the sociological pattern which had led to the Civil War. For decades a profound change had been taking place in Spanish society which the political system had necessarily to assimilate. It was essential to have the courage to confront the new society and discuss its problems publicly and truthfully. We had changed from a rural society to an urban one, from a basically agrarian economy to an industrial one, and from a country of conflicting classes into a society of middle classes. This was the background against which the great challenge of political change was to be taken up. We had to assess the difficulties correctly and find the correct approach to their solution.

Amid all these preoccupations, I took office in July 1976 as President of the Government. From the outset I explained what my programme of action would be. I believe that if now, two and a half years later, the programme of government which was made public on 16 July 1976 is reviewed, it will be seen quite clearly that the political reform which took place in Spain was the direct consequence of an examination in depth of the problems of our country and a determination to tackle them with the aim of surmounting the whole of our recent history.

In that initial programme, the government in fact indicated its intention of embarking energetically upon the process of political transformation and expressed its conviction that sovereignty lay with the people; it undertook to set up a democratic political system based on the guarantee of civil rights and freedoms, the acceptance of genuine pluralism and equal political opportunities for all democratic groups. All this – it was said – was to be carried out within a framework of legitimate authority, supported by the people and showing the respect for law as behoves any state, where the rule of law is supreme.

Thus the declaration of July 1976 sets out all the objectives which have characterised the Spanish political process: those objectives which were stated in the following explicit and specific terms:

First, to submit to the decision of the nation matters relating to constitutional reform;

Second, to hold general elections before 30 June of the following year;

Third, to reform legislation to bring it into line with national reality, concentrating especially on the recognition and exercise of public freedoms;

Fourth, to make the political parties legal;

Fifth, to facilitate regional autonomy; and

Sixth, to propose to the King the granting of a wide amnesty for politically motivated offences or offences of opinion.

For this, however, it was necessary to take an overall view of the different stages of the reform, because this was the only guarantee of successfully attaining the final aim. We knew that the Spanish political process called for great delicacy, not only because we were going to try to remove age-old obstacles, but also because there might be extremist attempts to make this impossible, both inside and outside the country. None of the resistance and misunderstanding that we were to encounter took us by surprise or weakened our faith in the democratic process. But it was imperative that we should act coolly and responsibly, confident in the knowledge that what we were doing was what the Spanish people had been awaiting for many centuries of its history.

Any political change involves uncertainty and difficulties. And the transformations which have affected the Spanish people have, because of their exceptional nature, implied difficulties and risks that were similarly exceptional. To carry out this change in a genuine and radical manner, without yielding an inch in our demands, without camouflaging our intentions, without making do by touching up the surface, and to do so gradually and peacefully without revolutions or insuperable traumas, whilst fully respecting the laws, would be a difficult undertaking and therefore it had to be well thought out.

It was our intention, in short, to govern in a thoughtful manner, mindful of the highest interests of the state, seeking at all times loyal cooperation with the political and social forces which at that time, for obvious reasons, were not yet representative but were certainly significant and which it was necessary to accommodate in the normal life of citizens.

The government undertook this first stage of the transition with the dual aim of carrying out the reform on the principle that no Spaniard, whatever his ideological origin, should be excluded from the building of the democratic future and, at the same time, of modifying the fundamental legislation through the machinery laid down therein, with the approval of the institutions.

The Political Reform Act – approved on 6 December 1977 in a national referendum – brought into the Spanish legal order a fundamental ruling institutionalising the inviolability of rights and freedoms and establishing machinery for holding the first general elections for over forty years and the subsequent drafting of the Constitution.

For this act to take its full effect, it was important later to define the spokesmen who could represent the different political options in the Spanish ideological spectrum. More than three hundred political parties aspired to articulate the sectors of opinion of the new democracy. A legal framework was established for them and we called elections from which the new political legitimacy was to emerge.

As you know, these elections were held on 15 June 1977, resulting in the two-chamber parliament which was to draw up a new Constitution. The government then decided, and gave its solemn undertaking to the electorate that if its offer attracted sufficient popular support, it would tackle the task in accordance with the following guidelines:

First, to endeavour to ensure that the Constitution was valid for all Spaniards and was drawn up by all the political forces represented in Parliament;

Second, to find points of agreement with the other political forces so as to fashion solutions for the economic and social problems and govern on the basis of dialogue, negotiations, and agreement throughout the constituent period.

To negotiate conditions for coexistence is a sign of strength and a guarantee of effectiveness. For in the last analysis the social structure becomes stronger and more vigorous when it is built with the help of all, much more than if a political majority tries to impose the rules of social life on the other political forces.

I believe that we Spaniards have developed the necessary political tact for this process to move ahead in a climate of dialogue and mutual respect. I also believe that we have made a great effort to control the frustrations of past years, lest impatience gain the upper hand. We have advanced coherently and gradually and the results are there to be seen. Only two years after the beginning of the process with the Political Reform Act, the first general elections have already been held, the Constitution has been adopted and new parliamentary elections are to take place on 1 March from which a constitutional government will emerge. And all this, I repeat, is the result not of the victory of one group of Spaniards over another, but of mutual respect and responsible compromise among the different political tendencies in our country.

I should like here and now to pay my tribute to the Spanish political parties, and to those who were their representatives in the Congress and Senate, for facing up, in full awareness of their responsibility, to the historical moment which it was our lot to traverse.

This policy of consensus was due to the requirements of an exceptional situation and for this reason it will no longer be possible or necessary, in the same terms, once the Constitution has normalised the procedures of Spanish political life. Now a new way of governing is needed and each party must define the type of society it is putting before its electors. It was the need for this process of clarification that made me decide to propose to His Majesty the King the dissolution of the Cortes and the calling of new general elections. But the fact that the consensus will no longer be the dominant note of our political life does not mean that we can forget how necessary it was nor overlook the fruit it bore. Not the least of these is the habit of dialogue and moderation which has entered Spanish political life and which we are determined not to relinquish.

It was thanks to the spirit of concord, indeed, and in very unpropitious circumstances because of the economic situation and the social problems arising from it, that compromise formulae were found for drafting the Constitution and negotiating a social pact that allowed us to face up to the crisis – the so-called Moncloa Pact – determine the bases that would permit an initial, temporary framework for self-government and mould public rights and liberties to the new democratic system. From now on, a government inspired by a party programme must enable the model of Western society to take firm root.

Mr President, the political process that the Spanish people has followed is the fruit of long experience. It is a lesson learned from a history marked by a succession of bids for organised liberty and repeated failures. It may seem tragic, and indeed to a certain extent it is, that until 1978 Spain should not have had a Constitution accepted unreservedly by its main political forces. This acceptance of the constitutional text brings a constant factor of historic discord to an end, and at the same time, a reason for optimism and a guarantee of future stability.

We Spaniards wished to make it perfectly clear that it was one thing to establish a political system geared to the real needs of society, a sincerely democratic system open to all the social forces, and quite a different thing, and an unacceptable one, to admit any hypothesis of revenge, turning back the clock or reopening the dialectics of the Civil War. I think we were right in this because we placed the horizon of democracy in the new society and not in sterile discussions about the past.

Perhaps it is not for me to stress the difficulties we encountered. But I would like to suggest to you that perhaps the chief problem was to distinguish properly the different stages of the reform process and not to complicate the task of building the future with emotional considerations which were a heritage of the past.

The political system, the state and society were for many years aspects of a single monolithic bloc and it was inevitable that those who called for a change of the political system should confuse the three elements. The consequences of this confusion were, among others, the following:

First, an alarming erosion of the state’s and society’s capacity for self-defence;

Second, the radicalism of the political debate and the use of a permanent range of claims which not only undermined the foundations of the political regime but also struck against state and society;

Third, the impossibility for political parties to confront one another within a system of co-operation and legitimacy accepted by all.

Added to this was the serious problem of having to govern without any constitutional norm to base ourselves on, without reference to any legal system adapted to the sort of claims that were being made. For, without falling into the void, we were carrying out the whole process, dwelling in the old edifice, trying to avert the dangers of staying outside in the cold and reconstructing its structures at the same time as we carried on the normal daily activity of an advancing society.

These were the basic elements of the problem with which we had to reckon, in the firm belief that prudence, judiciously timed, would finally prevail and that moderation would very soon become – as has in fact happened – the predominant note of the Spanish political system.

Thus we Spaniards undertook the search for a peaceful solution, backed up by the institutions of the state and with the encouragement of the Crown: a solution from which no citizen and no democratic political force would be excluded. I believe that the monarchy, as an institution alien to the civil conflict which divided Spaniards and consequently as a neutral arbiter unaffected by the historical confrontation between the political forces, has been a decisive factor in the success of the operation.

To put it another way, I believe that only the fact that Spain is a monarchy has enabled us to undertake an operation of this kind. It is also undeniable that the deep hold that their Majesties the King and Queen have gained over the hearts of the Spanish people and the sincerity with which the operation has been carried out have contributed to the unquestioned consolidation of the institution of the monarchy.

Mr President, this process has been the result of the collective effort of the Spanish people. For me it has been an honour to preside over it and today I feel honoured to submit this report to you. But above all it must be reiterated that the tremendous change that Spain has undergone has been possible thanks to the moderating influence of the Crown, as the supreme symbol of the unity of the nation and as the guarantee of support and protection for the fundamental rights of the individual; it is due too to the maturity of the Spanish people, whose sense of proportion and balance have been fundamental in regaining sovereignty and acting as the sole source of legitimacy; and it is due, lastly, to the responsibility of the political parties represented in Parliament, which have shown themselves able to unite at the most difficult times so as to serve above everything else the national interest.

Under the Constitution recently approved by the Spanish people, the basis of political order and social peace lies in respect for the dignity of the person and the inviolable rights inherent in the individual.

This solemn declaration is inspired by a definite position of respect for human rights, in both domestic and external policy.

We consider that these principles must be universally respected because there can be no real easing of tension unless respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual is guaranteed, as the basis and ultimate aim of peace. The Spanish Government in this area has established a line of action in its human rights policy based on the following guidelines:

– the persistent breach of human rights, wherever it may occur, is to be condemned;

– the flagrant suppression of basic human rights, wherever it may occur, constitutes a threat to peace;

– states cannot escape their international responsibilities by claiming that this is a matter of their exclusive domestic competence, because the safeguard of human rights is a question which goes beyond national and domestic limits and takes its place in the international setting;

– consequently, the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states, as enshrined in the Final Act of Helsinki and fully and scrupulously respected by my government, cannot be invoked to prevent serious violations of fundamental human rights from being examined by the international community;

– we consider that poverty, hunger and destitution are likewise grievous breaches of human rights, and we believe that this notion cannot be reduced to its traditional dimensions (civil and political rights) but that it must rather strive to embrace new frontiers that will envisage the unfolding and development of economic, social and cultural rights;

– to safeguard these rights, it is indispensable to improve the institutional machinery for guarantee and control available to the international community, because this issue of human rights cannot remain at the mercy of selective criteria of a subjective nature.

Pursuant to these principles, we signed and ratified, in April 1977, the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights, concluded under the auspices of the United Nations; we have supported the setting up of a High Commissioner for Human Rights and we have requested that the United Nations should be able, when circumstances so require, to set up and dispatch fact-finding missions to bring to light breaches of human rights.

In the framework of the Council of Europe, we have signed in the last few months the European Social Charter and the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers, which seeks to defend the rights of those men and women, who, because they work outside their country, are in particular need of protection. Finally, we have signed the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the government recently agreed to refer to the Cortes the question of its immediate ratification and the voluntary acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction.

Whilst on the subject of human rights, I must express the concern of my government over the issue of terrorism, the most odious and brutal way of violating the fundamental rights of all persons to safety and life.

The general satisfaction and the hope with which the Spanish people has witnessed the evolution towards free and democratic institutions has been darkened by the frequency of acts of terrorism which appal citizens and threaten to upset the hard-earned stability of political life.

Spain believes in the necessity of a global strategy, in which together with political, legal, social and police measures within each country, indispensable joint action on an international diplomatic scale will also be carried out, without which the individual efforts of states would be futile.

As is pointed out in the excellent report by Mr Tabone submitted by the Political Affairs Committee to this Assembly for consideration, the main feature of terrorism in our time is that in addition to the improvement of its organisation it uses the support of international groups, making it difficult to combat through the action of the directly affected state on its own.

There are by now enough examples which bear witness to the historical proof of this assertion to dispel any doubts as to the urgent need for international co-operation in this matter.

Apart from the treaties and conventions signed by Spain in this area, we have been following with special attention the contacts and meetings of experts on this question, particularly the report submitted to this Assembly and the discussions which it has prompted, as well as the recommendations that have been approved, which enable us to catch a hopeful glimpse of joint action by all European countries.

Free and democratic institutions, open to the necessary changes called for by historical development or new ideological or philosophical views, deprive terrorist action of all justification.

The establishment of a European juridical area, and close police co-operation within it, periodic meetings of Ministers of the Interior and a permanent international organisation to combat the terrorist activity of armed gangs and groups, are essential measures for eradicating swiftly and effectively this evil we all suffer.

Let it be clear, however, that Spain does not hesitate when it is a question of defending its political unity, the right to life of its citizens and the rule of law. Terrorism causes sorrow and victims, but it will never obtain political victories. Consequently, we shall not give way, and the defence of democratic institutions will continue to be pursued with the necessary vigour, and without hesitation.

Mr President, I began my address by recalling Europe’s act of faith in Spain, which made possible the speedy entry of democratic Spain into the Council of Europe.

Faith and hope are likewise the tools with which we have removed obstacles that seemed insurmountable; we must go on and tackle new objectives with more hope still, because only the conviction that we will be capable of achieving all our ends gives us the assurance that we will be able to fulfil our purpose.

I am aware how difficult it is to keep hopes alive for such a long time, and amid such great difficulties. But hopes without continuous unflagging effort are unlikely ever to be realised.

History is always a human creation. There are no irreversible premonitions nor can we accept a mechanical conception of the development of human societies. The future is forged by the effort of peoples, and it is rendered possible by men with their work and their sacrifices, and sometimes even with their pain. Man is and always will be master of his time. This is why we believed in the effectiveness of the Spanish process. We believed in it because we believed in ourselves, because we wanted to build a tomorrow in dreams and hopes, ready to survive disappointments and suffer no small number of injuries and misunderstandings. And for this reason we also have faith in European man, because he can project all his strength, in the immense stream of culture and civilisation which have formed our peoples, into the dream of a great Europe.

Spain’s European policy – conceived multilaterally and without prejudice to bilateral relations – has the following main centres of interest:

First, the Council of Europe, which is the organ of democratic control for the exchange of political ideas among all those countries which share the same ideals and aim to establish common standards of behaviour;

Second, the European Communities, which Spain conceives as the kingpin of European unification;

Third, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which will be held in 1980 in Madrid and of whose importance we are well aware.

To this we might add, from a trade standpoint, the agreement recently signed with the EFTA countries.

From the security standpoint, Spain participates in the defence of the West through the treaty of friendship and co-operation signed in 1976 with the United States.

Spain would betray its historical essence if it did not launch a solemn appeal for Europe to recognise the vital role that is to be played nowadays by the peoples of the Mediterranean and the Latin American world.

With this world, with which Spain has had political ties for centuries and to which it is spiritually and culturally linked today and without which my country cannot be understood, we wish to implement a policy of fraternal co-operation and mutual respect. We believe that in our close links with the peoples of Latin America, we Spaniards may discover the root of our own particular character, within the Europe to which we belong.

Moreover, Spain cannot conceive of Europe without its Mediterranean dimension, without the development of a European Mediterranean policy the bases of which are, in our opinion, détente, peace and co-operation among the coastal states in the following areas:

– the intensification of any action favouring common interests, particularly in pollution control, the fostering of personal exchanges, management of the sea, etc.;

– more co-operation, so as to reduce the imbalances that exist today between North and South, in fields such as raw materials, industrial products, tourism, trade, etc.;

– the creation of a complementary security system for riparian states.

In the life of peoples, there are moments when a choice must be made and Spain chose solidarity with Europe. With our full participation in the various institutions, not only will we share in this joint effort, but we will also have to call for the reinforcement of integration, so that Europe may not continue to be the result of national compromises, but the supranational consequence of common effort and thought.

I should like, as a final appeal, to address the Europe of ideas and feelings to ask it to prevent the Europe of vested interests from reducing its possibilities and its hopes.

Only if we are able to set up a coherent structure of ideas, feelings and interests, economic, political or strategical, will Spain come to realise that its faith in Europe is borne out by the inner truth of Europe.

The Europe in which we believe is the Europe of freedoms. It presupposes a pattern of society we consider to be free and pluralistic and demands the close co-ordination of the policies of its various states, because if it is thought that Europe is too big to live in unity, I nevertheless believe that it is too small to live in separation.

(Loud applause)


Mr President, may I express the gratitude of the Assembly for the fact that you were willing to address us and thereby inform us of your philosophy, the philosophy of the people of Spain. You were right in saying that the Europe in which you believe – the Europe of freedom – is the Europe which is represented in this Assembly.

We now come to the parliamentary questions for oral answer contained in Document 4286. Twenty-eight questions have been tabled to the Head of Government of Spain. He must leave at about 6. p.m. so I hope that if it is necessary to ask any additional questions they will be very short. Mr Suarez will reply to each question in the order in which the questions appear in Document 4286.

Question No. 1 is from Mr Hofer and reads as follows:

“Mr Hofer

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain:

a. in view of the need for increased co-operation in the Mediterranean area, to what extent the Council of Europe, as a body set up to achieve closer union between the countries of Europe, can, from a Spanish standpoint, increase its efforts in this respect vis-à-vis member states riparian to the Mediterranean;

b. to what extent Spain expects the Council of Europe to contribute to preparation of the meeting on follow-up action to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, to be held in Madrid in autumn 1980, either in respect of

– the activities of the Committee of Ministers and their Deputies, or of

– technical assistance which Spain might wish to have in organising this meeting.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Mr President, it seems to me that I have replied to the first question on Spanish foreign policy in the Mediterranean area in the statement I have just made. I think Mr Hofer also wanted to know how much help the Council of Europe would be able to provide towards the Conference on Security and Co-operation to be held in Madrid in 1980. First, let me say that Spain is certainly grateful for any co-operation she may receive from the Committee of Ministers or their Deputies, particularly in respect of activities likely to promote détente and in any fields in which the Council has taken an active line. As for the second part of his question about possible technical assistance, we do not think this will be required but Spain naturally reserves the possibility of asking for it should she deem it necessary. Thank you.


We come next to Question No. 2 by Mr Jager which reads as follows:

“Mr Jager

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain:

a. how he interprets the opinion of the Commission of the European Communities, adopted on 29 November 1978, concerning Spain’s application for accession to the European Economic Community;

b. what, in particular, is his attitude regarding the dismantling of tariff barriers, concertation in agricultural matters and the duration of the transitional period.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

This question I think, Mr President, refers only to the dismantling of tariff barriers. Obviously, Ladies and Gentlemen, the world economic crisis has produced a protectionist reaction in almost every country in the world, even, I believe, in some Community countries. The policy of the Spanish Government is to resist firmly any temptation to turn protectionist. It demonstrated its good intentions in the course of 1978 when it reduced its tariffs by almost 20%, as also during its negotiations with the EFTA countries. In the future and when negotiating her entry into the Community, Spain will always be ready to make renewed efforts to promote Spanish-Community trade.

Mr JAGER (France) (translation)

I should like to thank the Spanish Prime Minister and to ask him very briefly if he could give us some further information on the concertation in agricultural matters which he intends to put into effect and on the probable length of the transition period which will be necessary before the full and complete accession of his country to the Common Market.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

With pleasure. I will begin with your question about concertation in agricultural matters. My government is firmly decided to facilitate contacts of all kinds with the countries concerned in order to reach a concerted policy on this question. Secondly, as regards the period of transition, Spain accepts a period of ten years from the date of signature of the treaty of accession. That is the Spanish Government’s position.


Question No. 3 has been tabled by Mr Aano on behalf of Mr Lien. It reads as follows:

“Mr Lien

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether, having regard to the fact that Spain is the only member state of the Council of Europe which has not established diplomatic relations with Israel, the Spanish Government intends to establish such relations, and if so, when.”

Would you like to reply, Mr Suarez?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

With the greatest of pleasure, Mr President. Spain, I need hardly say, has always worked on the principle of having diplomatic relations with the whole world. So far as Israel is concerned, the Spanish Government has said more than once that its intention is to establish such relations once the conflict in the Near East shows signs of nearing a solution. That was and still is the position of the Spanish Government as stated on a number of occasions and which I have the honour of confirming to you here.

Mr AANO (Norway)

I want to thank the Head of the Government of Spain for his answer. I just want to stress this. Israel having had observer status with the Council of Europe for many years, I hope that Spain will establish diplomatic relations with that country without unnecessary delay.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I hope so too.


We come to the fourth question, by Mr José Manuel Correia, which reads as follows:

“Mr José Manuel Correia,

Considering the establishment by the Spanish authorities of nuclear power stations near the Portuguese frontier, using the waters of international rivers flowing through Spain and Portugal;

Considering the strong reactions of Portuguese public opinion to this situation;

Considering that a Council of Europe committee of experts is preparing a draft convention on the protection of international watercourses against pollution,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether his country is prepared to co-operate with Portugal in concluding the preparatory work on this convention or, in the event of the latter’s requiring considerable time, to envisage the conclusion of a bilateral agreement with Portugal on protection of the rivers Minho, Douro, Tagus and Guadiana against all forms of pollution, including pollution from nuclear power stations.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

If I understand correctly, Mr Correia’s question is about the possible pollution of the rivers rising in Spain that flow into Portugal. May I remind you that, as a result of the excellent relations between ourselves and our friend and neighbour, Portugal, the relevant committees are already in touch over this question. I think there were meetings on 15 and 16 December and that further meetings are to take place in February, under the chairmanship of the Spanish Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, at which agreements will be drawn up for submission to both governments. But, if it will ease your mind, let me say that Spain is perfectly ready to cooperate with Portugal in a way which will dispel any fears aroused by these installations.

Mr José Manuel CORREIA (Portugal) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, I very much welcome the philosophy behind your reply, the same as the one which prompted my question, namely, that the integration of our two countries in a democratic Europe will pave the way to new fraternal and friendly relations. I should also like to ask you if, in this spirit and in view of the fact that I am here not just as a Portuguese Member of Parliament but also as the Member for a district bordering on Spain, whether the Spanish Government is prepared to consider in the future that the frontier regions of our two countries – in several cases the most backward in Portugal as in Spain – can provide scope for integrated development and mutual co-operation between our two countries.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I am very glad to reply to this question as I share to the full the beliefs which prompted it. I think we might say that while, in the past, Spanish-Portuguese relations have had little real existence except on paper and were based on high-flown talk rather than facts, they have recently taken on new and more specific forms of cooperation and understanding. Starting from there, I think it will be easy for us to agree on a common programme for the development of the Spanish-Portuguese frontier regions.


The fifth question, which has been put by Mr Bozzi, is similar to that asked by Mr Aano for Mr Lien. It reads as follows:

“Mr Bozzi

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether, in the light of the general interests of the Mediterranean peoples and the hopes for peace among all the riparian nations, Spain envisages normalisation of its diplomatic relations with all the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, and particularly Israel.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Mr President, I have already replied to a similar question. I am delighted to repeat once again that the Spanish Government is waiting for the opportunity of establishing normal relations with Israel. Our position, which has never varied, is that as soon as the situation in the Near East shows signs of reaching a settlement, Spain intends to take the necessary steps to establish such relations. May I add that that is also the position of the party I myself lead.


I hope that Mr Bozzi is content with that very clear answer. We will continue with Question No. 6 by Mr Valleix which reads as follows:

“Mr Valleix,

Recalling that the prospect of the European Communities being enlarged is giving rise to debate in several EEC countries on the national economies’ ability to stand increased competition from Mediterranean products;

Considering that, in this respect, the transitional phase, which is generally agreed at ten years, is of vital importance, since the success or failure of enlargement depends on the timing of both customs and non-tariff concessions,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain:

a. how his government views this transitional period and, in particular, whether it considers that the protection currently accorded to Spanish industrial products – under the 1970 Agreement, amended in 1978 – should and can continue throughout the period in question;

b. more generally, how he intends to steer the growth of the Spanish economy to forestall increasing structural imbalance due to excessive differences in wage and social security standards;

c. whether his government has considered the possible effects of enlargement, either in strengthening the European institutions or in steering them towards a free trade area.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I think I have already answered the question about the transitional period. As for the reference to the dismantling of tariff barriers, I would only add that Spain does not intend to retain full protective tariffs during the whole of that period. In other words, we are trying to ensure that the dismantling takes place similarly in all sectors, though it is not impossible that we may be obliged, in a few very rare cases, to make some minor exceptions to this general rule. The second part of the question refers to the growth of the Spanish economy. Obviously, once the transitional period is over and Spain has become part of the European Community, her economic situation will not differ so greatly from that of most other Community members. At the moment, it is true that our rate of inflation is perhaps twice that of the rest of Europe but it is also true that, if the measures for 1979 contained in the government’s projected economic programme, which has the support of nearly all the political parties, produce their full effect the rate of inflation will be reduced sufficiently to put Spain on the same footing as the rest of the Community. I am certain that, by the time Spain has finally become a full member of the European Economic Community, her economy will have reached the same average level as those of its other members.


I ought to point out to the President of the Government of Spain that these questions were, of course, put down in writing before the Assembly could note the most interesting statement which the President has made, so he is quite right when he says that some of the answers have already been given. On the other hand, some members like to go into a little more detail.

Perhaps Mr Valleix wishes to ask a supplementary question?

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

I should like to say to the Prime Minister of Spain that we wish every good fortune to the Spanish democracy.

In the question which I ventured to put to him, I asked how the Spanish Government sees the future if the Community is enlarged. Does he consider that this enlargement will strengthen the European institution or on the contrary that it carries risks which we must try to avoid, in particular the danger that this institution will develop into a free-trade area, with the slackening off that this development would entail?


Mr Suarez, would you like to reply to Mr Valleix’s supplementary question?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

With much pleasure, Mr President. Obviously, I must speak plainly. If I had honestly believed that the accession of Portugal, Greece and Spain to Europe and the European Economic Community would have resulted, directly or indirectly in weakening Community institutions, I promise you that we should never have applied to enter. My reply is therefore a conditional but also an honest one. I am absolutely certain that the Community will be strengthened significantly by the entry of three new members. The countries you are admitting are Mediterranean countries; countries, if I may say so, possessing great imaginative powers and truly desirous of co-operating in the building of Europe. That, to my mind, offers a guarantee that their entry will genuinely strengthen the Economic Community. If not, we should not have applied to join it.


We now come to Question No. 7 by Mr Pignion, which reads as follows:

“Mr Pignion,

Recalling the lively interest shown by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in relations between central and local authorities and in the role played by decentralisation in the renewal of European democracy;

Considering the special interest of Spain’s experience in this field, since several regions in that country have, in the last fifteen months, been accorded semi-autonomous status,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he can draw the first lessons from this experience and indicate the extent to which the new institutions have affected, firstly relations with the central authorities and, secondly, the daily lives of the inhabitants of these regions.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

This question strikes me as particularly complex, Mr President, since it relates both to Europe and to Spain. I do not feel sufficiently well informed, Ladies and Gentlemen, to be able to explain how far a regionalisation policy in Europe may or may not be of importance. What I can explain to you is Spain’s own attitude to regionalisation. Our Constitution makes definite provision for a degree of self-government for all the country’s regions, subject always to the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation as a whole. We believe this responds both to the wishes of the many Spanish regions with all their undoubted differences and also to the need to establish the technical structure of a modem state. I regard it as extremely valuable for the public to be given as large a share as possible in technical, political and administrative decision-making; it is also a method that enables problems to be dealt with more rapidly and brings members of the public into closer touch with matters that concern them directly in their own local environment. Spain’s experience here is of recent date only and our past does not suggest any strikingly successful solutions. But the system of pre-autonomy we have instituted has made it possible for us to try out, so to speak, various possibilities and these will be consolidated once the responsibilities of the autonomous Spanish regions have been set out in detail in their respective statutes. The problem is both difficult and complex but we feel that all the political parties are united in their determination to make sure the system works and that, without distorting the nation’s economic or political life and without endangering its unity, it will make the inhabitants of each of the Spanish regions and the members of each of the country’s various nationalities responsible for their own destiny.

Mr PIGNION (France) (translation)

I should simply like to say to the Spanish Prime Minister that his reply, although not perfect, as he said himself, bears witness to the imaginative power of this young democracy. We the Representatives of the old democracies shall follow with enormous interest the development of this problem of regionalisation and pre-autonomy. I thank him most warmly for his reply.


We come now to Question No. 8 by Mr Boucheny. We are looking far over the Atlantic now, Mr President. The question reads as follows:

“Mr Boucheny

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether the presence of Spain in the Council of Europe is likely to favour the initiatives taken by several parliamentarians in the Council for the restoration of liberties in South America, the freeing of political prisoners (including a number of parliamentarians) and the granting of amnesty.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

If I may say so, Mr President, I think the question was what contribution the new democratic Spain could make towards the enforcement and exercise of democratic freedoms in the Spanish-American continent. First, I must say I think it is very difficult to export formulas applicable in Spain to a different international context. I should like to be able to say proudly that every Spanish formula could be successfully exported to any country in the world that wanted to exchange dictatorship for democracy. But, to speak honestly and realistically, I must say that our political transformation in Spain took place – as I had the honour of explaining just now – in a political, economic and social context peculiar to Spain and that it is difficult to apply the same measures in other economic, social and cultural circumstances. So, by and large, in any country genuinely desirous of exchanging an authoritarian for a democratic regime, the Spanish formula can be useful but only, I think, as a gesture, a demonstration that such a transformation can be achieved without a previous revolution and with a minimum of social, political and economic upheaval; but actually to export the formula itself is difficult. On the other hand, it is my hope that, throughout the whole Spanish-American continent with which Spain has very deep and close ties, some real efforts will be made for the countries which today are governed by dictatorships to recover their freedom. Spain has for some time been trying to forward this by every means at her disposal, which include the visits to Latin America paid by their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, and other visits by myself, several members of the government, and the leaders of the other Spanish political parties. I believe that this assiduous and continuing co-operation with all the Latin American states can and should, at the right moment, bear fruit.

Mr BOUCHENY (France) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, may I thank you for replying so fully to my question concerning your declaration on the links between Spain, Latin civilisation and the other side of the Atlantic.

My object in putting this question was to ask you whether the Spanish parliamentarians sitting in this Chamber, who know the problems of South America well and who know how much some of the people there are suffering – parliamentarians are in prison, and recently in Nicaragua people were massacred with French, American, English and West German arms – will help those of us in this Assembly who do not want the question of human rights to be selective, but want them to apply to all who suffer and are the victims of the policy of certain countries.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I have listened with pleasure to Mr Boucheny’s remarks but he has put a question to which I find it very difficult to reply. I can give no guarantee that the Spanish parliamentarians will adopt any given line of behaviour in this Assembly except perhaps, to a certain extent, in the case of members of my own party. What I am absolutely certain of is that all the Spanish parliamentarians present here are ardent supporters of human rights. That, yes, I can guarantee. I can also promise that their support for the proclamation and defence of human rights will relate to all the countries mentioned by Mr Boucheny because that is something we owe to ourselves. Their support will not be given on any selective basis but will apply to every continent, whatever the place or country concerned. That is all I have to say.


Question No. 9 is also from Mr Boucheny. It reads as follows:

“Mr Boucheny

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain what action the Spanish Government intends to take to establish a peaceful, denuclearised zone in the Mediterranean and to promote co-operation between the riparian countries.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Among other points which I mentioned in my earlier speech, as showing the main options open to the Spanish Government in the Mediterranean, I naturally included the creation of a security force by the coastal states and, in reply to the present question, I would say that we, the Spanish Government, are of course in favour of a reduction in the military potential, both conventional and nuclear, of the Mediterranean area. If we could be absolutely sure that the nuclear powers were not restricting their aims to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, if we could be absolutely sure that their ultimate objective was the abolition of their own nuclear weapons, then we could safely talk about the need to create a denuclearised zone. But I feel, if I may say so, that it would show a certain naivety on my part to believe in the possibility of creating a denuclearised zone in any given part of the world with this terrifying nuclear arms race going on all round us. That is all I can say in reply to the question. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Boucheny appears to be satisfied with your reply, Mr Prime Minister. Mr Carvalhas has tabled three questions. I will read them in order.

Question No. 10 reads as follows:

“Mr Carvalhas,

Recalling that the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between Portugal and Spain has been welcomed and ratified by the four parliamentary groups in the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, who regard it as important for the development of relations on a new basis between Portugal and Spain,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain how he views this question and what he sees as the practical prospects for the development of co-operation between the two countries.”

Question No. 11:

“Mr Carvalhas,

Considering that the Spanish energy plan provides for the completion by 1987 of seven nuclear power stations, on which work has already begun, and of three others from a total of eight for which preliminary authorisation has already been granted,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether the Sayago plant is one of the three power stations which are to be completed in 1987.”

Question No. 12:

“Mr Carvalhas

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether the Spanish authorities are prepared to include water-quality protection (thermic, chemical and radioactive pollution) on the agenda for meetings of the Joint Commission set up by Portugal and Spain to regulate the use and development of international stretches of the Minho, Lima, Tagus and Guadiana rivers and their tributaries.”

Do you wish to take together Questions 10,11 and 12 put by Mr Carvalhas, or would you prefer to deal with them separately?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

If the President will allow me, I will reply to all three questions together. The first, on the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation we have signed with Portugal and the prospects for the future, I think I have answered in part already in my reply to Mr Carvalhas’ Portuguese colleague. The Spanish Government and, I think, indeed I am sure, the Portuguese Government also are looking forward to our relations improving and developing in every sector: technological, cultural, economic and social. This common determination has found expression in the working parties provided for in the treaty and I believe the results will be spectacular. As for the power stations, I think I have already said that a meeting is to take place shortly to study the danger of pollution from Spain’s projected power stations for the rivers flowing into Portugal. So far as the Sayago plant is concerned I can say definitely that its construction has not yet been approved. Consequently, several of the questions you have raised still remain to be dealt with. They can and must be dealt with in the discussions which have already begun between our two countries. Is there another question? I think I have replied to all three.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

The next question is by Lord Morris. It reads as follows:

“Lord Morris

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain:

a. what the present state of affairs is with regard to the continuing negotiations between the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain and Her Majesty’s Government on matters of mutual interest;

b. whether he is satisfied with their progress;

c. and whether he is satisfied with Her Majesty’s Government’s co-operation and initiatives in the course of these negotiations.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

The relations between Spain and Great Britain are, I need hardly say, both friendly and cordial and it is my firm belief that we shall be devoting more and more attention to studying the problems of concern to us both. If I am asked whether or not I personally, as Head of the Government, am satisfied with the progress made in these discussions, my reply is that I am. If I am asked whether I am completely satisfied my reply is: not yet. There is of course one cause of friction in Spanish-British relations of which it is hardly necessary for me to remind you, and that is Gibraltar. We feel that it ought to be possible to find a solution. That is what the United Nations have ordered and we hope that, against the background of the preliminary conversations now taking place, the British Government will make an effort to approach the problem in a realistic spirit. It seems to us that there is a vast range of possible solutions which would respect the legitimate interests of all concerned – the interests, that is, of Great Britain, Spain and the Gibraltarians themselves – more especially in view of the Spanish constitutional framework, which contains provision for a system of autonomous communities which would offer the people of Gibraltar complete protection for their legitimate rights.

Lord MORRIS (United Kingdom)

I wish only to thank the Prime Minister for his very comprehensive and, if I may say so most humbly, very polished parliamentary performance. (Murmurs of approval)


We come now to Question No. 14 put by Mr Pires, which is very similar to Question No. 10 from Mr Carvalhas. It reads as follows:

“Mr Pires,

Recalling that democratic Portugal and Spain have already concluded a general agreement on cooperation and a commercial agreement;

Recalling that, in this connection, some regard the action taken as excessive, while others regard it as too cautious,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain what he thinks of the development of co-operation between the two countries, with particular reference to their European aspirations.”

Does the President wish to add something?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Certainly, but as a matter of courtesy I would like all the same to say a few words to Mr Pires. It is true that I have already replied to the questions he has put but they refer, I think, specifically to co-operation in the Iberian peninsula in the context of our move towards Europe. As well as a common frontier of 800 kilometres, Spain and Portugal also, I think, share a common desire to preserve their independence and sovereignty; they also have numerous common problems and interests. Logically, we can and ought to deal with these in a spirit of co-operation and give and take, while at the same time respecting absolutely the sovereign powers of each country. One of our problems is our entry into Europe. The Portuguese are certainly aware of the extent of Spain’s contribution to their own objective. It is a common objective. We are two countries which, besides being meant to reach an understanding, would, if we were quite witless, still be condemned to do so by force of circumstances.

Mr PIRES (Portugal) (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for replying to the third version of the same question. I should like to add this brief question: do you think that the fact that Portugal belongs to NATO and that Spain is not a member of that organisation is a problem for security and co-operation in the Iberian peninsula?

Do you believe that Portugal has a more Atlantic outlook and that Spain has a more Mediterranean one on the problems of the peninsula and that this might pose a problem for co-operation and security in the Iberian peninsula?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

My reply is brief: no problem.


I hope that for the sake of time, Mr Pires is content with that answer and that we may now continue with Question No. 15, put by Mr Mangelschots, which reads as follows:

“Mr Mangelschots,

Observing that four actors in the Els Joglars company are still prisoners and three others in exile for no other reason but that the pantomime group had parodied military service in a play called La Torna,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he does not think, since he sets great store by respect for human rights, that the time has come to release these prisoners and allow those in exile to return to their homeland.”

Question No. 16, which was also tabled by Mr Mangelschots, reads as follows:

“Mr Mangelschots,

Considering that the visit to the Council of Europe of the Head of the Spanish Government might afford European parliamentarians an opportunity to express their anticipation that Spain would align itself with the position of the EEC member countries by establishing its relations with Israel on a regular basis;

Observing that the discrepancy between the stated policy of Spain as regards the universality of its relations with the nations of the world and the absence of any relations with Israel, members of whose parliament have been sitting in the Assembly of the Council of Europe as observers for twenty-five years,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he cares to express his position in regard to this question.”

I ask Mr Suarez to answer Question No. 15.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

If this question refers to the position of certain persons who were prosecuted in Spain following a theatrical performance, I imagine the reference is to the Els Joglars company. Almost every country, let me point out, has regulations providing for sanctions against behaviour threatening the honour or dignity of individuals or institutions. The same is naturally true of Spain, though possibly with some differences due to the fact that we have not yet modified all our legislation along the lines to be expected from a fully democratic Constitution. I think it is common knowledge, too, that the persons imprisoned in this particular case have been released and that a Bill for the modification of the Military Code has been tabled and will be examined by the next Parliament. The Bill provides that cases of this kind, in which persons are accused of offences covered by general legislation, will be heard by the ordinary courts. That is all I can say in reply to the question. Thank you.


Has Mr Mangelschots a supplementary question?... No?... Mr Mangelschots has no supplementary questions; he is content with your answer, Mr President, and he also agrees that he has received an answer to his Question No. 16.

Therefore we come to Question No. 17 by Mr Coutsocheras, reading as follows:

“Mr Coutsocheras

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he considers it desirable to institute in Spain an international honour in memory of Federico Garcia Lorca, to be awarded annually to a poet whose works are animated by the same spirit as those of Lorca and display a similar championship of human rights.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

The great merit of Garcia Lorca’s work seems to me, Mr Coutsocheras, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it is part of the heritage of the whole Spanish people. It is also part of the heritage of the whole of humanity because it transcends all frontiers. That, I think, is where the fundamental importance of his work lies. The institution of a literary award seems to me quite irrelevant to his personality and writings. I believe in any case – the Spanish Representatives here will correct me if I am wrong – but I believe that a literary prize already exists in Granada; it is known as the Federico Garcia Lorca Prize and is awarded, I think, by Granada University. It is a poetry prize. As to instituting an award in the sense implied by the Representative (of Greece, I would say that the responsibility for doing so belongs ultimately to the Spanish cultural organisations. I do not think that culture can be directed by the state. All that the latter can do is to provide a stimulus. Culture has its own life and must follow its own paths.

Mr COUTSOCHERAS (Greece) (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for your reply.

As you know, Federico Garcia Lorca, apart from being a great poet, fought and suffered for the rights of man. In honouring the memory of this poet and hero, we should like to remind institutions and citizens of their duty to fight for the Prometheus Bound in. Cyprus and elsewhere. That is why I have submitted this idea to you.

My supplementary question is as follows: I refer to the decision of the Sub-committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, when it met in Athens, to proclaim the Mediterranean the “Sea of Civilisation”.

This is a way of calling the attention of our countries to the need to protect this sea against the pollution by which it is affected and to prevent the aquatic plundering of antiquities and works of art. Do you agree, Mr Prime Minister, with the decision to call the Mediterranean the “Sea of Civilisation”?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

In my humble opinion, Mr Coutsocheras, long before the Inter-Parliamentary Union thought of giving it the name, the facts of history showed the Mediterranean to be the “Sea of Civilisation”. So it seems to me of no importance to this Assembly that I should state whether or not I am in favour of the name. Obviously I am.


I had hoped that Mr Coutsocheras would ask his question in poetry, because he is a poet. (Laughter)

We now come to Question No. 18, which is asked by Mr Sénés, who has a considerable interest in the wine-growing regions of Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire and Burgundy. His question is as follows:

“Mr Sénés,

Referring to the position of the French Socialist Party with regard to Spain’s entry into the EEC, which is a cause of considerable concern to the French economy and in particular to the wine-growers and fruit and vegetable farmers of the south;

Observing that in such circumstances the French Socialists could not wholly endorse the step unless Spain undertakes to apply legal, taxation, social and economic measures that would place Spanish producers on the same footing as those of France;

Anxious to reassure the workers of southern France on this point,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether his government is making plans to bring about this harmonisation.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

That is a worry which we Spaniards share. My answer is that Spain’s entry into the Communities will not cause any prejudice to French Mediterranean products. That is particularly true of wine and horticultural products, for two reasons both of which I think are sufficiently weighty. In the first place, Spain is willing, throughout the transitional period, to take all necessary steps to prevent any sudden distortion of the markets, in return for similar measures by France. In the second place, I do not think that our products – or at least those mentioned – are competitive and they cannot in any case be increased to any significant extent because almost all the land on which they are grown has already attained its maximum productivity. Thirdly, in view of the question’s explicit or implicit concern over Spanish lower wage-levels and production costs, may I remind you that over the past few years the rise in both has been much the same in Spain as in other European countries. But because I know that France is worried about the matter, I should like to say that while we are naturally concerned about our own products, we are concerned about French products as well and we shall make every effort to arrive at formulas which reconcile the interests of both sides.

Mr SÉNÈS (France) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, I should first like to put the record straight. I am not from Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne, I come from the south, which is the biggest wine-producing region in the world, ordinary table wine, for which the entry of Spain into the Common Market does create problems, and serious problems.

I thank you, Mr Prime Minister, and I note your reply. But for me it is incomplete. Let me say that I am a parliamentarian who is a bit of a specialist. I should simply like to insist on the need for certain harmonisation measures, which must be possible, and I would ask you, Mr Prime Minister, to try on your side, within the Spanish Government, to expedite the implementation of such measures, in order to avoid the understandable reactions of the French producers, who are after all only defending, in our region, the right of family holdings to survive and nothing else. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

This last is a question to which I am very much alive. We shall naturally defend our own rights and we ought to try in every way to understand the rights of others. I said as much in my first reply to Mr Sénés. Spain’s effort will consist in trying to gain a complete picture of the problems that her entry into the Community will raise for one of France’s regions as well as for every other European country. What I ask in return is that such regions and countries should try to understand the problems that Spain’s entry raises for the Spaniards themselves. As I am sure that that is what will happen. I feel we ought to make a really serious effort – and Spain is ready to do so – to overcome the initial difficulties and problems that may arise in the short term in this or that agricultural or industrial sector, because I really do believe, as I think your own technical knowledge will tell you, that Spanish entry will benefit agricultural production in the whole of the Mediterranean area. I have no doubts on the matter but on our side we shall naturally seek every means of reconciling the interests of French farmers, Spanish farmers and European farmers, nor shall we spare any effort in this task.


The next question is from Mr Dejardin.

Question No. 19 reads as follows:

“Mr Dejardin,

Considering that the Spanish press, citing government sources, has referred to Belgian complicity with the ETA, complaining, in particular, that automatic weapons of Belgian manufacture have been found in the possession of Basque terrorists and that the latter have attended training camps in Belgium – accusations which are serious and which would be inexcusable unless supported by further information;

Believing that the arms trade is essentially immoral, since arms dealers, even at the price of innocent blood, are interested only in profit, and that anyone can acquire arms of any sort, even arms of Belgian manufacture, although the Belgian Government only grants licences for the export of arms to regularly constituted governments,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he is prepared:

a. either to dissociate himself solemnly from these accusations, considered defamatory by public opinion in Belgium, or to confirm them with proof, thus helping Belgian parliamentarians to take effective countermeasures;

b. to encourage effective co-operation between the relevant police authorities in Spain and their counterparts in Belgium in the hunt for terrorists, whoever they may be, and their possible supporters in Belgium, thus providing a counterweight to the former sinister co-operation between various police forces in the hunt for political opponents of the fascist regime under which the Spanish people suffered for forty years.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I am sorry, Mr President, but I do not altogether recollect the question. That is obviously my own fault. I think it said that the Spanish press had carried a story alleging that an arms traffic was going on between Belgium and the ETA, the terrorist organisation active in Spain. That is a very serious accusation. The story may well have appeared in the Spanish press, as in the Belgian, but that in no way implies that the Spanish Government accepts its veracity, still less that we have any cause to reproach or criticise the Belgian authorities. We are quite certain that the Belgian authorities are not in any way implicated in the affair. Mr Dejardin can set his mind at rest on that point. We have no suspicions of any kind about the Belgian Government’s behaviour. If we had had any such suspicions, we should of course have said so straight out, but we have no reason to suppose for a moment that the Belgian Government is in any way concerned in this arms traffic. That is all.

Mr DEJARDIN (Belgium) (translation)

I am very pleased by the reply which the Prime Minister of Spain has just made publicly, since it will no doubt put an end to certain rumours.

In the second part of my question, I asked his opinion on effective co-operation between the Spanish police and the Belgian police in the search for terrorists and any accomplices they may have in Belgium. This would make honourable amends for the previous sinister co-operation between police services, who hunted down the political opponents of the fascist regime from which the Spanish people suffered for forty years.

Beyond such specific co-operation, I venture to hope, Mr Prime Minister, that the co-operative attitude which you displayed in your introductory speech will make it possible at last to settle the problem of the presence in Spain of Nazi war criminals, one of them a Belgian who, thirty-three years after, is still enjoying the fruits of his crimes.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I regard that as a very serious accusation. It is a serious matter to allege that there is a criminal living in Spain who is still profiting from his crimes. If a court makes application for him to be handed over, the Spanish Government will naturally transmit such application to the judicial authorities who will decide the action to be taken. So far as I am concerned, I know nothing of the matter and your question has taken me by surprise. When you speak of co-operation between the Spanish and Belgian police in the hunt for terrorists I imagine you are speaking of terrorists wherever they may be, in Belgium or elsewhere. I have noted what you say and I will willingly do all I can to see that Spanish police authorities are enabled to get into touch with their Belgian colleagues so as to agree on methods of co-operation. That is all I can say.


Thank you, Mr President. Question No. 20 is on the Canfranc trans-Pyrenean railway line – something quite different. It reads as follows:

“Mr Baeza Martos,

Referring to Recommendation 826 on recent developments concerning trunk communications and regional planning in Europe, adopted by the Assembly in January 1978,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he can tell the Assembly what progress has been made with negotiations between the Spanish and French authorities on reopening the Canfranc trans-Pyrenean railway line, a project from which the Spanish regions of Aragon and Valencia have much to hope.”

Will you reply, Mr Suarez?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I will certainly reply to this question which I think comes from Mr Baeza Martos. The Spanish Government has had several meetings on the matter recently and it is dealt with at some length in recommendations addressed to the Spanish and French Governments. The Spanish Government is in favour of reopening this line and is now awaiting the results of the necessary investigations and the contacts with the competent French authorities to take a decision as to its viability. But let me say at once that the government is in favour of this additional line of communication.

Mr BAEZA MARTOS (Spain) (translation)

I thank the Prime Minister for his reply, which will reassure many of our compatriots from Aragon and Valencia.


Is Mr Luptowits in agreement with me that his question has been answered by the President? His question is as follows:

“Mr Luptowits,

Considering the close historical and linguistic ties between Spain and Latin America,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain what role democratic Spain can play in providing an example for Latin America.”

Would Mr Luptowits like to ask an additional question?

Mr LUPTOWITS (Austria) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President. The answer was what I had expected.


I am grateful, because we can now pass to Question No. 22, which has also been mentioned by the President – the promotion and consolidation of stability in the Mediterranean area. It reads as follows:

“Mr Calamandrei

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain how Spain can help, particularly in her relations with existing blocs and alliances, to prevent disturbance of the international balance and to promote and consolidate stability in the Mediterranean region.”

Would Mr Calamandrei like to ask a supplementary question?...

Mr CALAMANDREI (Italy) (translation)

If the Head of Government of Spain considers that he has nothing to add to his opening statement on this subject of balance and stability in the Mediterranean region, I will certainly not press him to do so. It is up to him to decide.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

I think I have already explained my views on that matter in my earlier statement, Mr President.


We now come to Question No. 23 tabled by Mr Ahrens. It reads as follows:

“Mr Ahrens,

Noting that the Spanish Constitution, which has just been approved by a.very large majority of the Spanish people, is the most up-to-date Constitution of any Council of Europe member state and that it contains a special chapter on local government, emphasising the special role which local authorities and provinces have to play in the democratic construction of the Spanish state,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain:

a. why local elections were not held immediately after the promulgation of the Constitution, but only after the parliamentary elections;

b. when local elections are to be held and whether the local authority structures established by the old regime will be replaced by new structures based on the result of these democratic elections.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

That is an interesting question showing considerable concern over Spain’s internal problems on matters as specific as her municipal elections. The law relating to the system of local government which is now in force in Spain was adopted by the present Parliament – or, rather, by the Parliament which has just ended with the calling of a general election. That law, which may be said to have approved the whole network of legislation relating to local government, provides for municipal elections to take place within a fixed period from the entry into force of the Constitution. If I remember rightly, the period is one of ninety days and the elections will certainly be held within that time as laid down by the law. In the second place, under the eighth addendum to the Constitution the current Head of the Government had the right to opt, within a certain fixed period, for either a vote of confidence or a general election. Since, under the Constitution, the period between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election may not exceed sixty days, by opting for a general election he made it necessary for the latter to be held before the municipal elections. But, independently of this somewhat more complicated issue arising from the legal texts, the law also gave the Head of the Government the right to hold the municipal elections either within a period not exceeding that laid down by law once the Constitution had come into force, or within the period laid down in the Constitution itself. Naturally, I opted for the solution which suited me best within the powers allowed me, that being, I think, elementary practice in any democratic political organisation. As to when we are going to change the former municipal structure, the answer is, obviously, after the municipal elections. The logical result of those elections, due to take place in Spain on 3 April next, will of course be a complete change in the membership of the local councils and provincial assemblies.

Mr AHRENS (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, thank you very much for your most frank answer. You can see from the question the keen interest the members of this House take in developments in Spain. This must gratify you.

I have only one short additional question. As you doubtless know, there are numerous twinning agreements between the towns and municipalities of the member states of the Council of Europe. The sole aim of these pairings is to promote understanding among our nations, especially among the young people. I know from many talks with towns and municipalities not only in Germany but also in other states, that they wish to establish contact as soon as possible with Spanish towns. My question is: will your government encourage such approaches?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

So far as the government can promote such contacts it will obviously do so, but may I remind you that responsibility for decisions of this kind lies with the local councils and provincial assemblies. However, I think I may say that, whatever the results of the elections on 3 April, all political parties will be united in wishing to promote such meetings. They are useful for the town involved, for the countries in which they are situated and, I believe, for the whole community as well. Whatever can be done by the government to foster this kind of initiative, subject always to the autonomy granted to local councils and provincial assemblies, we shall of course gladly do.


We come to Question No. 24 by Mr Gessner, which reads as follows:

“Mr Gessner

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether the overcoming of dictatorship in Spain has led to effective consequences with regard to the staff of the police apparatus.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

That is a difficult question which may take some time to answer. I would ask for the indulgence of Representatives as I would like to explain why no political purge of any kind is taking place in Spain. The reason is to be found in the same philosophy of reform I had the honour of explaining to you just now. We felt the new Constitution ought not to exclude any Spaniard, no matter what ideology he had originally professed. Reform in Spain had to look only to the future and turn its back on the past. That is why there has been no purge of the civil servants or police in any state institution. I sincerely believe that the Spanish security forces have made a praiseworthy effort to enter into the new dimensions of the Spanish state; that is to say, a democratic state in which their main duty is to guarantee the free exercise of civil liberties and hence the safety of the public. I think their efforts deserve recognition. At the same time, the government has tried, by various parliamentary Bills and other minor measures taken by successive Councils of Ministers, to improve the professional character of the security forces, to make them into an integral part of a democratic state, and to give them further training in methods of crime investigation, detection and prevention, at a moment when criminal methods are becoming daily more technical and terrorism daily more rampant. This reply may not strike members of the public or victims of aggression as wholly satisfactory, but it is true in so far as the training and professional character of these forces is concerned and, I repeat, their standards are constantly improving. With regard to their still being commanded by the same persons as before, I do think there have been considerable changes over the past year. In the first place, more than half the heads of departments have been retired and the average age of the senior officers has come down. Secondly, provided that the officers who remain act within the spirit of the Constitution and are scrupulous in their observance of democratic processes and the performance of their own duties, there is no reason to dismiss them. Because, in the midst of a political evolution like the one taking place in my country, it is essential to be consistent and, regardless of what he may have thought or done in the past, any person who co-operates actively in the defence of democratic institutions deserves the respect of all Spaniards.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

May I assume that Mr Gessner is satisfied, so that the other questions can be answered before 6 o’clock?

Mr GESSNER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

I only wished to convey to the President of the Spanish Government that I wish him well in his endeavours. I think that it is exceptionally important for the development of democracy in Spain that there is not only a democratic government but also a state machinery that staunchly supports democracy. That was the background to my question.


We come next to Question No. 25 from Sir John Rodgers, which is as follows:

“Sir John Rodgers

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain if Spain, which does not at present belong to any existing military or political alliance, in the context of its attempts to achieve closer political and economic links with other democratic European states, wishes for closer military co-operation with these states.”

Mr Suarez, will you reply to this question?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

It gives me much pleasure to reply to that question, Mr President. I am asked whether Spain, which belongs to no alliance, can or cannot intensify her military co-operation with the other states of Western Europe. We already cooperate militarily to some extent with some European countries, such as Portugal and France. Naturally, we can increase military cooperation with other European democracies and, as I said when I had the honour of addressing you, we are also co-operating with the Western world as a whole through the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation that we signed in 1976 with the United States. If there is a reference, actual or implied, to the Atlantic Alliance in the question, I am glad to reply to that as well by explaining the position of the Spanish Government and of my own party. The government does not regard the question of Spain’s ultimate entry to NATO as an urgent one and, so far as can be seen, it will involve far-reaching discussion in the Spanish Parliament. In our view, the decision must be a joint one by all the major Spanish political parties; otherwise, it could have no practical effect. My government and my party are in favour of joining the Alliance but we do not think the decision is a matter of urgency or that it is one that can be imposed. There must be a parliamentary debate and we must seek the co-operation of the other parties; then, at the right time, should matters turn out that way, we will study the means by which entry can be achieved. But, I repeat, Spain is already participating in the defence of the Western world through her Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation with the United States.

Sir John RODGERS (United Kingdom)

I am very grateful to the Head of the Government of Spain for his answer. I agree with him that there is no urgent need at the moment for Spain to contemplate joining the NATO nations, but since, as he has said, Spain has had a treaty with the United States of America since 1976, I hope that some time in the not too distant future he will consider closer relationships with the nations of NATO.


I suggest that we combine Question No. 26 from Mr Faulds and Question No. 27 from Mrs von Bothmer because both relate to good relations with the Arab world and the new Arab dialogue. I will read them.

“Question No. 26:

Mr Faulds

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether it is not time that the European nations, in their own interests and in view of the need for good relations with the Arab world, recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which has received world-wide recognition as the representative of the dispossessed Palestinian people.”

“Question No. 27:

Mrs von Bothmer

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he is aware of the fact that the Arab governments are disappointed at the lack of political progress of the Euro-Arab dialogue and at the lack of response from the European governments to their wish for closer co-operation in our fields.”

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

In reply to Mr Faulds’ question on Spain’s relations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation my answer must be that, legally, Spain can have diplomatic relations only with other states. However, by her support in the United Nations for recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and her official recognition of the PLO Bureau in Madrid, Spain has made her position in the matter clear. Our relations with the Bureau are also excellent. As to whether it would be in their own interests for the European countries to have a closer relationship with the Arab world, I am hardly best qualified to say what those countries should or should not do: but I can tell you what Spain, which has excellent relations with the Arab world, is doing. We think that to promote Europe’s relations with that world would be all to the good and would make a significant contribution to peace and détente. In any case, I should be glad to see the European countries follow Spain’s example and, for reasons of state, improve and tighten their links with the Arab world.

Mr FAULDS (United Kingdom)

I would like to ask the President whether he would not agree that there can be no prospect of peace in the Middle East, which is going to affect the future of Europe very certainly, and larger parts of the world, until Palestinians of the occupied territories and the Palestinians of the diaspora, those who have been dispersed from their territories, are granted, perhaps by international pressure on Israel, the establishment of their own state? As a rider to that, would the President consider delaying recognition of Israel until perhaps the Israelis recognise an independent state of Palestine?

Mrs von BOTHMER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, I have already heard part of the answer but I would be interested to have a plainer reply as to whether you consider the dialogue between the European and Arab countries a good way of improving not only economic but also political relations between these countries.

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

That is certainly how I see the question myself. Quite apart from economic or industrial relations which could exist, or which exist already, with the European countries, I think, from the political point of view, that it would be a great help towards détente and a peaceful solution of the Middle East’s problems. That is my firm belief. But I am being reminded that I have not answered your question and I apologise. One constant element in the Spanish position is that any settlement must involve – in addition to other considerations such as the application of United Nations Resolution 338 and allied resolutions – must involve recognition of the rights and nationhood of the Palestinian people. If I understood it aright, your question exactly describes the Spanish Government’s position as to the need to recognise the rights and nationhood of the Palestinians and to give them a state.


We come to the last question, No. 28, from Mr Yanez-Barnuevo, which reads as follows:

“Mr Yanez-Barnuevo,

Considering that the timely invitation to Spain, in the person of its Head of Government, to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was issued before the legislative elections in Spain, to be held on 1 March, were announced;

Considering that the previous Spanish Parliament was dissolved on 29 December 1978,

To ask the Head of the Government of Spain whether he does not consider that political prudence should have led him to postpone his visit to the Council of Europe, thus ensuring that this visit did not coincide with the Spanish election campaign, which has already begun.”

An interesting question, Mr President!

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Obviously, I did not postpone it. I would point out to Mr Yanez-Barnuevo that the Council’s invitation arrived, if I remember rightly, on 27 September and I accepted it at once. The dissolution of Parliament and the calling of the general election took place later. Of course, my visit can be interpreted as a piece of electioneering even if it was settled long before the date of the election. But I also promised the Spanish people, on television, the day Parliament was dissolved, that we would continue to govern the country until the election and to govern includes keeping all engagements, both at home and abroad. It may be that my visit here will bring electoral advantages for myself and my party; but it is equally true for both of us that the day-to-day exercise of power during an election period brings numerous disadvantages as well and I think the two balance out. But I insist, in any case, that I have not the slightest intention of using this visit to gain any electoral advantage and I can state categorically that it was not of my seeking. But even if it had been, I do not think there would have been anything wrong in that. The rudeness inherent in refusing the invitation would, politically speaking, I think have been more serious.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Does that satisfy you, Mr Yanez-Barnuevo, or do you wish to put a further question?

Mr YANEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) (translation)

Obviously, it satisfies me because I know Mr Suarez and I knew that even his answer would be an electioneering one. In other words, I offered him a magnificent opportunity. In any case, what I really wanted to do was to take advantage of the first opportunity offered to Spanish parliamentarians of having an open discussion in public with our Prime Minister. If this happens to occur in Strasbourg, so much the better. I hope the same thing will occur more often in the Spanish Cortes. And speaking as a representative of the opposition, and just to show him that we have no electoral axe to grind, I congratulate Mr Suarez sincerely on his speech and, more particularly, on recognising that the Spanish political parties have a part to play in our progress towards democracy. Thank you.


Do you wish to add anything to your reply, Mr Suarez?

Mr Suárez, President of the Spanish Government (translation)

Mr President, this hardly seems to me the moment to enter into a discussion with Luis Yanez-Barnuevo, my esteemed friend and colleague – because we are colleagues in the Congress of Deputies – but I must point out to him that he could have found other occasions for a debate with me in the Spanish Parliament simply by following the rules of procedure. Had he wanted, the rules of procedure of the Cortes and Congress of Deputies offered him endless possibilities. I myself spoke in Parliament whenever it seemed proper to do so and he himself, in the exercise of his parliamentary rights, had every opportunity offered by the rules of procedure of doing the same. As for his thanks for my earlier remarks, let me tell him that, as he very well knows, they were no mere empty words but the truth. It is the part of a well-bred man to recognise such facts and to express gratitude for them.


Mr President, in the post-war period there was a time when no one could start an election campaign unless he had been seen on the steps of the White House with the President of the United States. In the sixties one had to have been seen in the Kremlin to have a good chance of winning a campaign. Nowadays one does not count if one has not been received by Mr Teng in Peking, and perhaps in the eighties we will have a new period when election campaigns start in the hemicycle of the Council of Europe. I must admit, however, in a very objective way that both sides have the same chance in this hemicycle.

As members may know, the President is here not only to address us and answer questions but also to present the Museum Prize of the Council of Europe later this evening. This is why I must be very brief in thanking him because our time is limited. I just want to say that 5 December in my country is St Nicholas’ Day. St Nicholas can be compared with Santa Claus, but with this difference, that he comes from Spain and brings us gifts. I have noted that the President has answered all the questions in a very gifted fashion. It is one thing to answer questions but quite another to answer them from memory as he has been doing.

You referred, Mr President, to the Council of Europe as the cornerstone of democratic control. We all share the same ideals. You also mentioned that the nucleus of European co-operation was the European Community and you referred to the wish of your government to become a member of that Community. I sincerely hope that the Spanish Government will continue to take the same creative interest in the Council of Europe once Spain has become a member of the European Community. Why should we limit European co-operation to nine, ten, eleven or even twelve members when twenty-one European democracies are prepared to work together in such things as cultural cooperation, combating terrorism and perhaps even a united effort to export democracy to other countries? I also hope that in the future the Spanish Government will take the same active part in our Committee of Ministers and in the work of the Council of Europe and will also carefully note all the decisions which this Assembly democratically makes.

I congratulate you, Mr President, on your excellent speech and on the way in which you have answered the questions, which were not always easy. Thank you very much. (Applause)