President of the Spanish Government

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 27 September 1990

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like again to express to your President, Mr Björck, whom I had the pleasure of welcoming to Madrid some months ago, and to all of you, my gratitude for the kind invitation to address this Assembly on the occasion of its debate on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe; it is an Assembly based on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, extended to embrace all the participants in the Helsinki process.

This is now already the third time that I have had the honour of addressing Council of Europe Parliamentarians. In October 1977, together with other representatives of the Spanish people elected in the first free elections in Spain for 40 years, I affirmed our commitment to providing Spain with a fully democratic constitution as a guarantee for basic freedoms in accordance with the principles and rules contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. I recall with great emotion the Assembly Recommendation in favour of Spain’s immediate accession to the Council of Europe, even before the Spanish constitution had been approved. A similar event is perhaps about to recur at a time when countries such as Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are knocking at the Council’s door.

As President of the Spanish Government on the eve of Spain’s accession to the Community, I returned to this Assembly in January 1984. I was then able to report that Spaniards had managed to lay the foundations for peaceful co-existence in a free society; since then we have been able to demonstrate our determination to join a Europe solidly united on the basis of joint principles accepted by all and institutions in which we already participate or hope soon to participate.

At that time I said that Europe did exist and that the real problem was how to unite it in the framework of its diversities. In my opinion the European institutions were and are the protagonists of a process whose main point is the joint purpose of achieving the well-being of Europeans and the affirmation of the European identity.

Mr President,

On this occasion the Assembly is very different from that which I have hitherto addressed: it embraces, as special guests, parliamentarians from countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In fact this debate will bring together parliamentarians from virtually all states participating in the Helsinki process. This change accurately reflects recent events in the context of international relations, from the “round table” in Poland to the collapse of the Berlin wall, with all their various consequences for Europe and the whole world.

I have been wondering why I have been afforded this new opportunity to address you. I have the feeling that it is not because I am so very important but that my country of origin not so long ago managed a peaceful changeover from an authoritarian regime to a system based on freedom, thereby opening its doors to the world and joining the European institutions.

I have often said that in my opinion there is no one Spanish “model”, in the strict sense of the term. History is currently showing us that each country, when faced with reality, seeks its own particular solutions or its problems. Spain had to effect a very basic political change. Our new guests – soon to become members – now in turn are faced with the arduous task of transforming their economies, on the understanding that they can rely on the help of others, but must not forget that they themselves must provide the main thrust.

I repeat that in my opinion there is no Spanish “model”, but I would venture to mention a precedent in our country which might be useful to others in so far as they can repeat its successes and avoid its mistakes. If the political changeover in Spain is to provide any contribution at all, it might be summed up in the quest for consensus from all the parties involved, overcoming confrontation and renouncing any attempt at revenge. The secret of the Spanish changeover was simply the fact of turning a new page and writing a new chapter for the good of all.

Mr President,

In our changing continent a variety of institutions exist side by side, and none of them can claim to monopolise the European concept. It is inevitable that competences and ill-defined sectors of the various institutions will to some extent overlap. The debate which was launched some months ago and which we are now continuing should help to clarify ideas.

The historic leap forward which we have witnessed and of which we are to some extent the protagonists is reflected in the Community which is advancing by leaps and bounds towards economic and monetary, and political union, and also in the Council of Europe, the most obvious sign of which being the present membership of this Assembly. In the newly emerging European configuration the Council of Europe can and must take on an important new role in fields which have become its own alongside the other institutions.

When Churchill used the term “Council of Europe” for the first time he may well have been thinking of what we now know as Western Europe. It is also possible that the Council first of all conceived of itself as a defensive body, in the positive sense of the word, that is to say the defender of democratic values, the supremacy of law, political pluralism and human rights. However, it is undeniable that the name “Council of Europe” was highly felicitous. It has never been called the “Council of Western Europe”, even though the values which the Council embodied and defended were those prevailing in that part of Europe. Today, with the disappearance of the systems imposed since the war in the other half of Europe, the Council is in a position truly to transform itself in the Council of Ail Europe.

The Council has considerably contributed to the reinforcement of democracy and introduced a network of close intergovernmental co-operation which is indispensable for the continent’s unity. This important contribution must continue as we lay the foundations of what has come to be known as the “new European architecture”.

The first element which the Council can contribute to the enrichment of current European reality is its value as a reference. The Council of Europe has been a kind of beacon light and also a legitimising factor for all nascent or transforming democracies. In Community terminology we might describe the Council of Europe as a “democratic customs house”, as a guardian of human rights and an area for co-existence and participation. It fulfilled this role in 1977 for Spain, as it had shortly before for Greece and Portugal. It still fulfils this role for the societies of Central and Eastern Europe, whose accession to the Organisation, which Spain wholeheartedly backs, must be an element promoting stability for the countries in question and the whole of Europe. Its value as a reference, especially nowadays, is not a distant rhetorical concept, but has great immediacy and concerns practical co-operation, learning new relations, and realising widespread aspirations, through conventions and other instruments constituting the Council’s heritage.

I recall that in 1977, in connection with Spain, I remarked that what safeguarded a nation’s democratic character was not the letter of the Constitution but the determination of democrats who supported and defended the Constitution. I stressed that what was more important than the Constitution was the determination of the whole people to defend its democracy. I believe that the Council of Europe will assess the irrevocable determination of the countries applying for membership to install a system of freedom on embracing all the political forces involved, rather than the operation of current legal texts. I am not asking for things to be made too easy but that a general rule be generously and far-sightedly applied.

A second element in the Council’s contribution to the new “European architecture” is its “parliamentary dimension”. I am happy to make such a statement before this Assembly, which has already carried out extremely important work towards overcoming the division of Europe. The granting of special guest status to parliamentarians from most Central and Eastern European countries has been a factor of cardinal importance on the road to rapprochement between the two parts of Europe. Its determination to do so has once again shown the pioneering spirit of this Assembly.

We must now go into further detail on this parliamentary dimension of European construction. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe provides the institutional framework for such construction. In that task, which is so important for the configuration of the new Europe, we must be both ambitious as regards the aims and pragmatic as regards the means. Among the proposals for the future of CSCE we would immediately stress the setting-up of a parliamentary forum, an initiative which cannot but benefit from the experience of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The flexibility of the Assembly’s action, its direct, immediate links with the national parliaments of member states, and its proved capacity for flexibly guiding the participation of parliamentarians from other countries into its fields of activity make of it the obvious choice for the nucleus of the new parliamentary body transcending Europe, since it would also embody the United States and Canada.

It seems obvious that, as far as possible, we must avoid duplication and make full use of the experience of such institutions as the Council of Europe which already have a long history. At the same time, we must be careful not to turn the Council of Europe into something which it is not and cannot be. The consequences of the Helsinki Final Act are one thing, the Council of Europe another, and we must not confuse them. The Council of Europe can help the CSCE and give it the benefit of its experience and co-operation, but I think that it would be inadvisable to change its very essence, its aims and its criteria, which continue to be a key element in the European identity we wish to maintain.

The third component of the Council’s contribution to the new European reality is that of intergovernmental co-operation. This covers many different areas (culture, information, the environment, the harmonisation of law, youth etc), but one in particular stands out: the defence and promotion of human rights.

It is true that machinery for the protection of human rights has gradually developed in the CSCE framework. Its main lines are to be found in the Vienna and Copenhagen documents, after the doctrinal statements of the Helsinki Final Act. But it is no less true that the Council of Europe has succeeded in establishing a very comprehensive system – the most highly developed in the world – for guaranteeing respect for human rights. How are these two realities to be harmonised and made mutually compatible? It seems to be that, here, as is nearly always the case, it will be necessary to combine determination and caution. Why? Because obvious difficulties arise. Not all the countries participating in the CSCE process are – or could be, in the present circumstances – parties to the human rights protection machinery which the 23 member states of the Council enjoy. What can be done? I think that a gradual, pragmatic approach is necessary. Initially, the Council of Europe could contribute to the CSCE process – and hence to ail the participating states – its experience, its knowledge and its well-being in the human rights field. Subsequently, it would be necessary to think of sufficiently imaginative formulas for enabling ail the states participating in the CSCE process somehow to have access to, or participate in, the human rights ’protection machinery which has operated so successfully hitherto. Let us be both patient and optimistic and work towards that goal.

Mr President, let us work towards that goal in this new Europe which, together, we are inventing, inventing out of the ashes of a cold war which brought relative peace, but a peace based on an equilibrium which was itself based on fear. It is now time to think of a positive, more open Europe where the emphasis is on hope, co-operation and solidarity.

The system which arose out of the second world war and the ensuing cold war had succeeded artificially in burying many of the tensions which, for good or for evil, characterise the history of our continent. The most outstanding example is that of ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities, which are emerging again with the disappearance of the artificial constrictions which had unnaturally concealed their existence. The cracking of the concrete mantle which covered part of Europe is bringing to light both enormous vitality and some unsuspected problems.

It would be highly dangerous to confuse freedom, progress and democracy – I am referring to the countries of what, until recently, was the “other Europe” – with the reactivation of nationalist or particularist tensions, which in many cases are a factor for disintegration. I am convinced that Europe’s future and its much needed unity in an increasingly complex world depend on respect for the cultural differences which made our civilisation great. Without wishing to give lessons to anyone, because we have so much to learn, Spain can feel moderately satisfied with the solution found to the difficult problem of the diversity of nationalities and culture which go to form it. The arrangements for self-government which were included in our Constitution and the subsequent legislative developments are not a perfect formula – none is. But they are, if I may say so, a correct approach to a complex problem, and this was how we expressed it at the Copenhagen Conference on the Human Dimension.

Mr President, when speaking of Europe, it is usual to refer to the “common home”. But, more than a common home, Europe has always been a road. One of the first European roads was that of Santiago de Compostela. We must endeavour to ensure that Europe and the building of Europe continue to be a road, a path creating a world of its own, based above all on culture and concern for the quality of life, for the conditions in which youth fulfils itself, and, very importantly, one that is not closed in on itself, but on the contrary open to the horizons in which its personality has always developed.

A road. Let us create the conditions for dialogue between all the peoples of Europe and recognise the enormous benefit we can derive from our differences. Let us respect everything and make it compatible. Braudel said that Europe as a whole forms a fairly coherent cultural area: “Europe is, at one and the same time, unity and diversity”. As he recalled on one occasion, true culture lies in respect for freedom. It is also true that freedom is not complete without culture.

An open road. What is Europe without its external influence? Without any discriminatory intent I shall refer to two aspects of European influence, of the wider Europe, not centred on itself, but open, as has always been its role, to the outside world.

I think that there can be few doubts about America’s European nature. There is the America of the United States and Canada, incorporated into the great European project which is embodied in the CSCE, members of the Atlantic alliance and privileged partners with which the European Community seeks to develop a Gloser relationship.

And there is the other America, the America with Iberian roots. Historical factors, both old and new, have prevented the other America from being, as it should, in the sphere of our Europe’s concerns. This is obviously unfair. It is unfair because if Europe has a cultural influence in the world, that influence is America. And not merely the United States and Canada, but also the whole of Latin America’s very rich cultural world, which shows us every day that Europe has never died in it. On the contrary, it is recreated every day on the other side of the Atlantic.

What about the Mediterranean? Here again, there is a certain neglect on the part of Europeans. It is possible that the current crisis in the Gulf has an influence on perceptions. But for some time we have been saying, and we are not the only ones, that the Mediterranean is Europe’s new frontier. The easing of East-West tension – which we all welcome – permits a better appreciation of the reality and potentiality of North-South problems. There would not seem to be any doubt about the decisive importance of the Mediterranean with regard to security and co-operation in Europe. There is nothing very new here either. The Helsinki Final Act recognised the link between Europe and the Mediterranean. Elaborating on this idea, Spain and Italy, at the opening of the CSCE meeting on Mediterranean ecosystems in Palma, launched the idea of a process permitting the establishment of a system of security and co-operation for the entire Mediterranean area. I hope that the Council of Europe can also make its contribution to this exciting task, which is both difficult and necessary.

Mr President, I should not like to conclude without welcoming the unification of Germany, which we shall have occasion to celebrate on 3 October. As well as being the first fruit of the process of détente, it is also a symbol of the end of a divided Europe and of hope for Europe-wide co-operation and the deepening of the Community. And what better place to do it than this City of Strasbourg, the cradle of Franco-German co-operation and one of the symbols of European unity.

As far back as 1948, at the Congress of Europe in The Hague, a famous Spaniard, Salvador de Madariaga, glimpsed the inevitability of a united Europe. Above all, he said, let us love Europe, our Europe resounding with Rabelaisian laughter, lit up by the smile of Erasmus and sparkling with the genius of Voltaire. This Europe has to be born and will be born when Spaniards say “our Chartres”, the English “our Cracow” and the Italians “our Copenhagen”, and when the Germans say “our Bruges”. Then Europe will live because the spirit which guides history will then have pronounced the words of creation “FIAT EUROPA”.

I am convinced that if this moment has not yet arrived, it is very close. We are presented with an historical opportunity and we must be able to make the most of it. It depends on us, on our ability to make decisions and on our determination to forge the new Europe together. Let us do this together, and let us do it now.

Thank you very much.


Thank you very much, Mr President. We have listened with great interest to your speech. You have demonstrated a very great knowledge of international affairs and your true conviction as a European. You have also been very encouraging in what you said about the role of the Council of Europe and the future CSCE process.

You have been kind enough to say that you will answer questions from the parliamentarians and I invite you to answer each question in turn. I shall then ask the member concerned to ask a brief supplementary question if he or she so desires and if there is sufficient time.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece) (interpretation)

praised Mr Gonzalez’s analysis. He asked whether there was a danger that the economic policies of the Spanish Government had social consequences which were inconsistent with Socialist principles.

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

recognised that a balance had to be maintained. His government did not believe that social objectives could be successfully achieved without creating the wealth required to put them into practice. A fair distribution of wealth had to mean an evening up, not an evening down, of standards of living. He believed that the recent experience of Spain had shown that his government’s policies had succeeded in creating the economic progress which had allowed job creation and effective public provision.


I thank you for your fine speech, Mr President. For more than a year the EFTA countries have been discussing and negotiating with the European Economic Community with the aim of creating European economic space. Among the many important issues to be negotiated is the expansion of the list of goods to be included under the free trade agreements. In that context, does the Spanish Government support free trade in fish and fish products within the European economic space?

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

agreed that it was essential for products to move freely throughout the European economic space. However, he recognised there were special problems in some areas including fisheries.


I should like to follow up my question with another one closely related to it. Should not the issue of the principle and concept of free trade stand on its own and be considered independently, rather than in conjunction with unrelated issues such as access to resources?

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

said there were different levels of development. There were some countries that, while wanting free access to markets, wished to defend their own agricultural sectors. There was need for equity and justice. The European market was one of great potential.

Mr TASÇIOGLU (Turkey) (interpretation)

asked whether Mr Gonzalez thought that in the new Europe it was necessary to avoid obstacles to integration. He cited the gap between the Community Twelve and other European countries.

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

said he could not speak on behalf of the European Community, but privately he thought that the new economic architecture would reflect a combination of institutions of different sizes and ages. He hoped that this combination would be harmonious in the same way as Europe’s architectural heritage. He thought that the European Community had potential for development both in terms of integration and territorial expansion. While there was a need for approximation, he foresaw significant territorial expansion: Turkey had already applied for full membership, association agreements had been signed with East European countries and there was a possibility in the future of EFTA countries applying. He was personally attracted to President Mitterrand’s proposals for federation.

Mr CLIFFORD (Canada)

As a Canadian first, and as a North American, I was most encouraged by the suggestion that, as the new architecture of Europe emerges, we should be encouraged to play an important part in the process. To whose who have studied European history – as we are forced to – even in North America the analogy with roads was most appropriate. Your story took me back in time and suggested another analogy with an earlier historical event, when roads were made through waters that had parted. That was a momentous time in the history of mankind, and the building of such a road to North America is most important to us all. With that in mind, do you plan to speak to your fellow heads of state at the Paris Summit and to encourage an equal partnership between a new assembly of Europe and North American parliamentary delegations?

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

agreed that the North American link was vital. He said that the issue was not one of a purely Spanish interest, ail European countries had links with North America. He saw two possibilities for future development of the CSCE process: either the nature of the Council of Europe could be changed or the Council of Europe would remain unchanged and other countries would have to accept its rules and regulations. To the question of whether the Council of Europe could extend beyond European frontiers, he felt that the existing rules would be found unacceptable outside Europe.

Mr KOMÀREK (Czech and Slovak Federal Republic) (interpretation)

asked how the channels of the Council of Europe could be used to convey the experience of the Spanish transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

replied that Spain’s major priority had been to change its political system. The problem had been one of identity; of Spaniards being able to accept their own diversity. Economically, Spain had been heavily protected, effectively isolated from the world economy. The process of economic liberalisation had a stimulating effect on the Spanish economy. But whereas Spain had to liberalise its economic system, Eastern Europe had to change the whole basis on which the system operated. He warned against the danger of assuming that a market could solve all problems.

Mrs HARMS (Denmark)

First, I should like to thank you, Mr President, for receiving me and the Speaker and Vice-Speakers of the Danish Parliament at your home in February. We were delighted with the discussions that we had then. We visited the Prado museum and, in the light of your speech today, I would not mind a Dane saying, “Our Prado”!

The CSCE process has already brought about major progress in terms of security and with regard to the human dimension. Do you agree, Mr President, that the time has now come to introduce other important areas into the CSCE process? I am thinking specifically of environmental issues. The establishment of a system for co-operation on environmental matters, with politically and legally binding principles, could be considered an important step towards preserving peace in Europe in a broader sense.

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

agreed with the questioner. Environmental problems knew no frontiers. He pointed out that a meeting of the CSCE on eco-systems in the Mediterranean was currently taking place in Palma.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

Does the President feel that the kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom have now reached a stable understanding about the future of Gibraltar, on the basis of the wishes of its inhabitants, so that that issue will cease to be an intermittent cause of friction between our two countries, and so that the Gibraltarians may feel that the accident of history which created them will not for much longer be the cause of barring them from participating in international organisations such as the Council of Europe?

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

was not optimistic. In his view the problem was one of decolonisation, of which Gibraltar provided the last example on the European continent. No final solution to the problem would be found until its colonial nature was recognised.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

Decolonisation is normally solved by self-determination. If Britain would accept self-determination, would Spain?

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

said that while he was unwilling to engage in polemics the United Nations had considered Gibraltar a problem of territorial integrity, not of self-determination, and the discussions between Spain and the United Kingdom showed that the United Kingdom also considered it as such. It was, in any case too specific a problem for the Council of Europe.

Mr SAVOV (Bulgaria) (interpretation)

said that the difficult transition from a centrally planned economic system to a market economy in Bulgaria had been made worse by the Gulf crisis. He asked whether Spain, as a rich Mediterranean country, was prepared to give Bulgaria aid such as soft loans to help it over its difficulties.

Mr Gonzalez, President of the Spanish Government (interpretation)

said that unfortunately Spain was not a particularly rich country – its people received about 75% of the average EEC income – although Spain saw this as no excuse to avoid the aid obligations imposed on it by membership of the Community. Spain itself depended heavily on oil and the Gulf crisis threatened its economic development. From his experience of Spain’s transition from an authoritarian power he suggested that although Bulgaria might expect political solidarity it was unlikely to receive economic investment until its own market had developed into an attractive place for investment.