Spain, 40 years moving forward
On Dec. 6 Spain celebrated 40 years of the referendum that approved its current Constitution. It was the culmination of a process that put an end to half a century of instability and subsequent dictatorship, inaugurating a new era of democracy, rule of law and prosperity.
Over these four decades, Spain has changed enormously, becoming the open, modern and inclusive country it is today. This long and successful journey has been driven by the powers of the State: the King, the government, the legislative and the judiciary. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the sustained effort of the Spanish society as a whole.
Almost 90 percent of voters ratified the 1978 Constitution. Its drafting was a work of consensus among us all, not exempt of difficulties. The result, however, is a country that boasts one of the highest levels of democratic quality in the world, as recognized by The Economist, Freedom House or World Justice Project, amongst others. It also registers one of the world’s greatest territorial decentralizations and regional self-governance, as our Magna Carta paved the way to a system that acknowledges, protects and promotes our cultural and linguistic diversity.
But if I have to underline one particular characteristic of Spain today it is probably its solidarity, both within the country itself and towards the rest of the world. It is a principle that has driven our country to having one of the most efficient universal healthcare systems worldwide, as well as free education for all. Solidarity has also driven Spanish multinational companies to lead corporate social responsibility indexes in the world and to be at the top in the production of sustainability reports in Europe. It has furthermore driven our efforts to undertake projects in the fields of solar energy (78 percent of solar thermoelectric energy projects in the world are being carried out by Spanish companies), waste management, water reuse and clean energies. The Spanish island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, for example, aims to achieve zero waste by 2020.
The principle of solidarity is also behind our position as a global leader in human rights, particularly in defending real equality between women and men and in the recognition and protection of the rights of the LGTBI community. The same can be said with regard to the response to natural disasters, both at home and abroad, and to humanitarian crises.
Undoubtedly, the open nature of my country has also reflected in its foreign policy. Over these 40 years, Spain has been fully committed to the European project. In the late 70s and early 80s, one of the main goals of the newly born democracy was to join the European Union, which was achieved in 1986. Since then, Spain has maintained its position as one of the most pro-European countries, leading the surveys of those who back the European project, its principles and values.
Spain has actively contributed to United Nations as well, having occupied a seat as a non- permanent member of the UN Security Council on four occasions since the approval of the Constitution, and participating actively in all the technical bodies that comprise the United Nations system. International cooperation has of course extended to the area of development: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) is now present in nearly 40 countries, including the Philippines, working with their governments as a trustful and committed partner.
We have also worked closely with the Ibero-American community, with whom we share so many ties, not the least the Spanish language, which Spain is promoting in the Philippines both through the Instituto Cervantes and through the partnership with the Department of Education of the Philippines.
As a result of all the above, Spain has been able to assume over these 40 years an active international role, putting into practice the values, principles and provisions established in the Constitution of 1978. The result fills me with pride as I stand to look at an advanced, plural and open country which is enjoying the longest period of stability in its history.