Vicepresidencia y Ministerio de la presidencia
Colección Informe Nº 26

Los Reyes en Europa

2. Universidad de Estrasburgo y Consejo de Europa





Mr. President,

Members, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I should like to thank the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and its governing bodies for their kind invitation to speak to you. It is a cause of great satisfaction for me to be here today in Strasburg and to be able to address the oldest and most representative of all European institutions during the year of celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of its founding. Thirty years of illusions and frustrations, of progress and difficulties, but, through it all, of untiring work dedicated to union amongst the people of Europe, an effort by which the Council of Europe has responded positively to the hopes formulated in the Message to Europeans.

On greeting this Assembly, I cannot forget the decisive role that it played when Spain joined the Council of Europe, adopting an attitude which, to a large extent went beyond the bounds of time and form in order that faith and hope would prevail during the process of transition to democracy in Spain. Indeed, the Assembly, with a degree of impatience that we Spaniards greatly appreciated, granted its full confidence to the legitimate representatives of the Spanish people ahead of time, as soon as the latter freely became the masters of their own destinies.

But, transcending the specific case of my own country, I should like to pay tribute to the essential contribution made by this Assembly both to the realization of the idea of European unity and to the promotion of the common values of our civilization —in particular those of liberty, dignity and man’s fundamental rights, which constitute the basis of political order and social peace.

Indeed, from 1949 to 1979 no significant event took place, and no path to reasonable hope was opened up to which this Assembly had not provided an effective contribution, or which did not have a profound echo within its midst, when not initiated therein.

Idea and reality of Europe

Mr. President,

The unity of Europe, that of Europeans, is a reality which was in existence before the plans for European union. We Europeans have always been conscious of this fact throughout the course of our eventful history. This interpretation of European society led Francisco de Vitoria to study in Paris and Juan Luis Vives to teach in Louvain and Oxford, while El Greco painted in Toledo and Domenico Scarlatti composed in Madrid — to mention only a few examples involving my country.

The fact of Europe’s existence underlies a European plan, a European undertaking. It is this fact to which the European organizations respond and to which their dean, the Council of Europe, applies itself, fully conscious that, as Robert Schumann said, «L’Europe, avant d’être une communauté militaire ou une entité économique, doit être une communauté culturelle». (Europe, before being a military alliance or an economic entity, must be a cultural community.)

What are the elements which constitute this identity of Europeans? Amongst all those which have been suggested, I should like to stress three, because I believe that they are representative of the action of the Council of Europe and should continue to provide inspiration for all their acts: they are humanism, diversity and universality.


If there is a leading idea in European civilization, this is the primacy of human values, of the whole man, and of each man.

The best example of this key idea and, at the same time, the most outstanding contribution of the Council of Europe, is the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, which establishes an international system of guarantees unmatched up till the present time, and to which Spain has just become affiliated on depositing the corresponding ratification instrument a few day ago.

Although we can all feel satisfied with the results obtained, at the same time we are all anxious to better them. This Assembly, which played such an important and dynamic role in the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, is particularly sensitive to the need for widening the range of rights to be protected, by including economic, social and cultural rights and thereby opening up the way to new dimensions and new frontiers in the field of human rights. Thus, following the important Declaration adopted by the Committee of Ministers on April 27, 1978, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 838, relative to the enlargement of the range of application of the European Convention on Human Rights, whose relevance is undeniable.

Then again, it is a well known fact that the Commission of European Communities has proposed that the Communities, in their capacity as such, should join the European Convention on Human Rights. This proposal is both a clear example of the vitality of the Council of Europe’s most outstanding achievement and an important step in the progressive realization of Europe’s most worthy contribution to human history: the dignity and freedom of man.

On speaking about the Council of Europe’s dedication to man, to his rights and fundamental liberties, I should like to touch on some aspects of it: first of all, its action on behalf of the continued improvement in the environment and in the quality of life. Secondly, its efforts on behalf of migrant workers and their families, for whom everything that is done will never be enough. Thirdly, its deep concern for youth, with a view to interesting young people in the task of building Europe. This last aspect is essential, as the Council of Europe has never forgotten the need of being concerned about the European of the future, the imperative need of getting youth to participate in a noble task, one involving several generations. To this end it has set up the European Youth Fund and the European Youth Centre, in which young Spaniards and their own organizations actively participate.


Factors which no less define Europe as an entity are its pluralism and its diversity. Europe’s vocation is that of uniting and integrating European peoples according to the measure of their true genius, which is that of diversity, in order to open up to the world the path that it seeks: one of organized freedoms.

This is an idea which has been expressed by the European Communities in their document on «European Identity», when stating that the diversity of cultures within the framework of a common civilization, the profession of the same values and the determination to build unity within diversity are what impart to European identity their originality and their dynamism.

Therefore it is not incompatible with the safeguarding of diversity, but rather the contrary, that the Council of Europe should be increasingly concerned by the serious threats contained in the territorial desiquilibrium of economic development, which opposes Northern Europe to Southern Europe, and Central Europe to peripheral Europe. A harmonious process of European construction would require this problem to be attacked with resolution, and to this end this Parliamentary Assembly has served as conscience and stimulus, by encouraging the efforts of Governments and other European institutions.


Europe would not really be Europe without its universal spread of influence. This is why the building of Europe cannot be a self-contained, provincial task. Europe must, on the contrary, be attuned to the transformations of the modern world, which are characterized, amongst other things, by the globalization of social relations and the problems facing humanity. As our compatriot Salvador de Madariaga said, Let us build Europe, not only as a common market but also as a great human family, and let us make sure that this principle remains intact in all our institutions.

The founders of the Council of Europe were animated by this universal concern, and it continues to be present in its work, especially in this Parliamentary Assembly, which is constantly alert to the new challenges of science and technology and the changing pattern of international relations.

The European spirit is a spirit of dialogue. And it will not surprise you that, coming from Spain.

I should place special emphasis on an aspect of this global dialogue which is particulary dear to us: that of the historic need of dialogue between Europe and America. The example of the Council of Europe has already meant a lot for the Latin American countries, as shown by the Convention of San Jose of Costa Rica on human rights. But we shall also receive in return, because any true dialogue must be a two-way street. You may rest assured that in order to develop this communication and cause it to bear fruit, in Spain you will find only encouragement, support and enthusiasm.

Spain and Europe

Mr. President,

It has been said that Spain sees itself in Europe, and nothing could be more natural because, if humanism, diversity and universality are features characterizing Europe, they also, to a high degree characterize my country, whose European vocation is manifest.

There is still much to be done towards the building of Europe. We have a long road ahead of us, strewn with obstacles and intersected with crossroads. But the important thing is to have decided to undertake it and to do it together, because there is no difficulty that we are unable to overcome with determination and imagination.

And for this, man is the starting point and also the final goal. As Miguel de Unamuno, a Basque, a Spaniard, a European and a universal man, said, «the purpose of history and of humanity is us men, each man, each individual... And we Spaniards feel very much that man is the purpose of the Universe».

Thank you very much, Mr. President, Members, Ladies and Gentlemen.

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