The President of the Government on Friday showed his support for his economic strategy to overcome the coronavirus crisis by signing a new agreement with the country’s business and union leaders. The Moncloa gardens have been the stage to portray a large ‘family photo’ in which Pedro Sánchez has also surrounded himself with the cupola of his Executive. The clear message of “unity” and “consensus” that has chaired the event has two very clear recipients: Europe and the political opposition. Both actors are key to the measures that the Government must approve in the post-pandemic economic revival.
The climate of unity and mutual commitment of the parties has been constant this Friday in Moncloa, since the signing of the document of the Agreement for economic recovery and employment, which ended with an applause from the President of the Executive and the business leaders of CEOE and Cepyme, Antonio Garamendi and Gerardo Cuerva, and the leaders of CCOO and UGT, Unai Sordo and Pepe Álvarez.
The event was held after an extraordinary Council of Ministers, in which a new line of ICO loans worth € 40 billion was given the green light and a € 10 billion fund was created to support viable companies with problems due to the current crisis. The Executive has not held the traditional press conference after the Council and has not allowed the editors of the media to sign the agreement, so the journalists have not been able to ask questions.
The content of the pact, which eldiario.es announced yesterday, is committed to deepening the ERTE as a structural tool for the future and avoiding layoffs as the “main adjustment mechanism” for companies due to the problems they are experiencing in the coronavirus crisis. The document also advocates laying the foundations for a new post-pandemic economy, based on a “greener”, digital and inclusive economy, as the main vectors of economic revival.
Pedro Sánchez has insisted in his speech that with the pact signed today there is a show of “confidence” in Spain and in the economic recovery that lies ahead. “We have an extraordinary country, we must all be equal to it. If we act with unity, we will make reconstruction quicker and more vigorous,” said the President of the Executive.
The President has claimed the need for “unity” in economic reconstruction. On the one hand, of “the whole society”, in which it has expressly included the Parliament and the territorial administrations. The main parties, PSOE and PP, have arrived this Friday without agreement to the debate of the congress reconstruction commission. On the other hand, the unity in Europe, which Sánchez has described as “the nail of the fan of the reforms that we have to carry out”.
Sánchez has praised the role of Vice President Nadia Calviño in the negotiations that the Executive has ahead in Brussels with the rest of the EU countries. The President has insisted on the Government’s efforts so that the European Reconstruction Fund goes ahead with an important injection of resources for Spain as soon as possible, if possible already “in the month of July”.
On behalf of the Government, the signing ceremony and subsequent interventions were attended by the top of the Council of Ministers, with the four vice-presidents (Carmen Calvo, Pablo Iglesias, Nadia Calviño and Teresa Ribera) and the heads of the economic ministries: the ministers of the Treasury, María Jesús Montero; Work, Yolanda Díaz; Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, and Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, José Luis Escrivá.
The ‘ceremony’ was also witnessed by several secretaries of state and some of the trade union and business architects of the latest social dialogue agreements, such as the extension of the ERTE until September 30, which the Ministry of Labor closed last week.
Entrepreneurs: “This is the way out together”
That trust and unity is what the top representatives of the social partners have reiterated in all their interventions. “Here we are to add, putting Spain above all,” said the president of the CEOE employers’ association, Antonio Garamendi, who insisted on the need for dialogue and agreements despite the differences.
“This comes out together. We sit at the tables, we talk, although many ideas separate us. Because that is democracy and it is the one we have to work on,” said the Basque businessman, who although he has had some friction with the Coalition government, the tone of their relationship has been that of the agreement, with pacts to raise the minimum wage this 2020 and to extend the ERTE, something that has earned him some criticism within the employers.
The leader of small and medium-sized companies, Gerardo Cuerva, has stressed for his part the need for “social dialogue” in the measures taken by the Executive, for which various negotiating tables have been formed to deal with issues such as a reindustrialization plan of the country and measures for the digitalization and ecological transition of the economy.
Unai Sordo, Secretary General of CCOO, has focused his words on the relevance of the European Union, highlighting the commitment reached by the image that “moves abroad from our country, where we are lucky as we get out of it.” The union leader has celebrated the consensus reached, which portrays “a way out of the crisis diametrically different from that of 2015”.
The image of unity and dialogue as a generator of confidence in the country has been another of the lines of the speech of the UGT general secretary, Pepe Álvarez, who has vindicated the compromise reached with the businessmen and the Executive to advance towards “a new country on solid foundations “, which will remedy some of the structural problems detected in our economy, such as the low weight of industry and job instability, in policies to overcome the crisis.
The only discordant note of the appointment has fallen on the parties’ position regarding fiscal policy, the differences of which have been made clear by businessmen. “About the tax increase, I think it is a mistake, I say it sincerely,” said Gerardo Cuerva, who argued that “the tax increase for the large company in the end is also passed on to the small company,” so in his opinion “can hinder economic growth.”
Antonio Garamendi has supported the position of his partner. “We do not share the fiscal approach either, we believe that this is not the time for these issues,” insisted the president of the CEOE. The businessman said that “there is one point that we do share: we must combat the underground economy”, from which he pointed out that “a lot of millions” can come out.
The CCOO leader has replied to the employers with the defense of the opposite position: the need to increase when possible the fiscal pressure in Spain to equalize ourselves with the European environment and to balance public accounts after the crisis, which will require of great public spending and indebtedness. Unai Sordo has called for a reform of taxation based on “co-responsibility”, which prevents Spain from depending only on foreign resources.
The Prime Minister, who has closed the event, has reiterated his intention to carry out a tax reform. Pedro Sánchez has argued that Spain must emerge from the crisis with “greater social cohesion”, that “it must inevitably entail a fiscal reform that links fiscal justice with that necessary fiscal justice”.