Pedro Sánchez at UN: Spain has “not let itself be radicalized by xenophobia”

Spanish PM defends diversity and legal immigration in his first speech at the global summit in New York

Pedro Sánchez at the United Nations General Assembly.
Pedro Sánchez at the United Nations General Assembly.AFP

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended multilateralism, diversity and legal immigration, underscoring that Spain is one of the few European countries without an openly xenophobic party sitting in parliament.

“Spain has suffered the blows of the economic crisis like few other countries in Europe. Yet despite this, the vast majority of Spanish society has never turned its back on the dramatic reality of immigration,” said Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), in his first speech before the annual gathering of global leaders. His predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP), had not appeared at the world forum over the last four years.

Today, a veil of collective amnesia extends over the memory of what we are: pure diversity

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez

“I feel proud of a society that has not allowed itself to get radicalized by a xenophobic rhetoric based on fear of the other,” added Sánchez. Asked several times during his trip to New York why racism has not taken hold in Spain as much as it has in Italy or France, the prime minister said that it is “because we were once a nation of emigrants, and also of refugees.”

The Spanish leader said his country welcomes the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that will be signed in Marrakech, Morocco in December, and listed the measures he sees as essential to combat the rise of xenophobia. “Investing in education and in youth, adopting an integrating approach to the immigration issue, giving the media the tools to fight hate speech, and combating stereotypes are all essential,” he said.

Sánchez used New York as an example, describing it as “a city that saw millions of human beings arrive here, fleeing poverty and ideological or religious persecution, most of them Europeans. Today, a veil of collective amnesia extends over the memory of what we are: pure diversity.”

The Spanish leader also spoke against the discrimination of women, and said that 60% of the members of his own government are female “because we want to lead by example.”

Sánchez ended his address with a line by the Spanish poet León Felipe: “Lo que importa no es llegar solos y los primeros, sino llegar todos juntos y a tiempo” (or, “The important thing is not to get there first and alone, but to get there all together and in time”).

English version by Susana Urra.

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