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Adolfo Suárez

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1996

Your Majesty,
Your Royal Highness,
Mr. President of the Foundation,
Mr. President of the Principality,
Lady Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like my first words to be ones of gratitude towards H.M. the Queen, who honours us with Her presence, towards H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias, who presides the session, towards the Foundation, towards the Jury, who have seen fit to confer the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord on me, towards the people and organisations who seconded my nomination and towards everybody attending this ceremony.

I believe that I am receiving an accolade for a job carried out by a nation and, in short, for the will and way in which the Spanish transition towards democracy was carried out.

I believe that every Spaniard took part in this task, from H.M. King Juan Carlos I downwards, who fostered and protected it, and I also believe that responsibility for the task is mine but that success is everybody´s.

I believe that consensus amongst men and peoples at both national and international levels should continue to be one of mankind´s abiding ideals. Achieving it - as we are unfortunately witnessing these very days - is, however, difficult. Yet when it is achieved, we reach a crowning moment for mankind.

Consensus is often mistaken for conformity and uniformity. I believe that they have nothing in common. Instead, its roots lie in pluralism, freedom and solidarity. Consensus is not possible without them. Consensus is never imposed; it is sought after together and is reached through the efforts of one and all.

Political contest, controversy, debate, dissent and conflict are not some social pathology. Rather than being negative, in my opinion, they mirror a society´s vitality.

There are always different shades of opinion in every political community and discrepancy is therefore normal. However, there is one, in my opinion, the fundamental one, the one that relates to the essential, primordial reasons that effect the very foundations of peaceful coexistence itself, that I believe requires the agreement of all and the consensus of the immense majority. Such consensus is the foundation of an utterly modern society.

When consensus is destroyed, discord prevails, and the world we live in provides dramatic examples of this. And just as consensus is capable of nurturing the smallest things to grow, so also is discord capable of destroying the greatest things.

This consensus incorporates very few things and essential issues. Perhaps it incorporates just one: the firm, profound will for everyone to live in freedom. More than being an idea, this is sometimes a "belief" - or at least it works as one. Ortega said that we sustain ideas but that "beliefs" are what sustain us. We live together, that is, we coexist on the basis of them.

Democratic coexistence is founded upon "beliefs". This is why we also believe in human rights. We believe in freedom, equality, justice and solidarity. We believe in democracy and the rule of law.

These beliefs became tangible during the political transition in Spain. Today, they are the shared set of beliefs embodied in the pact that makes us a social state with full democratic rights.

During the transition, as Spaniards we all proposed a final reconciliation. We wanted to abolish the myth of two mutually exclusive, permanently confronted Spains. We thought that Spain is either something shared by all Spaniards and by all the peoples that form Spain and all the citizens integrated into Spain, or quite simply it is not Spain.

Above all else, the transition, in my opinion, was a political and social process of acknowledgement and understanding of the "distinct", the "different", the "other Spaniard" who does not think like me, who does not share the same religious beliefs, who was not born in my region, who is not motivated by the political ideals that drive me and yet who is my complement rather than my enemy, the person who completes my identify as a citizen and as a Spaniard, and the person with whom I have to coexist, for only within this coexistence can we both defend our ideals, practise our beliefs and fulfil our ideas. I do not believe that anybody in democratic politics possesses the absolute truth. Truth always implies an arduous quest that we must pursue together based upon an agreement to coexist and work together. Not only our distant past but also the present and the future steer us of necessity towards this free, peaceful coexistence. This consensus is founded upon shared economic, social and political realities that in my opinion are unquestionable.

As Spaniards, we all had to reach an essential agreement, a fundamental pact for consensus that must be renewed daily, without reneging on our own ideas and beliefs. I believe we did this under the auspices of the Crown. I further believe that we should continue to do this under the Constitution and its implementation and around the Monarchy and this shared reality called Spain. Such an agreement should logically reflect the need we all have to face a future that is of concern to us all together and in solidarity, as it should also perhaps reflect the energy, hope and optimism with which to face that future.

I believe that the cornerstone upon which democracy was built during our transition consisted precisely of the establishment in politics and in general life of a civil consensus. This had to be achieved from the position of pluralism that existed amongst us, from a position of tolerance and freedom.

The shared will to seek consensus and consolidation from this fundamental pact for political coexistence was what enabled essential decisions to be taken during the transition: the acknowledgement of human rights and public freedom, the passing of the Law on Political Reform, the amnesties that enabled exiles of almost forty years ago to return, the first free general elections, the political construction of consensus, the making and approving of the Moncloa Pacts, and finally, the passing and enactment of our present Constitution.

Somebody said recently that in the Transition we Spaniards achieved in two hundred days what we had not managed to achieve in two hundred years: not a single political prisoner in our jails, not a single person exiled abroad for their ideas and a law that was equal for all Spaniards.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the transition, a group of persons (including myself) worked with all the Spanish people in favour of understanding, tolerance, dialogue and consensus. We tried to banish the ingrained habits of arrogance, intolerance, dogmatism, discord and lack of solidarity, as we continue to do so. This was - and still is - my personal and political inclination. I have occasionally even thought that I was the political victim of practicing consensus. If such was the case, then I am proud of it.

Your Royal Highness,
If consensus was possible twenty years ago, despite the obstacles in its path, I believe that we cannot question the capacity of the Spaniards of today and of the future that Your Highness represents.

We have demonstrated our capacity to coexist in freedom. Now we must consolidate our will for consensus. We have gone on to achieve integration with the European Union and the major international forums. Today, Spain is open to the world, and the world values the efforts made over the transition.

Today, most importantly, as Spaniards we are aware that any violation of human rights or of personal dignity that occurs in our country or elsewhere in the world is also a violation of our own rights and of our own personal dignity. We should therefore show the solidarity that is due and act with the efficacy that is necessary.

The Spain of today, with all its chiaroscuros, is a far cry from the Spain of yesteryear. We are a people who have overcome a great many problems over these years, and who must continue to learn the great lessons of consensus and of coexistence in freedom and justice.

I believe that in the future Spain will manage to overcome whatever difficulties it might face and will make a decisive contribution to consensus amongst nations. To do so, I believe that as Spaniards we need only do one thing: nurture the fine seed of consensus daily wherever we might find it.

Thank you.

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