- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Ever since the last time that a Spaniard, King Juan Carlos I, addressed the U.S. Congress, on June 2, 1976, many things have changed in Spain and in the world.

Spain has become a prosperous and modern country, with people living in freedom and democracy after having endured a very long dictatorship, which lasted nearly 40 years.

Now, Spain boasts the eighth-largest economy in the world. Our economy has generated half of the jobs created in Europe in recent years. In 2003, Spanish economic growth was at 2.3 percent, while other large European countries were in a recession. Our growth outpaces the average of European Union (EU) countries. We are an active member of the European Union and we were able to establish the euro — the new single currency — reducing our deficit and controlling inflation.

Over these years, we have been working for Europe, but also for the Atlantic relationship; defending this is important for the good of Europe as well as for world stability and security. I definitely think that Europe should not become a counter-power to the United States. We share the same principles and values of freedom, democracy, progress and the rule of law for our citizens.

Freedom has been a firm and long-lasting concept that perfectly defines the bond between America and Europe. Thanks to freedom, our regions are undoubtedly the two richest and most prosperous ones in the world. And freedom must continue to inspire our commercial relations. Enhanced trade between both areas is a sure source of economic growth and wealth for our people. For that reason, I recently proposed the creation of a high-level economic, financial and trade initiative between Europe and the United States by 2015.

Over the last eight years, I have maintained an excellent relationship with the Clinton and Bush administrations, working with them to make the world a safer and freer place.

Then, the entire world was brutally attacked on September 11. Terrorism showed the international world its contempt for all our shared values of liberty, moral decency, compassion and respect for the lives of others. Spain knows the scourge of terrorism very well, having suffered more than 900 deaths due to terrorist attacks over the past 30 years. For that reason, we admired the way that the American people responded to these unspeakable attacks, with a lesson of civic-mindedness and responsibility.

Several days ago, the first World Congress on Victims of Terrorism took place in Madrid. I deeply think that the victims make up the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. They must be our strength and also our responsibility, for they demand results and justice.

Spain and the United States have undertaken actions to see that the U.N. Counter Terrorism Committee has a strong and effective role in this battle. A world list of terrorist organizations, approved by this committee, should be one of the first steps sought. Terrorists must understand that they are going to be defeated, due to our moral superiority.

One of the current and most important battlefields in our fight against terrorism is taking place these days in Iraq. My country, the United States and many others are committed to the reconstruction of Iraq. We are not going to allow terrorists to prevent the Iraqi people from having a better future of peace and democracy. Our two countries have already paid too great a toll in human lives to permit them from preventing this to happen.

The world has changed considerably over the past few decades. And one of the regions where we can see this is Latin America. This continent has undertaken great steps to consolidate democracy and free trade. Spain is the world’s second-largest investor in the region, behind the United States. Spain would like to be a bridge between this area and Europe, realizing, at the same time, that the Atlantic relationship will not be fully completed until it embraces the entire continent.

It is also important to remember that relations between the United States and Spain stretch back more than 200 years. Never has there been a more favorable time than the present to jointly undertake major projects. What we have done together in recent years already has served to create a special relationship: a relationship between friends, allies and partners.

Today, as the second Spaniard to have the honor to address the U.S. Congress, I will underscore that, in my country, Spain, the American people have a European friend. In Spain, the United States has a strong, responsible and unwavering ally. Let us continue to work together toward the cause of democracy and freedom.

Jose Maria Aznar is president of Spain.

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