MADRID – Spain’s King Felipe VI called on Sunday on the new Catalonian Parliament to respect the region’s “plurality ... (for) the common good of all,” warning that the new phase in the northeastern region must not lead to “confrontation and exclusion,” but rather to the recovery of stability and calm.
In his traditional Christmas Eve address to Spaniards, the monarch referred specifically to Catalonia, where secessionist and independence-minded forces gained a majority in the autonomous Parliament in the Dec. 21 legislative elections.
The vote was called by the Spanish government in Madrid to reestablish constitutional legality after an illegal declaration of independence approved by the regional Parliament on Oct. 27.
In his address, delivered casually sitting in an armchair in one of the rooms in the royal palace, Felipe emphasized that Spain is a mature democracy in which citizens can freely defend and contrast their opinions and ideas but not impose them on others.
The 49-year-old king addressed the lawmakers elected to the Catalonian Parliament, saying “now you must confront the problems affecting all Catalonians, respecting plurality and thinking responsibly on the common good of all.”
That road, Felipe said, “cannot once again lead to confrontation or to exclusion, which only create discord, uncertainty, despondency and moral, civic and economic impoverishment of an entire society.”
The efforts of independence supporters have caused sharp divisions within Catalonian society.
In addition, the process has had other effects, including the exit of some 3,000 companies from Catalonia and other Spanish regions due to legal uncertainty, as well as a drop in economic activity and tourism.
In that sense, the Spanish monarch said that the road Catalonia follows must lead to coexistence within the local society, “as diverse and plural as it is,” as well as the recovery of calm, stability and mutual respect.
“Ideas must not distance or separate families and friends,” Felipe said, adding that the values that have always characterized Catalonia must be reasserted, including “its capacity for leadership and effort, its creative spirit and dedication to openness.”
The king’s speech was awaited with much anticipation, given that he had not spoken publicly about the Catalonian situation recently.
He had done so in a way that generated strenuous debate on Oct. 3 in an unusual television two days after a referendum held by the independence-minded Catalonian authorities that the Spanish courts had declared to be illegal.
At that time, Felipe said that the situation in the northeastern region was “extremely serious,” with the “legitimate branches of the state” needing to ensure “constitutional order.”
On Sunday, he said that “problems of coexistence have been created” amid the Catalonian controversy, but he also mentioned the “serious concerns and challenges” facing Spanish society as a whole.
Among those concerns and challenges is the economic situation, which – Felipe said – has improved substantially and should lead to the creation of stable jobs and addressing social inequality.
In addition, he paid homage to the victims of jihadist terrorism, which was visited in August upon the Catalonian cities of Barcelona and Cambrils in attacks killing 16.
Felipe also said that corruption is one of the main concerns of Spanish society, which “is demanding its eradication,” along with the fact that the European Union is at a “crossroads,” where it “requires greater vitality” and where “weakness and division” are inappropriate.