DAVOS, Switzerland – King Felipe VI did his best to boost his country’s bruised image on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos by centering on what he described as Spain’s bright investment potential even though he acknowledged the Catalan secession crisis had tarnished it.
He said a recent independence bid in the prosperous Spanish region of Catalonia was an attempted breach of the rule of law and defended his country’s constitution as a cornerstone its democracy and the coexistence of its diverse peoples.
“I don’t wish to conclude this part of my speech without addressing a recent crisis in a truly fundamental part of Spain’s soul and diverse identity: Catalonia,” Felipe said in an address delivered in English.
The Spanish monarch said he felt it necessary to broach the topic of Catalonia during the Davos plenary, which brought together some 3,000 participants including 70 heads of state or government mainly to discuss financial topics.
“We have seen an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system,” he said.
The Catalan separatist bid, which culminated in an outlawed unilateral declaration of independence on Oct. 27, 2017, was shut down by the Spanish government and judiciary with the application Article 155 of the Constitution.
The monarch said political disagreements should be resolved in accordance with democratic rules and values that were mutually agreed before being laid down in the constitution.
“Spain’s Constitution, as you can well understand, is not a mere ornament,” he said. “It is rather the very expression of the will of our citizens and a key pillar in our democratic coexistence.”
Catalonia’s independence bid sparked a huge national debate in Spain about the role of the state, identity and the rule of law; Felipe himself made a televised intervention on the matter at the height of political tension.
As part of the measures invoked by Article 155, Catalonia’s devolved institutions were brought under the direct-rule of Madrid, the regional cabinet was sacked en masse and the regional chamber was dissolved.
A Supreme Court judge was now in charge of an investigation into rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds regarding several senior separatist figures including the ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Brussels, and his former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, who remained in pretrial detention in Madrid.
“A lesson to be learned from this crisis, a lesson not only for Spain but for democracies in general, is the need to preserve the rule of law as a cornerstone precisely of democracy and to respect political pluralism and the basic principle of national sovereignty that in fact belongs to all citizens,” the Bourbon king added.
The annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos gathers the world’s leading figures in politics and economics.