BARCELONA – Spain’s King Felipe VI called on Sunday for maintaining “firm” cooperation among the central government in Madrid, the Catalonian government and the Barcelona City Hall so that the northeastern Spanish city will extend its “continued success” as the headquarters for the Mobile World Congress tech fair.
On his first visit to Catalonia since the Spanish government intervened in the autonomous region’s administrative activities and deposed the local chief executive for his independence-minded challenge to central authority, the Spanish king presided at the dinner prior to the MWC at the Palau de la Musica, where neither Catalonian Parliamentary President Roger Torrent nor Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau officially welcomed him.
In his address at the dinner, the monarch addressed the roughly 200 invited guests mainly in English, although he spoke certain phrases in Spanish and in Catalan, emphasizing that cooperation among Madrid, the Catalonian Parliament and Barcelona city authorities is an “obvious key” to the success achieved by holding the MWC in Barcelona every year since 2006.
“This same commitment of our administrations, corporations and companies must always be an essential goal so that this meeting continues to be held with an eye toward consolidating its ... influence throughout the world ... and that it does so from right here, from Barcelona, a candidate for hosting the European technological center that will develop 5G technology,” the king said.
Accompanied by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, the king was welcomed by Catalonian government delegate Enric Millo and Industry Minister Alvaro Nadal at the Palau entrance, where he was also greeted by independence-minded demonstrators banging pans, whistling and chanting slogans from behind the security cordon quite some distance away.
At least five people were injured during the protest by actions undertaken by the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force.
The host of the welcoming dinner along with the MWC Barcelona Foundation, Mayor Colau, applauded the king’s remarks – in contrast to Torrent – and sought an opportunity to discretely approach the monarch and exchange a few words before the meal, at which she also spoke from the lectern.
She said that this past year had “not been easy” for Catalonia or for Spain, but she added that “We are a city of peace and solidarity and we’re fully committed to the freedom of expression and human rights.”
The MWC, the world’s largest mobile telephone fair, officially kicks off on Monday with the participation of more than 2,300 technology and communications companies, the impact of which on Barcelona will be to the tune of more than 460 million euros ($565 million) with the direct creation of some 13,000 jobs.