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Obama wants US to maintain relationship with “a strong and unified Spain”

The President of the US, Barack Obama, called for a “strong and unified Spain” during a brief meeting held this Tuesday with Spain’s monarch Felipe VI. The Spanish King described Spain as “one of the most ancient nations in Europe” and Obama stated that Spain’s presence is important “not only for Europe but also for the US”. Catalan President Artur Mas declared that he didn’t feel the target of Obama’s statement, as Spain could be unified “with or without Catalonia” and lamented that the Spanish Government discusses Catalonia’s case with everybody “except with the Catalan institutions”.

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16 September 2015 07:15 PM

by

ACN / Sara Prim

Barcelona (CNA).- The US wants to maintain its relationship with “a strong and unified Spain”, declared President Obama during a brief meeting held this Tuesday with the Spanish King, Felipe VI. The monarch, who is on an official tour of the US, described Spain as "one of the most ancient nations in Europe” and President Obama stated that Spain’s presence is important “not only for Europe but also for the US”. In response, Catalan President Artur Mas admitted that he didn’t feel the target of Obama’s statement as Spain “could be unified with or without Catalonia”. Mas also pointed out the efforts of Spanish diplomacy to discuss Catalonia’s case with everybody “except with the Catalan institutions”.


“We feel a great affinity and a great friendship with Spanish people” stated Obama and added that “as a matter of foreign policy we are deeply committed to maintaining a relationship with a strong and unified Spain”. He made this statement during an informal appearance before the media, together with the Spanish King Felipe VI, with whom he held a brief meeting earlier in the day. The monarch said that Spain is one of the “most ancient nations in Europe” and wants to share “its effort” with other countries. By way of response, Obama highlighted the effort that Spain has made in order to recover from the economic crisis and pointed out that other countries have a long way to go.

This is the second time that the Spanish government has sought an explicit declaration from the US President to stop Catalonia’s push for independence. In 2014, President Obama held a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House. Although the Spanish media asked Obama to take positions regarding Catalonia’s case, Obama chose instead to focus on Spain’s duty to reduce unemployment.

Pressure from Spanish diplomacy

The Catalan Foreign Affairs Secretary, Roger Albinyana, stated that Obama’s positioning shows “the absolute internationalisation” of the Catalan process and that this is in line with the plebiscitary nature of the 27-S elections. Albinyana also drew attention to the “strong pressure” that Spanish diplomacy has been exercising for a long time. Following on from this, President Mas lamented that Spanish diplomacy discusses Catalonia’s case with everybody “except the Catalan institutions”. He recalled that every time he tries to negotiate with the Spanish government the answer is “there is nothing to talk about” and wondered why the Spanish diplomacy put so much effort into talking about this with the rest of the world. Mas added that he didn’t feel the target of Obama’s statement, as Spain could be unified “with or without Catalonia” and stated that he also found it “logical” that President Obama supports a strong Spain as the country sometimes shows a weak sense of democracy.

Rajoy to work for a “strong and unified Spain”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stated that Obama’s declaration was very “positive” and represented the majoritarian opinion of “the leaders around the world”. Rajoy said Obama’s words encouraged him to work for a “strong and unified Spain” that would stay within the EU. In the same vein, the leader of the Catalan branch of the conservative People’s Party (PPC), Xavier García Albiol, stated that “Obama was conclusive and so were Merkel, Cameron and absolutely everybody who has responsibility in the EU and in the world”. “I don’t know who else is missing. Maybe the Pope has to tell President Mas so that he finally gets it” he added.

PSC: What did you expect?

“Did anyone expect Obama to say anything else?” responded the candidate for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Michael Iceta. The head of the Catalan Socialists list also stated that in the US “secessionist referendums are banned” and that they “reject Alaska and Texas”. Iceta recalled that on the 1st of February 2013, the White House ruled on Catalonia and read the following statement: “The United States recognises the Catalan region’s own culture and traditions but considers the status of Catalonia an internal issue and we are confident that the Spanish government and the Spanish people will resolve this issue according to its laws and constitution.”

‘Cuitadans’: Mas is heading in the “opposite direction”

The candidate for anti-Catalan nationalism Ciutadans (C’s), Albert Rivera, has recommended Mas to “take note” of Obama’s words calling for a strong and unified Spain. For Rivera, the statement highlighted that Mas “is going in the opposite direction of the Western world” and reproached him for wanting to “weaken the market, create borders and lose allies as important” as the US.

‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’: It is essential “to express our opinion”

The spokesperson for the Catalan Green-Socialist party ICV and alternative left-wing Podem, who are running in the upcoming elections under the name 'Catalunya Sí que es pot', Lluís Rabell, regretted that everyone was able to express their opinion on the political future of Catalonia and that the only people who could not do so were the Catalans themselves. “It's very curious” he said in response to Obama’s statement calling for a strong and unified Spain. “It is essential for us to express our opinion” he argued in a press conference with Spanish international news agency EFE. The most recognised way to do so “would be a referendum with democratic guarantees; it reinforces our conviction”, he added.

CUP: Obama is welcome to see how “Catalonia breaks free”

The candidate for the alternative left and radical independence CUP party, Antonio Baños, has invited US President, Barack Obama, to visit Catalonia for the 27-S elections and “see how its people are able to get organised and break free”. “Then we can talk about democracy from the streets and not from offices” said Baños, who criticised discussing democracy with a king, referring to Felipe VI. 

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  • US President Barack Obama and Spanish King Felipe VI at the White House (by ACN)

  • US President Barack Obama and Spanish King Felipe VI at the White House (by ACN)