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Spanish King states that “it is not the time [...] to divide forces” and “chase pipe dreams”

In a very unusual movement, Juan Carlos I has issued a short but clear letter one week after the massive demonstration for Catalonia’s independence. The King emphasised the need to remain “united” and asked the people to retake the “values” of the “Democratic Transition”, such as “dialogue” and “the sacrifice of particular interests for the general good”. The Catalan Government does not feel “concerned” by the King’s letter. However, it states that Catalonia “offers solutions” and “does not chase pipe dreams”. Spanish nationalists celebrate the King’s words while PM Mariano Rajoy still remains silent. Catalan and Basque nationalists criticise the King for taking sides and not emphasising values such as “pluralism, diversity, tolerance, and respect for discrepancies”.

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19 September 2012 01:58 AM

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ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- One week after the 1.5 million strong demonstration asking for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain, the King Juan Carlos I has criticised those who \u201Cdivide forces\u201D and \u201Cchase pipe dreams\u201D. In a very unusual political statement, he also asked for the \u201Cretaking\u201D [...] of the spirit of the Transition from Franco\u2019s dictatorship to democracy. In a short and clear letter published on the new website of the King\u2019s House this Tuesday afternoon and addressed to all citizens, Juan Carlos I stated that, \u201Cin the difficult economic, political and also social context\u201D, \u201Ctwo fundamental things need to be internalised\u201D. Firstly, the \u201Conly\u201D way \u201Cto overcome the current difficulties\u201D is by \u201Cacting united, walking together, pooling our forces\u201D and \u201Cthe worse thing that can be done is to divide forces, foster dissension, chase pipe dreams, deepen wounds\u201D. Secondly, \u201Cfrom the union and concord\u201D, Spain \u201Chas to retake and foster the values [\u2026] of the Democratic Transition\u201D, such as \u201Cwork, effort, generosity, dialogue, ethical imperative, the sacrifice of particular interests for the general good, the renunciation of the exclusive truth\u201D. Asked by journalists about the King\u2019s letter, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, said the Executive \u201Cdoes not feel concerned\u201D by it. However, he stated that Catalonia in any case \u201Coffers solutions\u201D, and \u201Cdoes not chase pipe dreams\u201D. Catalan nationalist parties have not appreciated the King\u2019s statement for taking sides and only emphasising certain values, in line with the Spanish nationalism statements. The Basque Nationalist Party has also criticised Juan Carlos I\u2019s move for not mentioning values such as \u201Cpluralism, diversity, tolerance, respect for discrepancies and free democratic expression\u201D. On the contrary Spanish nationalists have celebrated the King\u2019s intervention as Spain\u2019s Head of State, although the Constitution does not allow him to participate in political debates. Meanwhile, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, remains silent after the massive and historical demonstration for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. On Thursday, Rajoy will meet with the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, who will present the proposal for a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain.


Catalonia \u201Coffers solutions\u201D

In the middle of the press conference after the weekly Cabinet Meeting, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, was told that the King had issued a letter minutes ago in which Juan Carlos I defended Spain\u2019s unity and asked for the retaking of the spirit of the Democratic Transition. Homs, who said he was not aware of the letter\u2019s contents, said he was assuming the King has respected and will continue to respect his constitutional role. Once Homs was told about some of the King\u2019s sentences and asked if the Catalan Government was feeling targeted, the Spokesperson stated that the Catalan Executive \u201Cdid not feel concerned\u201D by the letter. However, Homs, who is one of CiU\u2019s leaders, emphasised that Catalonia was not \u201Cchasing pipe dreams\u201D but \u201Coffering solutions\u201D. Furthermore, Homs remarked that when the Catalan President was in Madrid last week to give a conference on the relationship between Catalonia and Spain, only the King\u2019s House was present and neither the Spanish Government, nor any leader of the People\u2019s Party (PP) or the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) attended the event. The Catalan Government was grateful for the presence of the Head of the King\u2019s House at the conference and emphasised they have a \u201Csmooth\u201D relationship with the institution.

Many Catalan parties do not appreciate the King\u2019s statement

Jordi Turull, the Spokesperson of CiU, which is the main party in Catalonia, has  supported the message given by the Catalan Government and reaffirmed that they \u201Cdo not feel concerned\u201D by the King\u2019s message. Turull recommended listening to the people\u2019s claims expressed in the demonstration, which were \u201Cin favour of\u201D and \u201Cnot against anyone\u201D. Turull lamented that Spanish nationalism continues without understanding what is going on in Catalonia, or refuses to understand it.

The main opposition party in Catalonia, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), criticised the King\u2019s message in that it is mainly addressed to the supporters of Catalonia\u2019s independence but not to Spanish nationalists, \u201Cwho also divide\u201D. The Chairman of the PSC\u2019s group  in the Catalan Parliament, Xavier Sabaté, underlined that the letter \u201Ctalks about some divisions\u201D but not about \u201Call the people who divide or break\u201D the understanding, on one side and the other. However, Sabaté said that the \u201CHead of the State has the right to have his say, as it is understood he does so within the limits established in the Constitution\u201D.  

The Left-Wing parties that gave their support to the massive demonstration for Catalonia\u2019s independence (ICV-EUiA, ERC and SI) have been the most vocal against the King\u2019s statement. They have heavily criticised his intervention for being unconstitutional.

The Spokesperson of the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), Dolors Camats, believes the King \u201Ctoday has directly entered into the Catalan and Spanish political debate\u201D with his letter. This \u201Cgoes beyond the Constitution he says concerns him so much\u201D, said Camats. ICV-EUiA remarked that \u201Cthe Spanish Constitution does not give the King any political role if it is not authorised by the Spanish Government\u201D. Therefore, ICV-EUiA will ask the Spanish Government in Parliament if they knew about the King\u2019s letter and if they had authorised it. For Camats, \u201Cthe King is out of his role, common sense and opportunity\u201D. \u201CHe is more worried about the unity [of Spain], which was broken after the Constitutional Court\u2019s sentence [against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy], than by people losing their jobs or homes\u201D, she concluded.

The Spokesperson for the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Anna Simó, has been ironical about Juan Carlos I\u2019s letter. \u201CThe King has shot in all directions and he has missed the target again\u201D, said Simó referring to Juan Carlos\u2019 hunting hobby. \u201CThe fact that the symbol of Spain\u2019s unity [\u2026] refers to the process that is vibrating in Catalonia is a good sign of the lamentable situation of the monarchy and how puzzled they are\u201D, she added. Simó also stated that \u201Cit is funny\u201D that the monarchy is talking about values such as \u201Cwork, effort, merit and dialogue\u201D.

The Catalan Independence populists \u2018Solidaritat\u2019 (SI) stated that the King\u2019s message is \u201Cgood news\u201D, as the supporters of independence are \u201Cmaking the heirs of Philip V nervous\u201D (Philip V was the first Bourbon monarch and ended with Catalonia\u2019s self-government institutions). SI asked the Catalan President to ignore the King and call for the parties who supported the demonstration to draft a road map for independence. In addition, Joan Laporta, who used to be part of SI, stated that \u201Cit is a great mistake\u201D to refer to what \u201Cthe people expressed in a peaceful and model demonstration\u201D as a \u201Cpipe dream\u201D.

Only the Catalan People\u2019s Party (PPC) and Ciutadans (C\u2019s), which together represent 15% of the members of the Catalan Parliament, supported Juan Carlos I\u2019s statement.

In line with what his party said in Madrid, Santi Rodríguez, Deputy Spokesman of the PPC at the Catalan Parliament, stated that the King\u2019s letter \u201Ccentres the priorities that need to be considered regarding the economic crisis\u201D. It also represents \u201Cthe defence of a democratic model which was approved during the Transition\u201D. According to Rodríguez, this model \u201Chas been questioned\u201D by the demonstration and by the Catalan President\u2019s reaction.

Finally, the Spokesperson of the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party \u2018Ciutadans\u2019 (C\u2019), Jordi Cañas, emphasised that the King\u2019s letter was \u201Cadequate, needed and pertinent\u201D. Spain is currently living in an \u201Cunprecedented economic crisis\u201D, which does not need \u201Ca territorial crisis\u201D to be added, said Cañas. Cañas lamented that the King had to intervene to fill the silent gap left by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, who has not publicly reacted to the demonstration yet.

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  • The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, in La Zarzuela Palace (by Reuters)

  • The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, in La Zarzuela Palace (by Reuters)