Barcelona (ACN).- One week after the 1.5 million strong demonstration asking for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, the King Juan Carlos I has criticised those who “divide forces” and “chase pipe dreams”. In a very unusual political statement, he also asked for the “retaking” [...] of the spirit of the Transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy. In a short and clear letter published on the new website of the King’s House this Tuesday afternoon and addressed to all citizens, Juan Carlos I stated that, “in the difficult economic, political and also social context”, “two fundamental things need to be internalised”. Firstly, the “only” way “to overcome the current difficulties” is by “acting united, walking together, pooling our forces” and “the worse thing that can be done is to divide forces, foster dissension, chase pipe dreams, deepen wounds”. Secondly, “from the union and concord”, Spain “has to retake and foster the values […] of the Democratic Transition”, such as “work, effort, generosity, dialogue, ethical imperative, the sacrifice of particular interests for the general good, the renunciation of the exclusive truth”. Asked by journalists about the King’s letter, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, said the Executive “does not feel concerned” by it. However, he stated that Catalonia in any case “offers solutions”, and “does not chase pipe dreams”. Catalan nationalist parties have not appreciated the King’s 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’s move for not mentioning values such as “pluralism, diversity, tolerance, respect for discrepancies and free democratic expression”. On the contrary Spanish nationalists have celebrated the King’s intervention as Spain’s 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’s 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 “offers solutions”
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’s unity and asked for the retaking of the spirit of the Democratic Transition. Homs, who said he was not aware of the letter’s 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’s sentences and asked if the Catalan Government was feeling targeted, the Spokesperson stated that the Catalan Executive “did not feel concerned” by the letter. However, Homs, who is one of CiU’s leaders, emphasised that Catalonia was not “chasing pipe dreams” but “offering solutions”. 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’s House was present and neither the Spanish Government, nor any leader of the People’s 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’s House at the conference and emphasised they have a “smooth” relationship with the institution.
Many Catalan parties do not appreciate the King’s 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 “do not feel concerned” by the King’s message. Turull recommended listening to the people’s claims expressed in the demonstration, which were “in favour of” and “not against anyone”. 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’s message in that it is mainly addressed to the supporters of Catalonia’s independence but not to Spanish nationalists, “who also divide”. The Chairman of the PSC’s group in the Catalan Parliament, Xavier Sabaté, underlined that the letter “talks about some divisions” but not about “all the people who divide or break” the understanding, on one side and the other. However, Sabaté said that the “Head of the State has the right to have his say, as it is understood he does so within the limits established in the Constitution”.
The Left-Wing parties that gave their support to the massive demonstration for Catalonia’s independence (ICV-EUiA, ERC and SI) have been the most vocal against the King’s 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 “today has directly entered into the Catalan and Spanish political debate” with his letter. This “goes beyond the Constitution he says concerns him so much”, said Camats. ICV-EUiA remarked that “the Spanish Constitution does not give the King any political role if it is not authorised by the Spanish Government”. Therefore, ICV-EUiA will ask the Spanish Government in Parliament if they knew about the King’s letter and if they had authorised it. For Camats, “the King is out of his role, common sense and opportunity”. “He is more worried about the unity [of Spain], which was broken after the Constitutional Court’s sentence [against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy], than by people losing their jobs or homes”, she concluded.
The Spokesperson for the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Anna Simó, has been ironical about Juan Carlos I’s letter. “The King has shot in all directions and he has missed the target again”, said Simó referring to Juan Carlos’ hunting hobby. “The fact that the symbol of Spain’s unity […] 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”, she added. Simó also stated that “it is funny” that the monarchy is talking about values such as “work, effort, merit and dialogue”.
The Catalan Independence populists ‘Solidaritat’ (SI) stated that the King’s message is “good news”, as the supporters of independence are “making the heirs of Philip V nervous” (Philip V was the first Bourbon monarch and ended with Catalonia’s 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 “it is a great mistake” to refer to what “the people expressed in a peaceful and model demonstration” as a “pipe dream”.
Only the Catalan People’s Party (PPC) and Ciutadans (C’s), which together represent 15% of the members of the Catalan Parliament, supported Juan Carlos I’s 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’s letter “centres the priorities that need to be considered regarding the economic crisis”. It also represents “the defence of a democratic model which was approved during the Transition”. According to Rodríguez, this model “has been questioned” by the demonstration and by the Catalan President’s reaction.
Finally, the Spokesperson of the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party ‘Ciutadans’ (C’), Jordi Cañas, emphasised that the King’s letter was “adequate, needed and pertinent”. Spain is currently living in an “unprecedented economic crisis”, which does not need “a territorial crisis” 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.