On Tuesday evening Spain’s King Felipe VI spoke to the nation on the issue of the Catalan crisis. In his message, broadcast on national television, he made a firm defense of the Spanish Constitution in the face of the separatist challenge in Catalonia – what he described as an “extremely serious situation.”
Speaking in a somber tone and dressed in a black suit, King Felipe said that “certain Catalan authorities have repeatedly, consciously and deliberately flouted the Constitution and their own Statute of Autonomy [Estatut], which is the law that acknowledges, protects and safeguards their historic institutions and their self-government.”
The monarch accused the Catalan government of jeopardizing the social and economic stability of Catalonia and Spain
In his speech, the monarch accused the Catalan government and parliament of “irresponsible behavior” that threatened to jeopardize the social and economic stability of Catalonia and Spain.
“These authorities have unequivocally and categorically placed themselves outside the law and outside democracy,” said King Felipe, without referring directly to Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont or the speaker of the Catalan regional parliament, Carme Forcadell, by name.
The monarch also included a special message for Catalans: “I wish to reiterate that we have been living for several decades already in a democratic State, one that provides constitutional ways for anyone to defend their ideas within the law,” he said.
“These are troubled times, but we will overcome them,” he said, ending his message on a positive note. But he warned that “without respect for the law, there is no possible democratic coexistence in peace and freedom, neither in Catalonia, nor in the rest of Spain, nor anywhere in the world.”
These are troubled times, but we will overcome them
King Felipe VI
King Felipe’s speech came on the evening of a day in which thousands of Catalans marched on the streets to protest National Police and Civil Guard action during Sunday’s illegal referendum in the region after almost 850 people ended up needing medical attention as ugly scenes played out – scenes that were beamed around the world – between the authorities and members of the public.
Data from Sunday’s poll shows around 90% of voters cast their ballots in favor of independence. However, participation was just 2,262,424 of a total voter pool of 5,343,358, for a turnout rate of 42%, according to the Catalan government’s own figures. The abstention rate was 58%.
We find ourselves at a critical juncture for our existence as a democracy. In these circumstances, I wish to address all Spaniards. We have all witnessed the events that have taken place in Catalonia, with the illegal declaration of independence as the final goal of the Catalan executive [Generalitat].
For a long time, certain Catalan authorities have repeatedly, consciously and deliberately flouted the Constitution and their own Statute of Autonomy, which is the law that acknowledges, protects and safeguards their historic institutions and their self-government.
With their decisions, they have systematically infringed legally and rightfully approved rules and have shown an unacceptable disloyalty towards the institutions of the State – a State of which, by the way, those authorities are the highest representatives in Catalonia.
They have violated the democratic principles of the rule of law and they have undermined Catalan society’s harmony and coexistence, unfortunately even to the point of driving a wedge within it. Today, Catalan society is fractured and at loggerheads.
The Catalan authorities have underestimated the affections and feelings of solidarity that have united and will long unite the Spaniards, and with their reckless behavior, they may be even endangering the economic and social stability of Catalonia and of Spain as a whole.
In short, this has been the completion of an unacceptable attempt to take over the historic institutions of Catalonia. Those authorities have unequivocally and categorically placed themselves outside the law and outside democracy. They have tried to break Spain’s unity and national sovereignty, which is the right of all Spanish people to democratically decide on their life together.
Therefore, and in light of this extremely serious situation, that requires everyone’s commitment to pursue common interests, the legitimate powers of the state have the responsibility to guarantee constitutional order and the normal functioning of the institutions, the validity of the rule of law and Catalonia’s self-government, based on the Constitution and their own Statute of Autonomy.
Today I wish to send several messages to all Spaniards and in particular to Catalans. To the citizens of Catalonia – to all of them – I wish to reiterate that we have been already been living for several decades in a democratic State, which provides constitutional means for anyone to defend their ideas within the law. Because, as we all know, without respect for the law, there is no possible democratic coexistence in peace and freedom, neither in Catalonia, nor in the rest of Spain, nor anywhere in the world. In a democratic and constitutional Spain, they know that they have space to coexist and get along with all their fellow citizens.
I am well aware that in Catalonia there is also great concern and anxiety about the Catalan authorities’ behavior. To those who feel that way, I assure that they are not, nor will they be, alone; they have all the support and the solidarity of the rest of the Spanish people, as well as the absolute guarantee given by the rule of law in the defense of their freedom and their rights.
To all Spaniards, who are living through these events full of sadness and distress, I send a message of calm, confidence and hope.
These are troubled times, but we will overcome them. These are very complicated times, but we will get through them. Because we believe in our country and we are proud of what we are. Because our democratic principles are solid and strong. And they are like this because they are based on the wishes of millions and millions of Spaniards who want a peaceful and free coexistence. That is how we have gradually built Spain in these last decades. And that is how we must go forward, with serenity and determination. On this road, in that improved Spain that we all desire, Catalonia will be there too.
Let me end these words, addressed to all Spaniards, by emphasizing once again the Crown’s firm commitment to the Constitution and to democracy, my own dedication to a climate of understanding and harmony among Spaniards, and my commitment, as king, to the unity and continuity of Spain.”
English version by María Luisa Rodríguez Tapia.