Catalonia was the destination for Felipe VI’s first domestic trip as king of Spain, underscoring how high the region ranks on his list of priorities.
At an award ceremony for young entrepreneurs in Girona on Thursday, the newly proclaimed monarch sent out a conciliatory message to Catalans.
“As the crown prince, and from now on as the king, I have used these visits to make the Crown even more present in this land, and to convey a message of respect, mutual understanding and coexistence, which as I said in my proclamation address, are inherent values of our parliamentary democracy,” he said, speaking in Catalan.
The king, who was accompanied by Queen Letizia on his visit, spoke about the work of the Prince of Girona Foundation – the organization handing out the awards – in what was meant as a veiled reference to the pro-sovereignty drive by Catalan nationalists, who aim to hold a controversial referendum on self-rule in the fall.
The foundation, he said, has worked with individuals and entities “from all over Spain” towards “a project that unites us and makes us stronger.”
The king praised Catalans’ “entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, critical spirit and outward-looking vision”
“This helps us get to know each other better and appreciate each other more. This project proves that honest, generous cooperation is the best way to reach the legitimate goals of every individual, and also to attain big collective goals that benefit the common good and the general interest.”
The king, who this year has increased his trips to Catalonia, as well as the number of meetings he has held with Catalan politicians and business leaders, had nothing but praise for the region. He talked about the “love of their land, and especially of the language and culture that characterizes them,” before going on to mention “their entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, critical spirit and outward-looking vision.”
These qualities, he went on to say, “have characterized the men and women of Catalonia throughout history and have justifiably attracted respect, admiration and affection; they have also contributed to the general progress of Spain as a whole.”
Just hours before his visit, the Catalan regional assembly approved a motion calling for a popular referendum on the monarchy. The same parties behind the motion also called a protest against the king’s presence in the city. Around 500 people turned out for the demonstration, which began at 8.15pm.