King Felipe tells MEPs to count on “diverse and united” Spain

Monarch seeks to allay fears over Spanish unity in address to European Parliament

Felipe VI addresses the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Felipe VI addresses the European Parliament on Wednesday.VINCENT KESSLER (Reuters)

In his first address before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, King Felipe VI sought to allay concerns over the Catalan independence bid by stating that Europe can count on a “diverse and united” Spain.

“Europe was built on the will to add, not to divide; of sharing and solidarity,” the Spanish monarch told the chamber in a long speech that was part of his official visit to the EU’s legislative body.

It is not possible to understand Spain without Europe, nor Europe without Spain. I am European because I am Spanish”

King Felipe VI

“You may count on Spain as a loyal member that is responsible when it comes to the European project; on a Spain that is united and proud of its diversity; on a Spain that shows solidarity and respect for the rule of law,” he said.

Felipe VI, who has spoken out in the past in defense of the Spanish Constitution, brought it up again as “the great pact that defends, preserves and protects the rights and freedoms of citizens” and that “protects the people of Spain in the exercise of their diverse cultures and traditions, languages and institutions.”

The remarks could be construed as a veiled reference to Catalonia, where some separatist forces have openly called for ignoring Spanish laws after the September 27 regional elections, where pro-indendence groups won a majority. Meanwhile, some political and business leaders are defending a constitutional reform to establish a new relationship with the region that would fall somewhere between the current status quo and full-fledged independence.

King Felipe VI is greeted by European Parliament President Martin Schulz upon his arrival at the chamber.
King Felipe VI is greeted by European Parliament President Martin Schulz upon his arrival at the chamber.PATRICK HERTZOG (AFP)

Speaking on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Spain’s EU membership, Felipe insisted on his country’s unwavering support for the European project.

“It is not possible to understand Spain without Europe, nor Europe without Spain. I am European because I am Spanish,” he said. “Europe has been the horizon of democracy, of economic modernization and of social and political regeneration in our country. Europe is where we Spaniards want to be, where we deserved to be and where we will always remain.”

The king’s address, which was punctuated by applause, also discussed the challenges facing Europe in the coming years.

At a time when the continent is struggling to provide an adequate solution to a refugee crisis that has already caused serious disagreement among member states, Felipe defended the need to come up with a new European ideal “that mobilizes citizens in favor of integration and the project of unity.”

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Speaking specifically about this issue, the Spanish monarch asked for some collective thought on the need for Europe to adopt collaborative tools with neighboring nations “to prevent massive displacements, violence and insecurity.”

The king also offered help based on Spain’s own experience dealing with large migratory flows from Africa in recent years.

Felipe VI arrived outside the chamber at 11.15am, and was personally greeted by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who defined the king as a thoughtful, well-informed man with great experience in European and international affairs.

Four representatives for Spain’s United Left and one from Plural Left walked out of the chamber when the king began his speech, after holding up pro-republic signs.

English version by Susana Urra.

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