Politicians from all sides of the spectrum react to king’s Christmas speech

Pro-Constitution parties applaud Felipe VI’s call for peaceful coexistence, while Catalan and Basque nationalists criticize his comments

King Felipe VI during his Christmas speech.
King Felipe VI during his Christmas speech.Ballesteros (EFE)

Spanish politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have reacted to King Felipe VI’s Christmas message, which was broadcast on December 24 and was dedicated in large part to the challenges facing the country’s young people.

“You have talent, you believe in peace, you are open to the world because you are, and you feel, European, you are humanitarian, you are committed to social causes, to the fight against climate change and the defense of the environment,” the monarch said in his address. “You want to live and coexist, but you face serious problems.”

Young people want to live and coexist, but you face serious problems

King Felipe VI

King Felipe referred to the challenges facing young Spaniards when looking for employment. “You know that it is very hard to find a job without the proper training,” he said. “Many of you have this [training], but sometimes you are forced to occupy a position that is not the one you have trained for or that doesn’t meet your expectations. And we have to help you: so that you can build a personal and professional life, with dignified work and salaries, to have an adequate place to live, and if you want to, to build a family and be able to find a work-life balance.”

The king’s call for peaceful coexistence in Spain, at a time of continuing tensions in the region of Catalonia, which is still in the midst of an independence drive, was given a mixed reaction by Spain’s politicians. This part of his speech was received positively by the pro-Constitution parties, such as the governing Socialist Party (PSOE), the conservative Popular Party (PP) and left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos – albeit the latter voicing concerns over the credibility of the monarch.

Basque and Catalan nationalists, however, were critical of the king’s speech. The regional premier of Catalonia, the hardline separatist Quim Torra, rejected the words of Felipe VI, saying: “There is no problem of coexistence in Catalonia, rather one of democracy and justice.” He was referring to the Catalan pro-independence leaders who have been in pre-trial custody for over a year, ahead of their upcoming court cases for their role in last year’s illegal referendum on secession from Spain and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

There is no problem of coexistence in Catalonia, rather one of democracy and justice

Catalan regional premier Quim Torra

The spokesperson for the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in Congress, Aitor Esteban, also criticized the speech, saying that rather than the Constitution being the greatest legacy that could be left for future generations, it would be “to recognize the Basques as a nation.”

The PSOE government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stated that the king’s message “was in line with what the government defends,” and highlighted the king’s calls for “dialogue and understanding.”

The leader of center-right party Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, also supported the king via a tweet. “Peaceful coexistence is the greatest asset, the most valuable result from our democracy. I agree with the king: our biggest challenge is to ensure that coexistence continues, defending equality, freedom and the union. We must look to the future to modernize and continue to improve our great nation.”

For his part, PP chief Pablo Casado echoed the calls by the king for laws to be observed. “Rules that are for everyone must be respected by everyone.”

The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, celebrated the “change of tone” of the king with regard to Catalonia. The king made a televised address last year in the wake of the Catalan crisis, and was criticized by certain sectors for what was perceived as an excessively hardline approach to the issues relating to the secessionist drive. Iglesias described this change of approach as the king making an “implicit recognition” of having made a mistake by assuming too closely the positions of the then-PP government.

But Iglesias added that the monarchy as an institution belonged to another era and that it did not respond to the needs of society. “He does not sound credible,” said the Podemos spokesperson in Congress, Irene Montero.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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