King Juan Carlos Won’t Abdicate, Shuns Catalonian Independence

King Juan Carlos rejected any suggestion of possible abdication during an interview on Spanish Television tonight marking his 75th birthday tomorrow.

The King said, “I am doing well and wish to continue” with the duties of Head of State.

Asked about his legacy, His Majesty said,” I don’t like to talk about myself.” But expressed pride in having helped unite “all Spaniards” and accomplished his duty to restore Democracy and the Crown.

392px-President_Reagan_and_Mrs._Reagan_greet_King_Juan_Carlos_I_and_Queen_Sophia_of_Spain_1981
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Of course, Spain remains divided, especially with regions like Catalonia discussing whether to seek independence. The King reiterated his distaste for the politics of “intransigence” and division.

He called the current generation one “of liberty,” but said Spain still had to work on becoming a more equal and fair society. He wants the country to be united behind “one future and one idea.”

“To me it hurts me a lot,” the King said about people having to leave Spain to find work amid a tough recession.

King Juan Carlos' father, the Count of Barcelona, resigns any claims to the throne, allowing his son to follow Gen. Franco as Head of State. The King's mother Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies in yellow. © Agencia EFE
King Juan Carlos’ father, the Count of Barcelona, resigns in 1977 any claims to the throne, allowing his son to follow Gen. Franco as Head of State. The King’s mother Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies in yellow.
© Agencia EFE

Don Juan Carlos has been King since 1975. “More that satisfied I feel fortunate,” he said.

On the day of King's proclamation. © Agencia EFE
On the day of King’s proclamation.
© Agencia EFE

The interview was never expected to generate controversy of bring about tough questions. Still, commentators quickly said it could have been less formal, allowing for the King’s jovial personality to come through.

Click here to watch the interview.

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King Juan Carlos Calls For Unity

King Juan Carlos called for unity and confidence during his Christmas Eve message, an annual tradition that allows the Monarch to speak at length about ongoing problems.

This year’s speech from his office at Zarzuela Palace was notable because it comes amid a secessionist push in Catalonia, ongoing Basque nationalism and a troubled economy.

It’s also the first year the King’s Christmas message is broadcast on YouTube and available in the different languages under the Spanish Crown.

The King said these were “among the toughest moments in recent Spanish history.” Speaking about the economy and politics, he said, “We cannot ignore than pessimism exists.”

Amid ongoing concerns about layoffs and spending cuts, the King said, “Austerity and growth must be compatible.”

Recalling the many tough times lived by Spaniards in the past, he added, “The first stimulus that will get us out of this crisis is confidence.”

© Casa de Su Majestad el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

His Majesty, treading carefully around the secession issue, he called on politicians to seek policies that unite rather than divide.

Amid concerns about the viability of the Spanish state as it currently stands, King Juan Carlos called Spain a “great nation” that must be part of global solution to economic and social concerns.

The King recognized the plurality of languages, cultures and traditions that have coexisted within Spain for centuries.

“Its necessary to promote values like mutual respect and reciprocal loyalty,” he said, hoping that politicians “do what’s possible to close open wounds.”

© Casa de Su Majestad el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Catalonian Republicans and separatists said they wanted more unity, but within Europe and not the Spanish state.

Some who support a unified Spain said the King was not forceful enough in discouraging regional nationalism.

In a recent open letter addressing Catalonian separatism, King Juan Carlos said it was not the time to pursue chimeras.

King Lobbies for Indian Investment

Spain’s King Juan Carlos finished a four-day state visit to India today, where the two countries finalized several bilateral agreements and pledged increased economic cooperation.

King Juan Carlos meeting with business leaders in Mumbai.

The King met with the Indian leadership, along with local and international business leaders. Bilateral commerce between both countries was worth around $5 billion last year, the Royal Household said.

“Today our societies can only progress with a climate of openness, stability and security,” the King said during one of his stops. The King has made global trade a priority as a means of improving Spain’s ailing economy.

State Dinner in New Delhi.

The King secured Indian support for Spain gaining a seat in the United Nations Security Council. Other agreements include investment in a Catalonian firm and more joint defense activities.

King Juan Carlos offers flowers for Mahatma Gandhi.

Media outlets reported that King Juan Carlos said the situation inside Spain makes him want to cry, but he also encouraged people not to be pessimistic about the country’s future.

King Meets With Catalonian Leader

King Juan Carlos met with Catalonian President Artur Mas during the Monarch’s trip to Barcelona today.

It was a much anticipated — and in some quarters dreaded — meeting between both men. It comes amid Mas calling for early elections in the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and fanning pro-independence flames.

King Juan Carlos with Mas sitting to his right.
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

The King traveled to the Catalonian capital to hand out the Count of Barcelona award to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Count of Barcelona is one of King Juan Carlos’ titles.

His Majesty, who had already released an open letter calling for unity among all Spaniards, expressed optimism about the country’s economic future.

He called the economic and political situation “grave” but said Catalonians and all Spaniards “are capable of overcoming these circumstances.” He also spoke in catalán for good measure.

Earlier this week the King was in New York attending the annual meeting of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative, where he met with other heads of state and world leaders.

King Juan Carlos speaks with former President Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, members of the Royal Family have resumed a busy agenda. Today, for example, Queen Sofia attended a gathering of backers of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.

Queen Sofia at the museum.
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

King Convenes Ministers Amid Economic Crisis

King Juan Carlos called upon government ministers, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, to inform him about the economic situation and crisis measures.

© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

During the meeting, the King said Spain was “a mature society that knows how to respond with responsibility, solidarity, maturity and a spirit of sacrifice to pressing circumstances.”

He expressed his concern for disappointed young people looking for work and said economic recovery must spare nobody. He added that Spain “does not lack experience nor examples of resilience.”

King Juan Carlos greets government Vice President Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

The King has convened the Council of Ministers a dozen times since the 1978 constitution, the Royal Household said.

Prince, Princess Lobby for Stronger U.S. Ties

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia visited New York, New Jersey and Boston last week to call for stronger ties between the U.S. and Europe, and highlight the importance of Spain in American history and its future.

The week ended on a high note with an appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the end of the United States – Spain Council’s forum in Jersey City.

Prince Felipe and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Their Royal Highneses met with Hispanic luminaries, Spanish business officials and other leaders, including the heads of media giants Telemundo and Univision, to boost Spain’s image in the U.S. and relations between both countries, which took a hit during the debate over the war in Iraq.

Post-Franco Spain has sought to boost its influence in the world, with a focus on Latin America. It appears the Royal Family and other leaders hope to make further inroads in the U.S. through the growing influence of Hispanics.

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia with top Obama administration officials, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Also, U.S.-Spain Council Honorary Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

During a speech at Harvard University in Boston titled “Spain: An American Nation” as in other events throughout the week, Prince Felipe highlighted the common histories between Spain and the U.S., and the growth of Hispanic economic, linguistic and cultural influence.

“I see Spain not only as a European, Mediterranean or American country, but one with universal reach,” he said. “The Spanish Monarchy,” he added, “remains profoundly committed to the cause of Democracy in Latin America.”

Princess Letizia at New York’s Emily Dickinson School.
© Agencia EFE

Royal Whirlwind, Prince In New York, King Near Gibraltar

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia arrived in the U.S. yesterday and visited IESE Business School’s campus in New York today.

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Like his father, Prince Felipe spoke about Spain’s ongoing economic troubles. He touted recent reforms and called for “more Europe” to solve the continental crisis. He said the monetary union was “weak” and suggested the need for a stronger pact.

Their Royal Highnesses participated in a business colloquium and met with students on campus. IESE is an outpost of the University of Navarra and the first European business school to set up a permanent facility in New York.

The Prince and Princess of Asturias are also scheduled to visit Harvard University this week.

© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Just yesterday, Prince Felipe was in Morocco. He met with Prince Moulay Rachid and business leaders from both countries.

© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Meanwhile, King Juan Carlos visited Civil Guard facilities near Gibraltar, as scheduled.

Some critics in that British outpost are calling to Monarch’s visit as a hostile act. Fishermen wanting access to disputed waters are calling on the King to intervene on their behalf. Spanish forces have already escorted them on fishing trips.

Queen Sofia is holding down the fort in Madrid. She presided over a meeting of the Royal Patronage for Disabilities and assisted an event organized by the Indian Embassy. She went with her sister Princess Irene.

Queen Sofia with the Indian ambassador to Spain.
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos