King Felipe this evening delivered a rare and fiery speech against the Catalan government’s move toward independence from Spain.
The King, who spoke from Zarzuela Palace, called this week’s illegal pro-independence referendum and other developments a threat to “national sovereignty.”
Catalan leaders have been pushing for a legal referendum for years, something the central government has rejected, fearing many people will use the occasion to cast a protest vote over economic and other grievances.
The Catalan leadership is now threatening to declare independence even though polls show most Catalans don’t support the move.
Don Felipe is calling their actions “unacceptable disloyalty,” and against Democracy and the rule of law, reiterating constitutional protections and Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy.
The King’s speech is almost unprecedented. His father, King Juan Carlos, delivered major messages during his abdication and during an attempted coup in the early 1980’s.
Left wing and pro-independence parties slammed the speech for not focusing enough on dialogue. The King, however, has pressed for dialogue numerous times before.
“These moments are hard but we will overcome,” said the King, stressing Catalonia would continue being Spanish.
He said the Crown would continue standing by Democracy and the Constitution, and the “unity and permanence of Spain.”
King Felipe participated this weekend in a mass demonstration in Barcelona against terrorism.
The event, also attended by national and regional leaders, follows an attack in that city earlier this month.
Rescue workers and officials welcomed the King. Some anti-monarchy activists and pacifists, upset about Spain’s export of military weapons, protested his arrival.
The King has made it a point to visit Barcelona several times since the attack. His presence as a symbol of unity is particularly important amid pro-independence rumblings in the Autonomous Community of Catalonia.