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.

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Time To Create Jobs, King Says

King Juan Carlos met with a variety of Spanish business leaders today to discuss ways of improving the economic situation, promoting competitiveness and reducing sky-high unemployment.

Leaders present included executives of Spanish multinational firms Repsol, Inditex, BBVA and Iberdrola, among others. They met at Telefónica offices in Madrid.

King Juan Carlos with Spanish business leaders.
© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

The group, which has been referred to a “think tank” of sorts, was formed last year amid the economic meltdown. The King has urged business leaders to do all they can to promote job creation.

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.

Constitutional Crisis? Newspaper Weighs Situation

El Pais, one of Spain’s leading newspapers and often used as a source for this blog, has published several articles analyzing the Royal Family’s situation in Spain.

Many influential politicians and business leaders, the paper says several factors are affecting the Monarchy’s popularity — King Juan Carlos’ health, his recent trip to Botswana, his son-in-law facing corruption allegations, the economy, leftist movements and the fact that many young people don’t remember the the institution’s importance in establishing democracy.

One article looks at the King’s situation, another reviews Prince Felipe’s role and another reviews the Queen’s recent actions, including only spending a few minutes visiting her husband at the hospital.

King Juan Carlos takes oath. Note the not often seen
"Tumular" Crown of Spain.

Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said he would have told the King not to go hunting in Africa. The comments come amid a debate over how much control the elected Government should have over the Monarch’s activities.

Still, despite other leftist comments against the Monarchy, the Socialist leadership is staying loyal.

Meanwhile, as planned, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia stepped in for Don Juan Carlos in giving out this year’s Cervantes prize at the University of Alcalá. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá in the 1500’s.

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

King Urges Job Creation

In recent weeks King Juan Carlos met with top Spanish business leaders — including executives from Spanish giants Santander, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Telefonica — and urged them to act fast in favor of job creation.

Spain’s unemployment rate is hovering above 20 percent and climbing. The informal economy accounts for some of that. Still, the King told the assembled group: “The situation is very serious.”

2011 Protest at the Spanish Embassy in London
Credit: Blanca Garcia Gil

Click here to see the El Pais front page from last Sunday.

Click here and here for more perspective on Spanish economic troubles from The Economist.