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King Felipe’s address to the nation was misjudged – independence is now inevitable

Royal Central’s Editor-in-Chief Charlie Proctor explains why he thinks King Felipe of Spain’s address to the nation was misjudged and had parallels of an absolute monarchy opposed to a constitutional monarchy.

When The King of Spain makes a televised address to the nation, you know it is going to be significant. This extremely rare event usually only occurs annually on Christmas Eve when His Majesty wishes Spanish citizens a Merry Christmas, but Tuesday’s speech on the Catalonia referendum took a completely different tone. One might argue some snippets of the speech sounded as if it was delivered by an absolute monarch as opposed to a constitutional monarch who was trying to mediate the unfolding crisis.

In his speech, the King criticised Catalonia’s authorities, accusing them of “unacceptable disloyalty” adding that they are seeking to divide Catalonia. In fact, the whole of His Majesty’s speech was firmly focused on the actions of Catalonian separatists, with Felipe condemning their actions, describing them as “irresponsible.” In stark contrast, The King did not mention the police violence once in the duration of his speech.

Currently, on the streets of Catalonia, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the roads protesting against the police brutality which saw close to 1,000 people injured on Sunday as people attempted to vote in the referendum. His Majesty’s comments (or lack of comments) only add insult to injury, and many have taken the view that Felipe’s speech has only added oil to the already raging fire.

One would have expected the King to call for political dialogue in his address, recognising that tensions were high. He could (and should) have called for both parties to come to the table for discussions to try and work out an arrangement which would suit both the central government and the Catalonian authorities. Instead, by firmly sticking to the position that the Spanish government’s actions were justifiable and that Catalonia’s actions were illegal, King Felipe has only helped Catalan in its mission to get independence.

Those in the province who already want to be split from Spain will feel an increased sense of anger towards the Monarchy and the government, and it now seems likely independence is inevitable. Expect Catalonian authorities to declare independence in the coming days as the result of Sunday’s referendum comes in.

It was a mistake for King Felipe to use make this statement. He called for unity but only criticised one side. The rule of law applied to all – something certain people seem to be forgetting.

Do you agree with Charlie Proctor, or do you agree with Oskar Aanmoen who argues that the referendum actually strengthens the monarchy in Spain? Let us know by commenting below:

  • Orchard 10

    A SERIOUS missed opportunity to spread balm on a very troubled situation..It might almost have been Rajoy speaking, [he certainly wrote it]. Like a lecture from a Headmaster it lacked any kindness, understanding or humanity…

  • Guy Stair Sainty

    All of Spain’s population is subject to the same constitution, the same protections, rights and responsibilities. No one region has the right to destroy the country’s unity, especially for narrow economic self-interest dictated by a desire not to contribute to the well-being of all. The Catalonian regional government has used tax payers funds to build a campaign for independence in the face of the certain knowledge that the majority of Catalonian want to remain part of Spain. This majority understands that an independent Catalonia, outside the EU, UN, ECB, and IMF would face grave, if not terminal economic problems – but more to the point many Catalans and residents of Catalonia are proud of their Spanish heritage and language. The Catalonians not only have the freedom to use to the Catalan language but have forced it on everyone. They also have complete control of their schools – which, disgracefully, are then encouraged to teach a bitter anti-Spanish narrative which would surely be widely condemned if it was emanating from some extreme nationalist German political party. Catalonians are not some persecuted minority but Spanish citizens with the same rights, and duties, as every other Spaniard and as every other citizen of the European Union.

    If the mayor of London, which contributes far more to the UK economy on a per capita basis than any other region, was to call a referendum, without the authority of Parliament, to claim the right to retain all income and corporation taxes and refuse to subsidise the rest of the UK, what would the reaction be to that? If large numbers of Londoners were trying to force their way into public buildings to vote on this, would you suggest that the Metropolitan police should stand idly by? And if the Metropolitan police refused to intervene, as many of the Catalan police did in breach of the law, should the UK government do nothing?

    The Spanish police were acting under Spanish law to protect public buildings and prevent an open act of civil disobedience. The nationalists, cynically, made sure that vulnerable citizens would be the first to face the police, in the hope that respected institutions like the BBC would then present their demands sympathetically. Critics of the government are naively allowing themselves to be manipulated and present the legal Spanish government as being in the wrong. The King’s duty is to all Spaniards, and to preserve Spanish unity which not only most Spaniards want but most Catalans.

    • Àlex Young

      A clear majority voted in the Catalan Parliament for a referendum on national self-determination. Spain has disregarded this fact, claiming it ‘illegal’ because it goes against the ‘indissoluble unity of Spain’ enshrined in their Constitution. It is as if Westminster had decided to go against the majority vote in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Or as if Canada had not allowed Quebec to vote because of constitutional constraints. In fact, during the over 10 years that I have been living in Catalonia, pro-independence parties have won majorities in the Catalan Parliament. I myself accept the democratic outcome of successive elections, unlike others. By not allowing the very peaceful expression of the basic right of national self-determination, one is admitting that there is no democratic way out for Catalan nationalists. We know what that can lead to! The shocking images of the brutal Spanish police raids on peaceful citizens at their polling stations have tarnished Spain’s international image and given a moral victory to the cause of Catalan national self-determination.
      Catalonia is of the oldest nations in Europe with its own institutions (some much older than Spain’s ie. Parliament, ombudsman), language and civil law. It has a long history of self rule and has suffered under many despotic Spanish monarchies and dictators in its history. I recommend reading the French historian Pierre Vilar’s brilliant History of Spain for an objective account.

      • Guy Stair Sainty

        Devolution of powers to Scotland was only legally possible because the Westminster parliament voted by a majority to do so; the Scottish referendum was only possible because the Westminster parliament voted to allow it. The Spanish parliament voted by a clear majority not to allow this. This is because ALL Spaniards have an interest in the future unity of their country, as do ALL British people in the unity of the UK – which is why the right to a Scottish referendum was not decided by the Scottish parliament but a concession by the national one. The so-called right of self-determination does not apply to the regions of democratic states but to colonies, or states which do not have democratic rights. In national elections the majority of voters in Catalonia have not voted for independence parties, it is the electoral system which has given them a majority just as the SNP have a majority in the Scottish parliament while not getting a majority of the votes. Catalonia is not a nation and has never been one; from the time of the Reconquista it was part of the Kingdom of Aragon. In any country where groups of citizens force their way into public buildings, or occupy them in deliberate breach of the law, the police would be bound to intervene. That the organisers at some polling places deliberately put the elderly in harms way says something about the lengths they would go to. One has already seen a display of Catalonian “culture” when these neo-fascists of the left used the march against terrorism as an occasion to insult the King. When the US Confederate states declared independence on the basis of their “right to self-determination” in 1861, President Lincoln carried out his constitutional duty in suppressing it and the Union was saved – Catalonia is no different. (and the US civil war was about states rights, first of all).

    • zinho

      Your observations above are at best misguided and at worst pure fabrication. The fact that you condone the beatings of innocent peaceful protestors and place the violent application of central government policies over basic human wellbeing and rights shows an astounding lack of empathy and personal calibre. It is obvious that Catalans are not subject to the same rule of law as the rest of Spain, hence the existence of this independence movement. I suggest you look at the manner in which their health service and regional finances have been mishandled in recent years, not to mention transport infrastructures, the use of a secret anti-Catalan political police force and numerous other cases. The current Spanish govt. and its forerunners have applied concepts of legality widely refuted by many of their own national experts. Their Constitutional Tribunal is a legislative body whose members are not separated from the executive and who are hand-picked by the incoming government – so nullifying any claims to legal objectivity they may have. Therefore, faced with a legitimate appeal for a referendum, a call backed in a 2006 speech by current president Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish govt. has ‘moved the legal goalposts’ several times, at its own convenience. Over 40,000 police and military police were deployed in Catalonia, only where they were present was their violence – against non-violent protestors. No flags were burned, no catapults fired, no molotov cocktails. There is very, very little ‘bitter anti-Spanish narrative’ as you say (although this was true in the 90s) as over 70% of the Catalan population are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants – something you rightly refer to, but in a confused manner. I believe that the views you express reveal wilful ignorance and a contempt for those people injured by the Spanish police. Your views are not shared by many people throughout Spain who are subject to similar police repression (Murcia train wall protestss). What is a king but a representative of his laws and his people? I saw no display of monarchic responsibility, merely the voice of a puppet reading a speech prepared well-before Tuesday.

      • Àlex Young

        A very accurate and informed comment on the background to the current problems!

        • Guy Stair Sainty

          Most Spaniards are outraged that Catalonia, which is already the most privileged part of Spain with extensive autonomy and rights should also demand a right to an independence referendum. The poster who suggests that it is somehow disadvantaged is ingenuous to say the least – it has extraordinary status and privileges. What this is about is money – and the Catalans do not like the fact that their prosperous region puts in more than it gets out – well the Scots take more per capita out of the UK than the English, and London puts more in. Bavaria puts more into the German central government than the former East Germany – but that is the way it is in any country. Unlike Scotland, Catalonia has never been a country or a nation – it was part of the Kingdom of Aragon. There is the Catalan language but this is also spoken outside the autonomous region – in parts of Valencia and in the Balearic islands as well as extending across the border into France. Scotland was a separate country but has always obeyed the law since devolution – it cannot hold a referendum on independence without the consent of the parliament at Westminster and were it do so, it would be illegal. In Spain, the Congress of Deputies voted 6-1 against allowing a referendum. Spain, unlike the UK, has a codified constitution which is very clear as to the unity of Spain and the Constitutiuonal court has given its clear opinion. This court is not part of the executive (as has been claimed above – that would be in breach of both the constitution itself and EU law); the government only nominates 2 of the 12 judges, 4 are nominated by the Senate, 4 by the Congress of Deputies and 2 by the supreme council of the judiciary and they do not change when the government changes. Although pro-independence parties achieved a majority in the Catalan assembly, they did not represent a majority of the electorate, this was a peculiarity of the electoral system. This is similar to the SNP which has a majority in the Edinburgh assembly but did not achieve a majority of the votes. In any case Spain is one country, and no region has the right to vote to leave without the consent of the rest who would otherwise be hugely disadvantaged and potentially endangered – Catalonia has a substantial minority among the independence parties who want to pull out of NATO and abolish the military – this would endanger Spanish security. It is now known that Russia gave shelter to pro-independence web sites that were being closed down in Spain, the kind of political interference we have seen elsewhere in recent elections because of course it would suit Russia to have an important NATO power weakened by a part of the country breaking off and declaring independence. Not only has Catalonia been using tax payers money to illegally fund pro-independence propaganda, but it has been charging 3% on contracts which has not been accounted for – and this corruption is one of the reasons why the Generalitat is so keen on removing itself from Spanish jurisdiction. I know parents with children in schools who are indoctrinated to singing anti-Spanish songs – they want their children to learn Spanish but are forced to have them taught in Catalan. As for the bitter narrative, if you had witnessed the disgraceful and carefully coordinated protests and abuse directed at the King when he came to march against terrorism you could not possibly assert this type of insulting hostility no longer existed. Of course the injuries are regrettable but the organisers of the referendum knew the police were going to prevent it and they deliberately encouraged old people and children to stand in the most vulnerable places to use them as shields and get exactly the kind of TV photos they achieved. This was cynical and the responsibility lies firmly in the hands of those who organised and encouraged the illegal referendum. No region of any European state has the right to unilaterally declare independence – the last time this happened it ended with the Balkan wars of the 1990s when Germany encouraged the independence of Croatia with disastrous consequences for tens of thousands of innocent civilians caught up in the subsequent conflagration. In 1861 the US Confederate states also claimed their right to independence, although 80% of the votes in the previous US election had been cast for pro-Union candidates. This led to a war which cost the US more lives than all the other wars in which it has fought put together. Lincoln swore to uphold the union, as was his duty under the Constitution, and the war began. [The war, by the way, was not fought over slavery but over states rights – when the Union government did declare emancipation for slaves in the Confederate states this was not extended to emancipation of the slaves in the 4 por-Union slave states]. The 13th amendment was not passed until the war was over in 1865.

    • Richard Lewis

      How long did it take to write that? Change happens…we all die….get over it

  • Ultima Choice

    Talk about scoring an own goal. If you weren’t for Catalan independence before you certainly were after this guy took the stage.

  • Angel M Fimbres

    The entire situation is unfortunate and terribly sad. From an outside perspective, this looks much like adolescent rebellion on both sides. Spanish government showing its muscle, Catalonia defiantly resisting. Catalonia exercising it’s freedom of choice, Spanish government punishing the child for acting out. Both sides failing to realise how they appear before the worst court of all…Public view and opinion. They’re in a precarious situation, how does one back down now they’re in too deep? Either being afraid of appearing weak when really they’re both strong in very beautiful ways, complementary to each other. Neither recognising the how this will impact their future, terribly at best.

    I feel so strongly about this because they’re my absolute favourite locale to visit. I don’t want to see this riff because it will bring harm to the entirety of such an amazingly rich (beauty, heritage, culture, etc.) nation.

    It breaks my heart.

  • Michael

    I disagree because the constitution should always be the law of the land therefor he had a duty to say something like this. His job is to pretend and preserpe that state and the independent would jeopardize the state.

  • Michael

    One more thing the constitutional court has said they have no legal right to hold the referendum therefore it was illegal and void because there was no legal backing to it.

  • Richard Lewis

    What is the point of the monarchy…….I believe in ground-up hierarchy…..not a few people or inherited families….”guiding” me like some child

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