King Felipe VI has highlighted the importance of principles and ethical obligations in his Christmas speech in a thinly veiled reference to the scandal surrounding his father, King Juan Carlos.
The comments came towards the end of a highly anticipated festive address which saw the Spanish monarch urge unity, hope and strength from all as his country tackles the personal, social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But it was his words about upholding integrity that attracted the most attention as the controversy around the financial dealings of Juan Carlos continue to swirl.
King Felipe addressed Spain from the Zarzuela Palace. With a crib and a Christmas tree behind him, he began by remembering those missing from Christmas celebrations this year with many families facing a very different festive season as coronavirus pandemic restrictions prevent big get togethers. He also acknowledged those for whom this Christmas was particularly painful, saying ”in thousands of homes there is a void impossible to fill due to the death of your loved ones, whom I now want to remember with emotion and with all respect.”
The pandemic dominated this Christmas message, with the King of Spain praising and thanking frontline workers as well as often acknowledging how hard the spread of coronavirus had made life for everyone in the country and how it had impacted the economy. ”Many citizens and families live the anguish of unemployment; the anguish of barely meeting basic needs; some of you now feel the sadness of having to abandon a business to which you have dedicated your life.”
And he acknowledged the impact that had had on many but in particular, the younger generation. Referencing the high unemployment level among young people in Spain, Felipe said ”they cannot be the losers in this situation. Our young people deserve to have the best training, to grow personally and professionally and to carry out their plans. Spain cannot afford a lost generation.”
But despite the focus on the hardship that the pandemic had brought to the country, Felipe VI repeated, several times, that unity, hope and strength were the way for people across Spain to overcome the challenges that 2020 has brought. The King of Spain said ‘‘The health, economic and social challenges we face are great… enormous, but not insurmountable. Overcoming them constitutes a great national objective that must unite us all; that, as citizens, places an obligation on all of us; an obligation with ourselves, with others and with our country. This requires a great collective effort, a great effort in which each continues to give the best of themselves according to their responsibilities and to the extent of their abilities.”
It was that focus on supporting others that brought Felipe to the topic of integrity. The Spanish king said ”together with our democratic principles and compliance with the laws, we also need to preserve the ethical values that are at the roots of our society….moral and ethical principles…oblige us all without exceptions; and they are above any consideration, of whatever nature, even personal or family ones.”
That brief, but obvious reference, to the situation surrounding King Juan Carlos was played out against the backdrop of another major theme. On the day that the United Kingdom and the European Union agreed a post Brexit trade deal, King Felipe referred to the strength that Spain gained from being part of the EU and promised that ”The Union offers us a historic opportunity to progress and advance; it opens a new era for Spain to join in a common project to modernize our economy; adapt our production structures to the new industrial, technological and environmental revolution that we are experiencing.”
King Felipe ended not just with Christmas wishes, in the main lanuages spoken around Spain, but hopes for a happier year to come, saying ”It will not be difficult for the year 2021 to improve to 2020. We are going to regain normality as much as possible in the workplace, in classrooms, in squares and in neighborhoods; in shops, in markets, in bars; in cinemas, in theatres; in the everyday life that shapes the character of a society like ours. It’s what we all want.”
King Felipe will now spend Christmas privately with his wife, Queen Letizia, and their daughters, Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofia.