Aragonès defends dialogue table before the king

Aragonès calls for "complicity" to defend Catalan from "threats"

3 min
Image of the presidential table at the gala dinner celebrating the 250th anniversary of Foment del Treball

BarcelonaThe presence of the king in Catalonia is always controversial, although this time it has been less so than in recent years. After participating in the swearing-in ceremony for new judges in the morning in Barcelona, Felipe VI attended the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Business association Foment del Treball at the Museu Nacional d'Arte de Catalunya (MNAC) in the afternoon. He was joined by the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. This was not the first time the king and the Catalan president were both present at the same event – they both attended the Cercle d'Economia conference and the Mobile World Congress – but until now Aragonès had limited himself to make economic speeches. This Monday, however, he did want to include political ingredients: he defended the dialogue table and the negotiation process with the State to "resolve the political conflict" before King Felipe VI and stressed the importance of moving forward.

In his speech, Aragonès reiterated that for the Generalitat the answer to the conflict is self-determination and amnesty, but he stressed that, within the framework of the negotiating table, the Moncloa can also defend its solution to the political situation. And, in this sense, he has asked not to confuse stability with "immobility" when dealing with reforms that can help to face up to the challenge. It has not been the only point of Aragonès's speech, since after the latest Supreme Court ruling that fixes a minimum 25% of classes to be taught in Spanish in schools, he asked the Spanish Government for "complicity" to defend Catalan from "challenges" and "threats". The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, in turn, has defended economic, social and political dialogue to solve citizens' problems and, taking advantage of the fact that she was in front of dozens of businessmen, has boasted of the approval of the budget of the Generalitat and of Barcelona thanks to the deal between En Comú and Esquerra, as well as in the State with PSOE.

King Felipe VI greeting the president of Foment del Treball, Josep Sánchez Llibre, in the act of celebration of the 250th anniversary of the employers' organization.

This Monday afternoon the king has been received with full honours and almost all the authorities, from minister Raquel Sánchez to the delegate of the Spanish government, Teresa Cunillera, through to the leader of PSC, Salvador Illa, took part in the reception. The only absentees in this ritual –as has become habitual– were the president of the Generalitat and the mayoress of the capital, in spite of the fact that they later greeted the monarch informally and shared the presidential table. The president of Aragon, Javier Lambán, and the president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, did participate in the reception.

When it was his turn to speak, Felipe VI decided to avoid any political reference and focus his speech on the vindication of the task of entrepreneurship. In a speech combining Catalan and Spanish, he did, however, stress the need for "stability" when undertaking economic initiatives, which, he said – without explicitly referring to the Independence bid – has not been easy in the last decade. "In the face of the difficult reality [economic crisis and pandemic], it is essential to always strengthen the framework of stability, certainty and confidence that developed economies demand," Felipe VI said. "This stability is possible thanks to legal certainty which reassures investments and business decisions," he added.

The monarch's speech was preceded by the presentation of Carles Ferrer Salat awards to several businessmen and the medal of honour commemorating the 250th anniversary of Foment to the former president of CaixaBank Isidre Fainé.

Absent Finance Minister and ANC protest

On the other hand, Catalan Finance Minister Jaume Giró did refuse to attend the event. According to JxCat, this is because the king has not "apologised" for the speech he made on October 3, 2017, straight after the Independence referendum. However, on other occasions other JxCat ministers – for example, Victòria Alsina – have participated in official events alongside him.

Although Felipe's visit continues to generate rejection in the independence movement, this Monday it has not been met with large street protests. In fact, Spanish Minister Raquel Sánchez boasted that "there is a very different atmosphere" than three years ago thanks to "dialogue". Only the ANC organised a protest action against the visit of the monarch, hanging two banners, one with the slogan "Occupying forces out" and the other with an upside-down photograph of the king, from Plaça Espanya's Venetian Towers.

In any case, the Catalan police that surrounded the building had little work this Monday afternoon: they only had to redirect walkers, onlookers and runners who were exercising around Montjuic.