Society 23/07/2021

Colau places the portrait of Felipe VI in the plenary hall... and she presides it with a republican face mask

Barcelona City Council complies with the ruling of the Supreme Court "by legal imperative" and places the image of the monarch on the side of the room

4 min
Colau, with the republican mask, and in the background the image of Felip VI

BarcelonaIt is small and in a non-central place, but the photograph of the King of Spain, Felipe VI, has been placed today for the first time in the plenary hall of the Barcelona City Council. The government of Colau has thus complied with the resolution of the Supreme Court that forced to place it back after the comuns decided to remove, in 2015, the bust of Juan Carlos I that was in the hall. Colau has presided over the session with a face mask with the Republican flag and has taken the floor to say that the photograph of the monarch appears "by legal imperative". "We are proud to have removed the bust of the king emeritus. The bust will never return because it is of a corrupt fugitive to an Arab dictatorship", she said. The municipal government has not revealed until the last minute if it would put the image or not and has left it in the hands of the municipal legal services. This Friday, coinciding with the celebration of the last plenary session of the course, a small image of Felipe VI - 30x40 centimeters - has appeared on one side of the room. It is not behind the table of presidency, where Colau sits, but alone on a wall of the side, although the resolution pointed out that it has to be located in a "preferential" place. Thus, the image of Felipe VI will not appear in the background in the photographs of the mayor presiding over the session.

Colau has taken advantage of the intervention to criticise the words of the ex-minister of UCD Ignacio Camuñas in which he blamed the government of the Second Republic of the Civil War - before an impassive Pablo Casado - and has ensured that, for this reason, she had chosen the republican mask. His words have not pleased his government partner. The socialist Jaume Collboni has supported the decision to restore the symbolism and has considered that the mayor could have made a more "descriptive" intervention, whatever face mask she chose to wear, and not have "covered" with this controversy the debates of city. Colau and Collboni, in fact, had a moment of tension of the kind that partners do not usually display in public when the mayor reproached him for his words and he no longer had the right to reply. "You have finished your turn, you do not have the floor", she told him from the chair of the plenary session.

ERC has branded Colau's staging of the event, with the republican mask, as "staging made to suit the moment", and has assured that it does not agree with the placement of the king's image. "It does not represent the values of the city, and we must defend the powers of Barcelona", said Jordi Coronas in reference to the decision, approved by a two-thirds majority of the aldermen, not to return to place the bust removed. "We can only defend the presidency of the plenary by someone who is at the service of a true rule of law endowed with law that represents the desires of all Catalans and this is not the case, someone who accepts that the Catalans have the right to be independent and does not put problems to the political conflict", added Ferran Mascarell, of JxCat, who reminded Colau that she said she would not comply with unjust laws and now, instead, she accepts them in a "comfortable" way.

Who has most celebrated the arrival of the photograph is the PP alderman Josep Bou, who is the one who has claimed it most since he entered the consistory, carrying the photo of the monarch himself. Bou, however, has regretted the choice of Colau's mask. Cs has branded the mayor's intervention as a "show" and has remarked that the Spanish flag should also be in the plenary hall.

On behalf of the group that Manuel Valls still heads, the councilor Eva Parera has accused Colau of taking advantage of her intervention to make an institutional statement. "Who forces is not the judge, it is the law", she remarked.

"Preferential place"

According to the magistrates, the presence of the image of the king has to be placed in a "preferential" place in the room where the plenary sessions are held and is applicable in all consistories. Article 85.2 of the Regulations on the Organisation, Functioning and Legal Regime of Local Bodies made it clear back in 1986 that all town halls had to have a photograph, bust or statue of Juan Carlos I in the plenary hall and, moreover, in a privileged place. Barcelona had the bust right above the chair where the mayoress sits, so that it was above the head of the municipal leader. But it was removed six years ago. The consistory justified that the king, who had abdicated a year earlier, was no longer the Spanish monarch and, therefore, they did not have to keep a statue of him.

Since then only the PP has placed the image of Felipe VI in the plenary hall in the form of vindication. Colau's next step was to modify the regulations to try to make the move to remove the image of the king legitimate. In December 2015, article 75.2 of the municipal regulations went on to say that "the representation of symbolic and institutional elements permanently present in the plenary hall has to respond to the historical uniqueness and capital of Barcelona and to the democratic principles of religious neutrality and Catalanness". Today, however, the photograph of the king already presides over the plenary hall because this is what the Supreme Court has decided after the Delegation of the Spanish government in Catalonia, which was then led by the PP, initiated the judicial process.