Daily Management Review

Catalan authorities refuse to greet the King of Spain


On February 25, the King of Spain, Felipe VI, visited this autonomy for the first time since the beginning of the political crisis in Catalonia. Local residents met him at the opening of the World Mobile Congress, one of the world's largest exhibitions of the industry, with protests. Some urged the king to leave, while others, on the contrary, supported him. Already on the eve of the king’s arrival, the speaker of the Catalan Parliament and the mayor of Barcelona declared: they would violate the diplomatic protocol and would not welcome the king before the opening of the event, although later they would go to dinner with his participation. Thus, the Catalan politicians demonstrated that the autonomy is not recognizing the authority of Madrid.

The queues for the stands of the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona lined up on the morning of February 25, although the official opening of the event took place only in the evening. By the end of the day, the streets of the city were filled not only by congress visitors, but also by local activists. Some of them held Catalan flags in their hands and shouted slogans against the monarchy and "for the freedom of political prisoners"; others waved flags of Spain and raised over their heads portraits of the Spanish King Felipe VI with the inscription "Great King for a great country."

The positive start of the event overshadowed the internal political conflict: the mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau and the speaker of the Catalan Parliament Roger Torrent refused to welcome the King of Spain before the opening of the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona. Thus, Catalonian politicians violated the diplomatic protocol, according to which regional authorities should welcome the Spanish monarch before the start of official events with his participation. This way, regional leaders demonstrated: they did not forget the day of the referendum on the independence of Catalonia on October 1, 2017, when the Spanish police used force against the inhabitants of the region.

"I owe responsibility to thousands of people who suffered from illegal and severe accusations on October 1," Mrs. Colau explained her decision. "The king should have remained neutral in the face of these serious events and call for dialogue, but he began to adhere to tough and repressive positions, thus demonstrating his indifference to the violation of human rights," concluded the Mayor of Barcelona. Ada Colau also criticized the "conclusion of civil activists and political leaders."

Recall, the former deputy head of the Catalan government, Oriol Junqueras, members of the Catalan parliament Jordi Sànchez and Joaquim Forn, as well as the leader of the public organization Omnium Cultural Jordi Cuixart have been held in prison since November last year. They are accused of preparing an uprising, insurgency and embezzlement of public funds.

The Speaker of the Parliament of Catalonia Roger Torrent, and the former head of the Catalan Generalitat (Government of Catalonia) Carles Puigdemont approved the actions of Mrs. Colau. "King Felipe VI will be welcomed with joy in the Catalan Republic as the first person in Spain when he asks for forgiveness for his unconstitutional actions in October last year," the fugitive Catalan leader, who is now in Belgium, put forward the conditions.

The Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Technology of Spain criticized the behavior of Catalan politicians, stressing that the success of the World Mobile Congress "will depend on the stability in Barcelona." Also, the decision of the regional authorities was not approved by the pro-Western parties Ciudadanos ("Citizens"), the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and the People's Party. "The Congress of mobile technologies is a collective work. It is a mistake to politicize it, "- said the Catalan socialist Jaume Collboni. The leader of the People's Party in Catalonia, Alberto Fernandez Diaz, said that Ada Colau and Roger Torrent acted as a "kamikaze" regarding the interests of Barcelona.

The mayor of Barcelona, however, does not believe that her action will negatively affect the World Mobile Congress. "We are open to the world city: cosmopolitan, proud of its diversity and innovative. But we are also a city in which freedom of speech, peace and human rights are compromised, and therefore we ask that they be respected, "Ms. Colau answered in her Facebook comment on opponents' remarks.

Despite the violation of the protocol, a meeting of Catalan politicians with King Philip VI was held. Ada Kolau and Roger Torren did not come out to meet the monarch, but attended a gala dinner in honor of the opening of the congress. At the beginning of the evening, the Spanish monarch delivered a speech in English, Spanish and Catalan, which did not address political issues, but stressed that the congress has been held in Barcelona since 2006, thanks to the "compromise and cooperation" between Madrid and Barcelona.

source: reuters.com