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King Felipe VI defends Spain's image amid Catalan crisis

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King Felipe VI defends Spain's image amid Catalan crisis
King Felipe delivered his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Photo: AFP
16:09 CET+01:00
King Felipe VI attempted to boost Spain's battered image at the Davos summit on Wednesday as the Catalan secession crisis simmers on, defending his home as "a great country" that draws investors and millions of tourists.

"How can we deny that Spain -- no surprise -- is a great country?", he asked fellow leaders at the World Economic Forum.    

"My intention this morning is to reinforce this idea, and help brush away the remaining doubts you may still have."   

Highlighting Spain's tourism draw - it is expected to overtake the United States as the world's second most visited country - he also pointed to its economic recovery after a devastating financial crisis caused "decreased living standards" and "unemployment."

The king, who has been fiercely critical of Catalan leaders' failed attempt to break from Spain, also defended his country's democratic credentials.   

READ MORE:  King's speech on Catalonia 'felt like a declaration of hostility'

Catalan separatist leaders have accused the Spanish government of democratic shortcomings in its handling of the crisis, even accusing it of acting like late dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1939 to his death in 1975.

Felipe pointed to the latest annual index of the state of democracy in the world published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which ranked Spain as one of only 19 "full democracies."

"This speaks very highly of where we stand and illustrates how strong, how solid and how mature is our democracy," he said.    

He added the Catalan secession crisis was "an attempt to undermine basic rules of our democratic system."

The crisis kicked off in earnest on October 1st, when Catalan leaders held an independence referendum despite a ban by the Constitutional Court.    

"Spain's constitution, as you can well understand, is not a mere ornament.  It is rather the very expression of the will of our citizens and the key pillar of our democratic co-existence," he said.   

"As such it deserves the utmost respect from each and every one.    

"Spaniards know well enough that the welfare and the progress of our people in the 21st century will not be obtained by or found in solitude and isolation or division."

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