Spain’s King Felipe VI has urged Catalan leaders to respect their region’s diversity and avoid another confrontation over independence in a Christmas speech. Felipe’s remarks on Sunday came three days after separatist parties in Catalonia, led by ousted president Carles Puigdemont, won an absolute majority of seats in a parliamentary vote. The wealthy north-eastern region’s newly elected parliament must “face the problems that affect all Catalans, with respect to plurality and bearing in mind their responsibility to the common good”, the monarch said. “The road cannot lead again to confrontation and exclusion, which as we already know generate nothing but discord, uncertainty and discouragement.” Spain’s central government called the election after sacking Puigdemont’s cabinet, dissolving the Catalan parliament and stripping the region of its treasured autonomy following an independence declaration on 27 October.
The declaration rattled a Europe already shaken by Brexit, and inflamed passions across Spain. It followed a banned independence referendum on 1 October, which saw a brutal police crackdown that focused the world’s attention on the Catalan crisis.
Two days after the referendum, Felipe made a rare televised speech, condemning the separatists’ “unacceptable disloyalty”.
On Christmas Eve, he reiterated his call for unity, though his tone was more conciliatory. He called on the region’s leaders to help “Catalonia’s society – diverse and plural as it is – to recover its serenity, stability and mutual respect, in such a way as to ensure that ideas… do not separate families and friends from each other”.