Spain’s new King Felipe VI and the problem of the divided kingdom

Spain’s King Felipe VI begins a new reign Thursday already facing a threat to the unity of his kingdom as the northeastern region of Catalonia fights to hold an independence referendum on November 9.

With only a ceremonial role in Spain’s parliamentary democracy, the new king, a tall 46-year-old former Olympic yachtsman, has limited capacity to mend all the woes of a country suffering high unemployment and longstanding separatist tensions.

Yet political analysts say he can help to soothe the bruised nationalist sentiments of the northern regions of Catalonia and the Basque Country, not least by fostering a dialogue with Madrid that is judged by many to be lacking.

In a speech on June 3, the day after his father Juan Carlos revealed he was abdicating, the future king gave a sign that he understood the scale of the challenge as secessionists in Catalonia, in particular, seek to redraw the map of Spain.

Felipe spoke of Spain as a “united and diverse” nation.

“Only by uniting our desires, putting the common good ahead of individual interests and promoting the initiative, curiosity and creativity of each person, can we manage to advance to better scenarios,” he said.

Felipe’s speech was “an outstretched hand” to Spanish regions that have a distinct culture, said constitutional law professor Antonio Torres del Moral at the respected distance-learning university UNED.

On his deathbed, General Francisco Franco, who centralized power in Madrid, told Juan Carlos: “The only thing I ask of you, your highness, is that you preserve the unity of Spain.”
Under the 1978 constitution that ushered in Spain’s democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, the 17 regions were given broad autonomy./For more click here
Spain’s new King Felipe VI and the problem of the divided kingdom Spain’s new King Felipe VI and the problem of the divided kingdom   Thursday, June 19, 2014 Rating: 5
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