With a certain amount of inexperience and clumsiness, the Catalan government was both present and not present at the visit of Felipe VI to Barcelona this Wednesday, invited by the Cercle d'Economia employers association. There was no member of the Catalan government there for the formal greetings when the Spanish king arrived at the Hotel Vela. Yes, the president, Pere Aragonès, was at the reception before the official dinner. On the other hand, at the banquet, the highest representative was the Catalan minister for the presidency, Laura Vilagrà, although the foreign minister, Victoria Alsina, was also present. There was no handshake but there is a photo of the monarch with the Catalan authorities as a result of a tactical move perhaps not at all improvised in which Felipe VI himself said, as if it was him who didn't want the thing: shall we take a picture? And thus materialized the snapshot of them all posing together normally.
For the past 24 hours, whether someone from the Catalan government would be present or not at the reception of the business group's dinner with the king has been a question wrapped in a certain mystery. So much so that on Tuesday, the presence of the Catalan executive at the dinner was surrounded by unknowns. There is no single way to express the revulsion towards Felipe VI and remind him that the repression from police, judiciary and economic powers to the Catalan independence movement has much to do with his speech of October 3rd, 2017, which gave wings to the Spanish state to act disproportionately against the peaceful representatives of a certain political ideology.
In the case that concerns us now, that of the Cercle d'Economia meeting, there is at least one reason, in my opinion, of key relevance to the question of being present, without any complexes or hiding the fact. And it has to do with the fact that the real guest was South Korean president Moon Jae-in, accompanied by a major business delegation. It was he who had to be feted and to return to his country satisfied, as well as the executives that accompanied him, from multinationals as significant as LG. Being there is not paying homage if you don't want it to be: on the contrary, it is an opportunity to explain to him that in Catalonia there are political prisoners and that the government had to go into exile, starting with its president. If it’s not done it’s because you don’t want to, not because you can't. The opportunity to address a head of state directly is not easily available to the Catalan government and there are legislatures during which none even pass through Barcelona. Sometimes, you defend your interests better by presence rather than absence - it's a matter of will and attitude. Another thing is to take part in the usual display of reverence towards the Bourbons, which, if you want, you can decline and that is, in any case, another type of decision.
The improvised fashion in which everything was resolved in the last few hours raises a second question: what will the attitude of the Catalan government be from now on at events where the king is present in Catalonia? It will be necessary to adopt a strategy and decide whether it is better for the government of Catalonia to withdraw or to have an active presence - differentiating on whether the occasion deserves it, as in the case of a head of state like South Korea - or a combination of both. Knowing, of course, that at dinners like that of this Wednesday, LG will not decide whether to locate its electric battery plant in the factory that Nissan has left. But when there are financial investments at stake, if you do not defend what is yours someone else will end up defending their own.