Read in Catalan

The opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this Monday not only marked a point of no-return in relations between Felipe VI and Catalan authorities but also laid bare a fact of enormous political importance. The king, after visiting Spain's stand and taking the corresponding obligatory photo alongside some of the officials in the party accompanying him, avoided visiting Catalonia's stand. He went past it. It's not a minor question since, obviously, it was planned for him to visit it, and it was covered in the briefing Spanish officials had given earlier. The royal household's security had also visited Catalonia's stand in advance, following protocol for such situations. Why didn't Felipe VI go there? Did nobody warn him of the mistake it would be to given the image battle up for lost by taking a step back. The crown improvised an excuse, saying that no Catalan government official was waiting for him. But it was known in advance they wouldn't be.

Previously, the president of CataloniaQuim Torra, had absented himself from the visit to Spain's stand, in a political gesture which was much more than symbolic and as an expression of rejection of the Spanish monarchy. During the visit and in the commemorative photo, alongside the monarch were the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. The attitudes of the president and the king are not comparable, basically because Quim Torra is not the head of state of Spain and the king is, by the Constitution, of Catalonia. In any case, pro-union Catalans have reasons to feel helpless in the face of the lack of savoir-faire of Felipe VI's staff.

We're at a moment when image has enormous importance. Little has been said about the door of the House of the Republic in Waterloo which president Carles Puigdemont left open during Inés Arrimadas's flying visit on Sunday. Puigdemont responded to Arrimadas's media stunt with a literally open door. Inviting her to come in. Leaving Ciudadanos's leader in Catalonia appearing intolerant facing a subtle offer of dialogue. It further reinforced the idea that Arrimadas had gone exclusively to make a show in Belgium. Anyway, Felipe VI, by refusing to visit Catalonia's stand, sent a message that his is Spain's and not Catalonia's. He's taking a knee, consciously or not, in the middle of the struggle with the independence movement, which has declared him persona non grata in Catalonia, which boycotts his public events and gives the cold shoulder to anything organised by the Spanish monarchy. It's hard to find a more crystal-clear example of the current times than what happened in the Mobile World Congress.