Spain's king Felipe VI showed up this morning in Barcelona, once again literally shielded by a massive police security operation, to present the BCN New Economy Week awards held at a city train station, Estació de França. Faced with an institutional boycott from the main Catalan and Barcelona authorities, the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez - himself a visitor - played the role of receiving the monarch. In the background, protest whistles could be heard beyond the police cordon at nearby Pla de Palau. In a fifteen-minute speech from a small stage set up at the station, the monarch called for "an image of unity" to provide "a stable and beneficial environment for businesses, thus generating greater wealth and work." In total, the event lasted just half an hour.
The monarch has argued that a “positive international image” always contributes significantly to the economy in terms of investment.
"Do things better"
"Spain has deservedly cultivated an international image associated with competitiveness and productive excellence. Let's work together to maintain that, to increase it where necessary," he said in his speech, which offered no explicit reference to the political situation in Catalonia, although there were three references in the same paragraph to the "image" being conveyed.
All this in a speech that, in its literal content, was limited to strictly economic concerns, but in which the calls for unity were repeated: "We have the opportunity to do things better. And to do them together," said the Bourbon king.
Prime minister Sánchez, who had arrived at the station a few minutes earlier, greeted the monarch as he got out of his vehicle. They exchanged a tepid greeting, with hands on chests. Faced with the vacuum left by the Catalan government's absence, the Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, was the main Catalonia figure present at the event, at which only the only others to speak were a representative of the Zona Franca Consortium organizing body, Pere Navarro, and one of the winners of the awards presented. From the city council, only the Socialist deputy mayor Jaume Collboni came, after mayor Ada Colau declined to attend as a protest against the "bad praxis" of the Spanish royal palace.
Among those attending the event were the leader of the employers association Foment, Josep Sànchez-Llibre; Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta; the president of the Planeta media group, Josep Crehueras, and the president of the Godó media group, Javier Godó.
Before the king's arrival, the Mossos d'Esquadra police forced a banner to be taken down from an apartment in a building directly opposite the venue which read "Felipe, the last". The heavily-protected police cordon prevented the human chain called by Òmnium Cultural and the ANC from reaching as far as the Estació de França, as well as keeping all the pro-independence parties and organizations at a distance.
At the end of the ceremony, the monarch was photographed with the winners and left. The king's agenda then took him to the so-called 3-D Printer Business Incubator, which was organized as a private visit and was made without media presence.
As the monarch left the Estació de França, the last three presidents of Catalonia began a press conference in the Northern Catalan city of Perpinyà to denounce the state's repression of Catalonia's efforts to decide its future democratically .