Spain's king Felipe has chosen to ignore Catalonia's political crisis - the suspension of home rule and the imprisonment and exile of the Catalan government - during his speech on Sunday evening at the inauguration dinner for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Spanish monarch was greeted by a protest-filled Barcelona, with noisy crowds on the street which were fully audible when he arrived at the Palau de la Música, where the dinner was held. He also encountered an emphatic absence of institutional representation.
At the door, not a single Catalan authority was present to welcome him, only the local representative of the Spanish government, Enric Millo, and the Spanish energy minister, Álvaro Nadal. Nor were representatives of the main Catalan institutions present in the formal greetings, which were led by the mayor of the city of Hospitalet, Núria Marín. Neither the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, who went directly into the hall where the gala dinner was held, nor the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, took part in the welcome.
The previous visit of the monarch was on the occasion of the demonstration followiing the terrorists attack on Barcelona's Rambla, at which he received a strong booing. After that, his key act with respect to Catalonia was his speech two days after the 1-O, condemning the referendum and ignoring the police charges.
While Felipe VI was speaking on Sunday evening inside the dinner venue, the scene outside was streets closed to traffic and overflowing with protests, confrontations with the police and pot-banging protests.
The absence of the Catalan institutions was also evident at the presidential table. To the right of the monarch, vice president Soraya Sàenz de Santamaría was seated, beside energy minister, Àlvaro Nadal. There was no representative of the Catalan government. The speaker of the Catalan parliament, at present the maximum authority in the Catalan institutions, was relegated to the right of the minister and beyond him was the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau.
The mayor gave a brief greeting in English, explaining that this has not been an easy year for Catalonia and highlighting that Barcelona is a city of peace and a defender of the freedom of speech and human rights. This was the only reference made, even indirectly, to the political situation. In fact, Colau was the only Catalan representative who spoke.
The last to speak was the king. The monarch made no reference to the crisis with the state. His discourse focused on praising the Mobile World Congress as the result of cooperation among institutions. "Institutional cooperation with objectives that are clear and in the benefit of all is an evident key of this success", he assured, in Catalan.
"This same firm commitment to our administrations, corporations and companies must always be an essential element so that this encounter continues consolidating its projection and influence around the world with a view to the future; and it does so from right here, from Barcelona, a candidate to become home to the European technological centre for the development of 5G technology", said the Spanish monarch.
The king made these references in Catalan, as part of a speech that was mostly in English.
While Felip VI was speaking, the protests carried on outside.