More than with the words of his speech at the Cercle d’Economia meeting, eminently dedicated to relations between Spain and Korea, the King spoke this Wednesday with the images. Given the expectation that the possibility that he would meet Pere Aragonès for the first time after his investiture had aroused, Felipe VI greeted the President of the Generalitat during an informal meeting with businessmen. Both also took a photo, in which they appear with the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, among others.
No matter how small the gesture, it is significant in current political circumstances. The Generalitat and the Government have started a thawing phase after many years of confrontation: the sovereign leaders condemned after the declaration of independence in 2017 are about to be pardoned, and Aragonès and Pedro Sánchez are going to resume the dialogue between the executives. It remains to be seen if the détente also reaches the relations between the Government and the Monarchy, and for that reason the movements of the King were followed yesterday with a magnifying glass in Barcelona.
The sequence began with the arrival of the King at the W hotel, where the annual meeting of the Cercle d’Economia is held. Neither Aragonès nor Colau participated in the reception, and Felipe VI went directly to participate in an informal meeting between Korean and Spanish businessmen on a terrace of the building. Among others, Ana Botín (Banco Santander), Pablo Isla (Inditex), José María Álvarez-Pallete (Telefónica), Isaías Táboas (Renfe), Aitor Moll (Prensa Ibérica) and Josep Creuheras (Planeta) were present.
Everyone was waiting with the King for Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, who joined the meeting when he arrived. Half an hour later, the ‘president’ and the mayor of Barcelona went to that space and it was there that they met Felipe VI.
According to sources familiar with the meeting, the King introduced both Aragonès and Colau to the Korean president, and the four had a two-minute talk. The Monarch was the one who proposed to take a joint photo, informs Pilar Santos. Afterwards, Aragonès stayed talking with Moon Jae-in, who is on a state visit to Spain.
Two different photos
The meeting took place before the gala dinner, which Aragonès did not attend. The Generalitat also tried to downplay all the importance of the image between the ‘president’ and the King. While the Royal House published the group photo, for the Government the greeting between the two was “less than a hello.” In fact, the Generalitat chose another image to illustrate the moment, in which Aragonès is seen speaking only to the Korean president while Felipe VI watches them.
The King’s visit had already caused headaches in the Generalitat, which in this new stage has decided that it will soften its veto on the Monarch: if it tries not to coincide with him, as has been done since 2018, now the Government will go, regardless of whether it is or not, to the acts where it believes that it must defend the interests of Catalonia. Despite this change, Aragonès did not attend the gala dinner – Colau did, and the Generalitat was finally represented by the ‘councilor’ for the Presidency, Laura Vilagrà (ERC), and the Foreign Minister, Victòria Alsina (JxCat ).
In his speech at the dinner, the King underlined the importance that, after the coronavirus crisis, “business, economy and politics” walk together with the aim of facing “reconstruction”. In addition, he highlighted the work of the president of the Círculo de Economía, Javier Faus, for his “determined defense of the role that Barcelona and Catalonia should play in Spain and in the rest of Europe.”
The King also affirmed that Spain, “like other friendly nations, has the firm intention of boosting its economy to make it more productive, stronger, more modern, more sustainable and, ultimately, with greater ability to adapt to future setbacks“.
Aragonès had opened the Cercle meeting, which will last until Friday, with a conciliatory speech, in which he spoke of the dialogue table between governments and said on two occasions that, if an agreement is reached in that forum, He must be presented to the Catalans so that they can pronounce on him.
His words link with the will of the Socialists – clearly expressed by the PSC – that the Catalans vote on the proposal that comes out of the dialogue table. However, the substantive differences are great: the Socialists do not accept that among the options eligible for citizens is independence, and they would like the agreement between the Government and the Generalitat to take the form of a new Statute. For Aragonès, on the other hand, the starting point of the talks is the demand for self-determination and “amnesty” for the prisoners.
Returning to the thread of the president of the Cercle, who minutes before had positioned the entity he directs in favor of pardons, Aragonès also made the measure illusion when he mentioned “the steps forward of the next weeks”. But he also encouraged the Government to go further and “present its proposal” for Catalonia at the dialogue table.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.