King's Christmas message alludes to Catalonian question

King Felipe VI adresses the nation from the Zarzuela Palace.
King Felipe VI adresses the nation from the Zarzuela Palace. / EFE
  • Annual television broadcast saw its lowest audience for 18 years as separatist politicians called for 'the same freedom of expression' as the monarch

King Felipe VI's traditional Christmas message was broadcast as usual on December 24th while people in Spain prepared for their main Christmas Eve meal. It is the third time the King has made the address since Juan Carlos I abdicated in 2014. This year his office at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the main royal residence, was chosen for the recording after Madrid's Palacio Real was used last year.

In the message the King wished the country a happy Christmas and made frequent references to the unity of the nation. "Attitudes that ignore or weaken the rights of all Spaniards to share a life together aren't permissible," said King Felipe, a comment that was widely seen as referring to plans by pro-independence political parties in Catalonia to hold a unilateral referendum on forming a separate state in 2017. He added that "living together in democracy" should be based on the desire "to build and not to destroy".

The speaker of the Catalonian regional parliament, Carme Forcadell commented that Catalonians should be allowed "to express themselves with the same freedom as the King".

The King's broadcast had 5.8 million viewers, a 57% audience share, and was the least watched for 18 years.