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Barcelona hosts annual World Mobile Congress amid Catalan separatist tensions

King Felipe (left) with mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau (right).
King Felipe (left) with mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau (right). / EFE
  • The city's mayor refused to attend a welcome ceremony for King Felipe but went on to join organisers and dignitaries at the opening events

The World Mobile Congress took place in Barcelona this week against a backdrop of continued political tensions in Catalonia and efforts by organisers and public authorities to stress that there has been no ill-effect on the annual event, which has a huge impact on the local economy.

The meeting is the biggest global trade fair for the mobile telecommunications industry and Barcelona has hosted it since 2006. Although some had questioned the organisers' willingness to stay in the city long term with ongoing political disputes, the head of the event, John Hoffman, confirmed that the contract with Barcelona was still in place until 2023.

Despite the organisers' commitment and calls for secessionist and unionist sides to put on a united front to show the best face of the region, there was controversy when mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, refused to attend an official reception ceremony for King Felipe. Neither did representatives of the pro-secession Catalan parliament take part.

Colau, who leads the local party affiliated to left-wing Podemos, has never said if she is for or against the separatists and explained she missed the official welcome in objection to the hard tone of the king's speech last Autumn against the Catalan separatists and a lack of empathy.

Colau did go on to attend a dinner afterwards and the main opening ceremony of the event the next day, alongside the king and national government ministers. She told the media that she had told the king privately afterwards that he should adopt a more conciliatory attitude to Catalonia, and that the king had replied that he was only doing his duty to defend the constitution.