Spain’s monarch, Juan Carlos, made his Christmas address on December 24 as is the tradition as it is on that evening that Spanish families enjoy their special meal – although for many it would have been more frugal this year.
He spoke of the global economic crisis adding that Spain must play a strong role in world affairs to ensure its “growth, well-being and security.”
Juan Carlos stated: “The current economic crisis shows how much we depend ever more on the rest of the world and we have to know how to skilfully manage the defence of our interests in the world.”
“For that, today more than ever, Spain’s international role is important, in our institutions, companies and professionals, to ensure our growth, well-being and security.”
The king noted that Spain is also preparing to hold the six-month presidency of the EU in 2010. “For that we must also give a new impetus to our relations with the United States, strengthen our solid ties with Latin America and with the Mediterranean and maintain our profile in Africa and Asia.”
He also called on Spaniards, particularly political parties, unions and company bosses, to unite to overcome the economic crisis: “Let us ... move in the same direction, with each one of us bringing their own grain of sand.”
However for some Spanish commentators the king spoke nonsense in these troubled times and missed a golden opportunity to hand out some home truths. The Voto en Blanco blog commented: “Dijo, por ejemplo, que ‘Gracias a nuestra Constitución, España ha vivido por primera vez treinta años de democracia plena’, ignorando que la España en la que él reina, la de la Justicia intervenida por los partidos políticos, la corrupción galopante, los ciudadanos marginados, los partidos políticos insaciables de poder y el despilfarro incontrolado de un poder político que ya ni siquiera conecta con la ciudadanía, está, por desgracia, a años luz de distancia de lo que él llama ‘democracia plena’."
In Britain Queen Elizabeth made her speech on Christmas Day afternoon which was seen by millions at home and across the Commonwealth. She spoke of: “Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many.”
“People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world. Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home.”
Of course the people watching these broadcasts be they from monarch or president know the speakers are largely isolated from the everyday worries of their subjects. There was no cutting back on the celebrations at Sandringham this Christmas, Prince Charles still has a flunkey to put his toothpaste on his brush and Prince Andrew will jet off on golf holidays at the public expense. Spain’s royal family is less extravagant but there has been little sign of Juan Carlos tightening his ample royal belt.
Voto en Blanco called the king’s broadcast: “pamplinas en tiempos de crisis” – “nonsense in times of crisis”. Dickens’ Scrooge would just have cried “Bah! Humbug!”