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Spain's king makes rare public interview

Juan Carlos's first public interview in more than a decade is seen as bid to repair monarchy's image hurt by scandals.
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2013 02:27
King Carlos said that unity was vital for Spaniards to weather the economic crisis [Reuters]

Spain's King Juan Carlos has made his first public interview in more than a decade, which was seen as a bid to repair the monarchy's image that was damaged last year by scandals over his elephant-hunting in Africa and a corruption probe implicating his son-in-law.

In the broadcast on national television channel on Friday, Carlos reiterated his call for Spaniards to unite in order to pull through the economic crisis that has thrown millions out of work and into poverty.

"I am on good form, with energy and above all hope to move forward and face the challenges we have ahead, seeking the maximum consensus between Spaniards to be able to face them," he said in the pre-recorded interview to mark his 75th birthday.

"Millions of families cannot live with dignity and this is making young people have to leave Spain to seek work, to seek what they can. This pains me very much," he said.

"I see that Spain has serious problems with the economic crisis, but above all I see a will to move forward despite all that is happening."

He made a tacit swipe at a drive by the Catalonia region to break away from Spain, a by-product of the crisis that has increased tensions, which he branded "breakaway politics".

"In this time, what Spain needs is unity and for us all to be united."

The king, who had recently relied on crutches after having both hips replaced, appeared relaxed and seated in his private office in the latest interview.

Falling popularity

The first was a corruption case against his son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, the duke of Palma, who appeared in court over the charges in February.

The second was an expensive game-hunting trip the king made to Botswana, seen as an unacceptable extravagance while Spain suffered in a recession.

Juan Carlos, who turns 75 on Saturday, won wide respect for helping guide Spain to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, and helping to quell an attempted military coup in 1981.

A generation after those historic events, a poll published Thursday by El Mundo newspaper showed only half of people expressed a positive judgement of his reign, compared with three-quarters a year ago.

The poll found that nearly 58 percent of people aged between 18 and 29 said they thought a monarchy was not the best form of governance for Spain.

El Mundo suggested that people of this generation do not share their parents' reverence for the king since they "did not live through the transition and are not very interested in it".

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