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Spain wants transparency for monarchy

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(From left to right) Spanish Crown Princess of Asturias Leonor, Spain’s King Felipe VI, Spain’s Queen Letizia and Spanish Princess Sofia at the awards ceremony. AFP

Spain wants transparency for monarchy

Spain's leftist government and King Felipe VI have taken steps to boost the transparency of the monarchy, which has been tainted by financial scandals involving senior royals including his father, former monarch Juan Carlos.

Under a decree passed on Tuesday by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government, the royal palace must publish its budget and make tenders public.

The palace accounts must be audited by the supreme Court of Auditors, while senior palace officials will have to declare their personal wealth both when they take up their post and when they leave.

Gifts given to royals will be catalogued before they are transferred to the state, donated to charity, or become property of the royal palace.

The measures, in line with those already in place at public institutions, were developed with the palace in recent months, minister for the presidency Felix Bolanos said.

“This is a very important step forward in the modernisation, in the exemplarity of the royal palace... a step forward on transparency,” he told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“This is the step forward which citizens demanded from the royal palace... from the government,” he said.

The decree was passed a day after the palace unveiled Felipe’s personal wealth for the first time, saying it amounted to around €2.6 million ($2.8 million).

The bulk of the king’s personal wealth takes the form of checking or savings account deposits, with the rest made up of art, antiques and jewellery, the palace said.

His estate stems from his earnings as king, and before that as crown prince, it added.

Probes shelved

Felipe ascended the throne in 2014 and set out to restore the monarchy’s prestige – after his father Juan Carlos abdicated against a backdrop of scandals over his finances and love life.

He ordered an audit of the royal household’s accounts and issued a “code of conduct” for its members.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Spain’s King Felipe VI delivers a speech during the 2021 Princess of Asturias award ceremony at the Reconquista Hotel in Oviedo. AFP

The following year he stripped his older sister, Princess Cristina, of her title of duchess as she prepared to stand trial on tax fraud charges.

While she was ultimately cleared by the courts, her husband Inaki Urdangarin was convicted of fraud and embezzlement.

Then in 2020 Felipe renounced any future personal inheritance he might receive from his father, and stripped him of his annual allowance of €200,000 after fresh details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

Months later Juan Carlos, a key figure in Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates.

Spanish prosecutors in March dropped three investigations into the finances of the former king, citing lack of evidence, the statute of limitations and the immunity he enjoyed as head of state.

But the prosecutor’s office nonetheless said it has detected several “fiscal irregularities” in his affairs.

‘Little effect’

The government said the measures unveiled Tuesday will bring the royal palace closer to the “highest standards of other European royal palaces”.

Conservative daily El Mundo said the measures will make it possible to “maintain rigorous and respectful control over the monarch’s heritage so the situations that undermined Juan Carlos’s reputation never happen again”.

But far-left party Podemos, the junior partner in Sanchez’s coalition government, said the measures were unlikely to bring about change.

“As long as the king retains his immunity, any make-up regarding the monarchy will have little effect,” said Pablo Echenique, the parliamentary spokesman for Podemos, which backs the abolition of the monarchy.

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