Spain's King Juan Carlos admits 'hurt' at economic fate

King Juan Carlos of Spain hopes to be remembered for "liberty"

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King Juan Carlos of Spain has given a rare television interview on the eve of his 75th birthday.

In it, he expressed his "hurt" at the number of young Spaniards forced to emigrate by economic difficulties.

The interview comes after a difficult year for the Spanish royal family.

King Juan Carlos has had to apologise for going elephant hunting in Botswana at the height of the financial crisis, while his son-in-law has been at the centre of a corruption investigation.

"One of the things that is most concerning and is in the mind of many Spaniards is the lack of jobs that leads millions of families to be unable to live with dignity and forces young people to leave Spain to look for work," he said, adding that the situation "pained him".

"It hurts me a lot," he told Spanish national television station TVE.

The BBC's Tom Burridge, in Madrid, says that the interview was a pitch to the Spanish people at a time when the popularity of the royal family is in decline.

Our correspondent adds that the mere fact that the King gave an interview shows that there is some concern in royal circles about the future of Spain's royal family.

Republicanism is still a potent force in Spain, less than 40 years after the end of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

In the interview the king reminded his audience how he had smoothed the transition to democracy and how far, during his 37-year rule, the country had come.

"I would like to be remembered as the king who has united Spaniards, that with him democracy and the monarchy have been recovered," he said, adding that "liberty" was a word for which he hoped he would be remembered.

There were no questions in the interview about the corruption scandal in which his son-in-law, a former handball international, now the Duke Of Palma, was mired. He has been accused of misusing funds donated to a foundation he administered, allegations he denies.

Nor was the King asked about the public apology he made after criticism of his trip to Africa while his country's economic crisis was at its height.

Confidence

A leading Spanish newspaper, El Pais, wrote in an editorial on Thursday that "the royal palace has launched in recent months a studious marketing operation to improve the image of the king".

Just two weeks ago, King Juan Carlos had appealed to Spaniards to have confidence in themselves and their country in his annual Christmas speech.

"We cannot ignore that there is pessimism, and that its effects are felt in the social climate we are living in," he said, after a year of mass street demonstrations and two general strikes.

Of all the measures to combat the crisis, he said "the main stimulus that will get us out of this crisis is called confidence".

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