MADRID – Spain’s King Juan Carlos conferred the Order of the Golden Fleece on Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, praising the French president for his effective collaboration against the Basque terrorist group ETA.
Before bestowing the Collar of the Golden Fleece on him and pinning the insignia identifying him as a Knight of the Order on his lapel, the monarch noted how, in his relations with Spain, Sarkozy has contributed “in a constant, effective and generous way” to the war on terrorism.
Juan Carlos said the French leader always came through “firmly and ably” to make sure France provided “the greatest possible political, judicial and police collaboration” with Spain “in order to end the terrorist violence.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his three immediate predecessors – Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Jose Maria Aznar and Felipe Gonzalez – observed the solemn ceremony from the front row in the Royal Palace’s Hall of Columns after a private meeting between the king and Sarkozy.
Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, accompanied the king as he conferred the honor on the French president, a ceremony also attended by senior officials from both governments.
Afterwards Sarkozy was to meet with Rajoy.
Considered the world’s most prestigious dynastic honor, the Order of the Golden Fleece was created in 1429 by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, and passed eventually to the Spanish monarchy through marriage and inheritance.
Juan Carlos, who received the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1941 from his father, bestowed the honor upon his own son in 1981 and upon a score of others, including Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Emperor Akihito of Japan and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. EFE