King Juan Carlos praises armed forces for providing stability to Spain

Madrid, Jan 6 (EFE).- Spain's armed forces and Civil Guard should use their "exemplary" performance to "continue conveying confidence and calm" to Spain, while "continuing to work together for the security and welfare of all Spaniards," King Juan Carlos said Monday.

The monarch, who turned 76 on Sunday, delivered the traditional address for the celebration of the Pascua Militar at the Royal Palace in Madrid, marking his first official act outside his residence since undergoing hip surgery on Nov. 21.

The king, who is still recovering and used a crutch, watched the traditional military parade in the Royal Palace's Plaza de la Armeria, listening to the national anthem and the 21-gun salute.

King Juan Carlos told the armed forces commanders and government officials, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, that he was "fully aware" of the "enormous efforts" made by service members after another "tough year" to maintain military readiness to guarantee Spain's security, referring to the defense cuts brought on by the country's severe economic downturn.

"(It is) essential" to continue working to extract "the maximum return from resources," the king said.

The Spanish monarch also referred to the address delivered by Defense Minister Pedro Morenes, who said "the biggest task" in 2013 was maintaining Spain's operational capabilities, "making them even more efficient."

King Juan Carlos was accompanied during the ceremony by Queen Sofia, his son, Crown Prince Felipe de Borbon, and daughter-in-law, Princess Letizia.

The Spanish monarch thanked armed forces and Civil Guard members for their "patriotism," "solidarity" and "generosity" in serving Spain.

"Our society will always respond to your generosity with its recognition and admiration, as the polls show. And I, as always, will continue to be proud to be your chief," King Juan Carlos said.

The tradition of celebrating the Pascua Militar dates to the 18th century, when King Carlos III congratulated the Spanish troops that defeated British forces on Jan. 6, 1782, and took Port Mahon, the capital of the Mediterranean island of Minorca.