King Juan Carlos on Tuesday urged Spaniards to build their future together, using his traditional Christmas message to stress the "many, many things" that unite them.

Controversies should be resolved in accord with the democratic rules of the game "approved by all," he said in a nationally broadcast address.

The king's comments come less than two weeks after the head of the regional government in Catalonia, Artur Mas, announced plans to hold a referendum next November on whether the prosperous northeastern region should become a state and, if so, whether that state should be independent.

Referring to "voices" calling for "an updating of the accords of coexistence" among Spaniards, Juan Carlos - without mentioning the Catalan referendum - said the crown believes in a Spain that is open and has room for everyone.

"A country that is free, just and unified in its diversity," the 75-year-old king said.

"The difficulty in achieving rapid solutions" to Spain's economic woes and "the cases of a lack of exemplary conduct in public life have hurt the prestige of politics and institutions," Juan Carlos said.

The king made two promises to his compatriots: to remain as head of state, "stimulating civic coexistence"; and to accept the responsibility for providing the positive example and "transparency that society demands today."

He also emphasized the importance of solidarity with "those who are being hit hardest" by the economic crisis.

"We cannot accept as normal the anguish of the millions of Spaniards who cannot work," Juan Carlos said. "For me, the crisis will begin to resolve itself when the unemployed have the opportunity to work." EFE