Ousted Catalan President flees to Brussels to ‘explain’ Catalan problem to EU leaders
Carles Puigdemont vows to continue independence fight and contest 21 December snap elections called by Madrid.
Carles Puigdemont arrives at his press conference in Brussels Photo credit: Press Association
Carles Puigdemont says his flight to Belgium was triggered by concerns over his safety, after charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement were brought again him and several other Catalan independence leaders.
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday following a somewhat clandestine departure from Barcelona on Monday, the ousted Catalonian leader said he was, “not here for asylum”, but because of the “freedom and safety” that Brussels as the capital of Europe afforded.
Speaking in Catalan, Spanish, French and English, Puigdemont addressed journalists at a crowded media conference saying, “Part of the [Catalan] government, led by me as the legitimate President, has come to Brussels in order to explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe”.
He accused Madrid of aggressive and repressive tactics after both Spain’s leading prosecutor and the country’s supreme court announced they would investigate several members of the now defunct Catalan Parliament, including Puigdemont and his former Vice-President Oriol Junqueras, following the assembly’s independence declaration last week.
Amid chaotic scenes at the Brussels Press Club in the heart of the EU district, Puigdemont - flanked by some of his ex-governing body colleagues as well as Catalan MEPs, Jordi Solé, Josep-Maria Terricabras and Ramon Tremosa - vowed to respect the result of the 21 December snap regional elections announced by Madrid.
"Part of the [Catalan] government, led by me as the legitimate president, has come to Brussels in order to explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe” Carles Puigdemont
“We are not afraid of demographic challenges, said Puigdemont, adding, “Quite the opposite. If the Spanish state wants to legitimise its policies, we will face it and respond to them.
“We agree that voting is the only way to solve problems, not jailing politicians or citizens or threatening civil servants.
“We will respect the result of the elections, as we have always done, whatever it may be. Will the Spanish government do the same?”
However, it’s still unclear whether the sacked Catalan President would return to Spain to contest the elections or campaign in exile.
Puigdemont made a plea for the EU and international community to support Catalonian independence, arguing that “the Catalan issue” was at “the very basis of the values on which Europe was founded”.
EU policymakers however have distanced themselves from Puigdemont, with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani warning last Friday that Catalonia’s declaration of independence was a breach of the rule of law, the Spanish constitution and the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia”, which the Italian deputy said, was “part of the EU’s legal framework.”
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