Catalonia’s deposed president is going to try to run the region from Brussels

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives for a press conference in Brussels.

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives for a press conference in Brussels.
Eric Vidal/Reuters

    Carles Puigdemont says Catalonia will now be jointly governed from Brussels and Barcelona. Puigdemont went to Brussels after Spanish authorities relieved him of office. Spain also wants to charge him with rebellion and sedition in criminal court. Puigdemont denied rumours that he was in Brussels to seek asylum. Catalonia claimed independence last week, but is struggling to make good on it.

Catalonia’s deposed regional president has said he will attempt to run the region from a new power-base in Brussels after declaring independence from Spain.

Carles Puigdemont, who was in charge of Catalonia until the Spanish government relieved him of office on Friday, laid out his plans for the future at a press conference in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, on Tuesday morning.

He said that part of his administration – over which he officially has no authority after it was taken over by the Spanish national government – will now function from Brussels, the centre of the European Union.

The rest will operate from its existing base in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, he claimed.Puigdemont explains his plan to the media.

Puigdemont explains his plan to the media.
Thomson Reuters

Speaking at the Brussels Press Club on Tuesday, Puigdemont reportedly said: “A part of the [Catalan] Government has moved to Brussels indefinitely.”

According to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, he said the move was “to highlight the Catalan problem in the heart of Europe and to denounce the partiality of justice [in Spain].”

“Another part of the Government will continue in Catalonia carrying out political activity as legitimate members,” he continued.

Puigdemont delivered his statements and answered questions in Catalan, Spanish, French, English.

Catalonia declared independence on Friday following a contested referendum earlier this month. Hours later, Spain sacked Puigdemont, dissolved the Catalan parliament, removed the head of the regional police force, and called for snap elections on December 21.

“From the moment the [Spanish] government stopped us from our responsibilities, we have not had protection,” he continued.

“We have to work with a legitimate government, and we have decided that the best way to do it is to go to the capital of Europe.

“We have not abandoned the [Catalan] government. We will continue to work.”

Regarding the impending snap elections, he said: “We take the elections as a democratic challenge, and democratic challenges do not scare us.”

Puigdemont and his wife, Marcela Topor, in Girona on the day Catalonia declared independence last Friday.

Puigdemont and his wife, Marcela Topor, in Girona on the day Catalonia declared independence last Friday.
Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Spain’s attorney general on Monday filed complaints against 14 Catalan politicians, including Puigdemont, with the country’s two highest courts, alleging that they are guilty of rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement.

If the judges decide to launch court proceedings, the Catalan politicians could be arrested and, if found guilty of rebellion, punished by up to 30 years in prison.

Earlier this month, Puigdemont said he was “not afraid” of getting arrested in pursuit of independence. He did not respond when asked again on Tuesday.

Puigdemont would be not the first Catalan leader to govern the region from abroad – Josep Tarradellas also ran Catalonia while in exile in Paris from 1954 to 1977, during which time Spain was a dictatorship.

A spokeswoman for Puigdemont’s Catalan Democratic Party party said earlier on Tuesday, according to The Guardian: “We had presidents in this country who were not able to be here during Franco’s time and they were still the president of the Catalan government.”

Puigdemont and five of his cabinet members on Monday drove from Catalonia to southern French city of Marseille, before catching a plane to Brussels, The New York Times reported on Monday.

In the press conference, the ousted regional leader also denied rumours that he was seeking political asylum in Brussels, but that he was in the Belgian capital “in order to act with freedom and safety,” as quoted by CNN.

The rumours circulated after Belgian Immigration Minister Theo Francken said over the weekend said it would be “not unrealistic” to grant Puigdemont asylum if he asked for it.

“I ask the people of Catalonia to prepare for a long road,” Puigdemont said, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais.