Posts Tagged ‘Puigdemont’

After Catalan Voters Embrace Independence — Puigdemont offers to meet Spain’s PM outside Spain

December 22, 2017


Axed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont gives a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Dec.22, 2017. (AFP)

BRUSSELS: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Friday offered to meet Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy outside Spain for talks on the region’s independence crisis, a day after separatists won a parliamentary majority in snap polls.

Puigdemont was speaking to reporters in Brussels, where he fled after his region’s parliament declared independence from Spain. Should he return, he faces arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of funds.
“I am willing to meet Mr.Rajoy in Brussels or in any other location in the EU, so long as it is not in the Spanish state, for obvious reasons,” he said.
The vote was widely seen as a moment of truth on the independence question, a divisive issue for the wealthy northern region, that has rattled a Europe already shaken by Brexit.
With the secessionists maintaining their parliamentary majority, the move to call snap polls appeared to backfire against Rajoy, who had sacked the regional government and dissolved its parliament over the independence declaration.

Spain beefs up border security as it fears Carles Puigdemont may stage surprise return

December 15, 2017

The Telegraph


Spain’s security forces are reinforcing the borders to prevent a possible surprise return by ousted pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont ahead of next week’s crucial elections in Catalonia, it was reported on Thursday.

Mr Puigdemont is campaigning to be re-elected president from Belgium, where he fled with four cabinet members to avoid sedition and rebellion charges following Catalonia’s unilateral independence declaration in late October.

Despite facing arrest the moment he steps on to Spanish soil, Mr Puigdemont insists he will take office if he is victorious.

But he has also eyed the possibility of returning before the December 21 election – a move which could boost his poll numbers to secure a win.

Faced with that prospect, the Interior Ministry is deploying extra security agents to points of entry, in particular the Spanish border with France, across which Mr Puigdemont made his dramatic escape.

The deployment is to be formed of multiple police agencies and will be tasked with detaining the ex-president if he crosses the frontier, police sources told the Barcelona-based paper La Vanguardia.

Mr Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) platform has risen in the polls since he vowed to return, but the vote remains on a knife-edge.

On Tuesday, he told press in Brussels that he was ready to “run the risk” of taking up office, but was more ambiguous about a pre-election return.

“I would like to, above all to exercise the right to vote, but it doesn’t depend on me,” he said.

He has not registered to vote from abroad, and neither have his ex-cabinet members.

There have been persistent rumours that Mr Puigdemont might attempt a surprise appearance in Girona, his home city and a pro-independence stronghold which lies less than 40 miles south of the French border.

It was to Girona – which this week renamed its central square after the illegal October 1 independence vote – that Mr Puigdemont retreated after being removed from office as Madrid imposed direct rule.

There, he received a hero’s welcome before fleeing by road to Marseilles, where he boarded a flight to Belgium.

Earlier this month, Spain’s Supreme Court withdrew its European Arrest Warrants for Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues, ending the extradition process under which he was required to remain in Belgium.

The move has left him with a stark choice – return as promised and face arrest, or remain free but in endless exile.

Failing to return at least after the vote would hugely undermine his image as a persecuted hero, particularly as other pro-independence figures – notably Oriol Junqueras, the former VP and now presidential rival – are fighting the same charges from Madrid jail cells.

The Interior Ministry did not respond to an inquiry from The Telegraph, while the National Police declined to comment.

Spain drops international arrest warrant for Catalonia ex-leader Puigdemont

December 5, 2017


© Aurore Belot, AFP | Catalonia’s dismissed leader Carles Puigdemont, along with other members of his dismissed government, arrives to address a press conference at The Press Club in Brussels on October 31, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-12-05

Spain’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had withdrawn an international arrest warrant for Catalonia’s former leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members saying the politicians had shown willingness to return to Spain.

All five travelled to Belgium following a unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament on Oct. 27, considered illegal by Spanish courts.

The withdrawal of the arrest warrant also prevented more than one European jurisdiction overseeing the case, the court said.


Sacked Catalan leaders get pride of place in electoral lists

November 18, 2017


© AFP | Carles Puigdemont (right) and Oriol Junqueras during a session of the Catalan parliament on October 26, 2017


Jailed and exiled figures from Catalonia’s separatist movement feature prominently in party lists unveiled by the region’s pro-independence factions, ahead of elections called for December 21.

Of the 14 members of the Catalan government who were dismissed by the central government in October, 12 are on the two main separatist lists, the “Together for Catalonia” group of sacked president Carles Puigdemont and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), led by his vice president Oriol Junqueras.

Seven of the former officials, including Junqueras, are currently jailed pending an investigation into charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, while Puigdemont and four others are in Belgium fighting an extradition request filed by Spain.

Prosecutors in Brussels asked a judge Friday to extradite Puigdemont and the others, and a new hearing has been set for December 4.

But a final decision could still be months away, as both sides are expected to appeal if the judge rules against them, which means Puigdemont might be out of the country when the Catalonia vote is held.

Junqueras and the others being held may be released before the election.

Puigdemont presented on Twitter the lists backed by his conservative PDeCAT party, saying the candidates supported “independence, the republic and freedom”, as well as the restitution of the regional government and “a return of political prisoners and exiles”.

He had hoped to form a united separatist front for the new elections, as was the case in the region’s last elections in 2015, when the pro-independence camp secured a majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat parliament.

But the ERC rejected a joint ticket, and opinion polls suggest that while it is leading in the current campaign, which officially opens on December 5, the independence coalition as a whole could lose its absolute majority.

The polls indicate a tight race against the “Constitutionalist” bloc which favours Spanish unity, which includes Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP), the centrist Ciudadanos and Catalonia’s Socialist party.

Madrid has imposed direct rule on the once semi-autonomous region since the independence declaration made after a banned referendum on October 1, and called the new elections in a bid to “restore normality”.

Regional authorities said 90 percent chose to split from Spain, though less than half of eligible voters turned out in a region deeply divided on independence.

Spanish government and the IMF issuing dire warnings about Catalonia’s move toward independence

October 14, 2017
Catalan separatists continue their push for independence despite the Spanish government and the IMF issuing dire warnings about the nation’s finances.

AFP – SBS Wires
October 13, 2017

The International Monetary Fund and the Spanish government warned Friday the country’s economic growth could be dealt a blow if Catalonia’s drive to break away persists, just as the Catalan leader’s separatist allies pressed him to go ahead with independence.

The central government has given Carles Puigdemont until next Thursday to abandon Catalonia’s push for secession, failing which it may trigger unprecedented constitutional steps that could see Madrid take control of the semi-autonomous region.

Puigdemont’s separatist allies pressed him Friday to defy Madrid and declare independence.

But with dozens of companies having already moved their legal headquarters from Catalonia, concerns are rising that growth in the region could take a hit, and by extension that of Spain as a whole.

In Washington, IMF Europe Director Poul Thomsen said: “If there was prolonged uncertainty, that could weigh on growth, and obviously we want to avoid that.”

Spain’s deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria warned that if “there is no quick solution, we see ourselves having to lower economic forecasts for 2018”.

Spain issues Catalonia a deadline to clarify independence claim

‘Domino effect’

She accused Puigdemont of “seriously damaging Catalonia’s economic stability” as uncertainty over the fate of the region of 7.5 million people damages business confidence.

The eurozone’s fourth largest economy said in July it expected growth of 2.6 percent next year.

Spain’s Association of Registrars said Friday that 540 firms had sought to relocate their legal addresses from Catalonia from October 2-11.

Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said the region’s economy risked sliding into recession if the crisis dragged on.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday he was against Catalan independence because it could trigger a separatist domino effect in the EU.

“I wouldn’t like to have a European Union which consists of 98 states in 15 years’ time,” he said during a speech in Luxembourg. “It’s already relatively difficult at 28, no easier at 27 (after Britain leaves), but at 98, that seems impossible.”

The Mobile World Congress, the phone industry’s largest annual trade fair held every year in Barcelona, said it would hold its 2018 in February as planned, after media reports suggested it was considering delaying.

A spokeswoman told AFP “we are continuing to monitor developments in Spain and Catalonia and assess any potential impact.”

Meanwhile Spain’s CEOE business lobby group said this week that Catalonia was already “seriously affected” by the crisis.

Ricardo Mur, vice-president of the Aragon Business Confederation said the region, which borders Catalonia, had seen a surge in activity.

“Industrial estates are almost full due to the transfer of Catalan businesses,” he told AFP.

Catalonia’s separatist push has ended

Pressure to break away

But Puigdemont is also under pressure from his separatist allies who feel that any decision to back down would infuriate hundreds of thousands of Catalans who voted to split from Spain in a banned referendum.

On Friday, the far-left CUP party, an ally of his coalition government, said in an open letter that “only by proclaiming a republic will we be able to respect what the majority expressed in the polls.”

The referendum took place on October 1 despite a court ban that ruled it unconstitutional, and regional authorities say 90 percent chose to split from Spain in a vote marred by police violence.

Turnout was 43 percent, they say, but the figures are impossible to verify as the referendum was not held according to official electoral standards.

Adding to pressure, Catalonia is deeply divided over independence, and those who want to stay in Spain are increasingly making their voices heard, having staged two mass rallies in just five days.

Puigdemont had pledged to declare independence if the “yes” vote won, but on Tuesday he gave an ambiguous statement.

Saying he accepted a mandate for “Catalonia to become an independent state,” he immediately suspended the declaration, calling for more time for talks with Madrid.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy retorted that Puigdemont had until next Monday to clarify whether or not he would press ahead with secession and then until next Thursday to reconsider, otherwise Madrid would act. He rejected any form of mediation.

Apart from the CUP’s open letter, the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence association whose followers are ready to take to the streets, also called on him to lift his suspension of the independence declaration.

An ‘unknown disaster’ looms in Catalonia’s independence crisis — “The Catalonian government runs the risk of losing control of the situation entirely”

October 8, 2017

Masses of Catalans gathered in Barcelona this weekend to call for dialog and protest further confrontation with Spain. Their demand? More solutions, fewer egos. Mariel Müller reports from Barcelona.

A Spanish unity demonstration in Barcelona (picture-alliance/dpa/N. Carvalho Ochoa)

On Saturday, Sant Jaume Square in the center of Barcelona was a sea of white T-shirts. The choice of clothing was intended to send a message of peace. Thousands of residents were gathered here between the Catalonian presidential palace and Barcelona city hall in answer to an anonymous call to demonstration. And on Sunday, hundreds of thousands once more took the Barcelona’s streets under two yellow-and-red flags — that of Spain and that of the autonomous region of Catalonia (above).

The weekend’s goal: to demand that leaders on both sides of an increasingly intense conflict, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont, begin a dialog.

Read more: Anti-independence Catalans have been ‘abandoned’ by Spain’s central government

“They must finally sit down with one another and talk, things cannot keep on like this,” said a man that came to Saturday’s protest with his daughter on his shoulders. He says he has an opinion about Catalonian independence, but that is not what is called for here. “If I had seen just one flag, no matter if Spanish or Catalonian, I would have left immediately,” he said. Saturday’s flags were all white, emblazoned with the words “parlem” and “hablemos,” Catalan and Spanish respectively for “Let’s talk.”

Read more: Catalan independence: Spain rejects calls for mediation by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

A young woman explains: “This is a people’s movement, not one sponsored by a political party.” That is also the reason that this particular protest is so much smaller that those which have been held over the last few weeks, such as the massive “Si” (Yes) rally that was staged before Catalonia held its controversial independence referendum on October 1. The demonstrator said it is hard to get hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets if a political party or major organization is not behind the call. And she is right: After about three hours, Saturday’s demonstration was over and the square was once again the stage for newlyweds armed with confetti cannons.

Protesters in front of the presidential palace in Barcelona (DW/M. Müller)Protesters in front of the presidential palace in Barcelona on Saturday

‘We are the silent majority’

But what will happen if Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont really does declare independence on Tuesday? Will the Spanish government invoke Article 155 of the Constitution and nullify Catalonian autonomy? Many are worried. Will Puigdemont be arrested? How will his supporters react? Will there be more violence? Those are all questions that the demonstrators are asking. One answer is repeatedly voiced, louder and clearer than any other: “The politicians should do their damn job — for us. They should let the people decide instead of trying to push their own political agendas at any cost,” said one agitated woman.

There is no doubt the majority of the people do not want independence. “We are the silent majority. We are the 60 percent that refused to vote, or voted ‘no.'” Indeed, the overwhelming majority of those gathered on Saturday say they are decidedly against breaking away from Spain.

The Catalonian government, however, says that 90 percent of those citizens that cast ballots in the contested independence referendum are for independence. They represent some 43 percent of all eligible Catalonian voters.

Read more: Catalan independence – what you need to know

There are also a number of citizens that are open to negotiations, says Oriol Bartomeu, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “Most Catalans want to remain within Spain if Catalonia’s autonomous powers are expanded and if Spain truly transform itself into a pluralist system.” The expert adds that if Madrid had taken steps in that direction when it had the chance to do so years ago, the situation today would look very different.

Political Scientist Oriol Bartomeu (DW/Mariel Müller)Bartomeu said that Madrid could have acted in years past to prevent the present crisis

‘The Spanish side feels like it will win’

But right now that is not the case, and Madrid has refused to give an inch. “The Spanish side has the feeling that it will win out, so why should it make any concessions?” Bartomeu explains. It is currently pursing a strategy that says, either Catalonia gives in completely or it unilaterally declares independence. “And that would be very risky for the government of Catalonia, because it does not have majority support among the population,” he adds. Should that scenario come to pass, the Spanish government would then invoke Article 155. And then? “That’s the unknown disaster.”

One group that could greatly influence the Catalan decision is the left-wing party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which guarantees President Puigdemont’s parliamentary majority. Party spokesman Quim Arrufat says that he “does not want to take any unilateral steps.” Especially not in the wake of the heavy-handed crackdown meted out by Spanish police on the day of the referendum, he clarifies. “If there is movement on the Spanish side, then we will wait and see what happens.” Arrufat says that the CUP is prepared to start a dialog with Madrid.

CUP Spokesperson Quim Arrufat in Barcelona (DW/M. Müller)CUP spokesperon Arrufat says his party is open to dialog, but he doesn’t see way to back down from the current confrontation with Madrid

Separatist movement could become more radical

Ultimately, Arrafut believes the question is not if Catalonia will declare independence but when. He thinks that Tuesday, the day President Puigdemont is set to address Catalonia’s parliament, will be too soon. Will Puigdemont back down? “No,” says the party spokesman.

Political scientist Bartomeu says the situation is precarious. “If the Puigdemont government says, ‘let’s forget independence,’ it will have a big problem on its hands. They can say it, but that won’t mean that the separatist movement’s two million supporters will suddenly stop protesting — quite the opposite.” Then the Catalonian government will run the risk of losing control of the situation entirely, he explains. “The movement will be smaller, but much more radical,” warns Bartomeu. “At that point, no one can rule out violence between separatists and police.”

La Caixa foundation, Caixabank to move HQ from Catalonia to Mallorca

October 7, 2017

La Caixa Banking Foundation, which manages the holding company which controls Caixabank , said on Saturday it will move its headquarters to Palma de Mallorca for as long as political upheaval in Catalonia continues.

MADRID: La Caixa Banking Foundation, which manages the holding company which controls Caixabank , said on Saturday it will move its headquarters to Palma de Mallorca for as long as political upheaval in Catalonia continues.

Caixbank said on Friday it has decided to move its registered office to Valencia in light of the situation in Catalonia, which is set to claim independence from the rest of Spain following a disputed independence referendum.

(Reporting by Paul Day; editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: Reuters



Spooked businesses shift headquarters out of Catalonia — “Coexistence is broken”

October 6, 2017

OCTOBER 06, 2017 2:48 PM

Catalan independence: Spain rejects calls for mediation by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

October 5, 2017

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy asked Carles Puigdemont to abandon the independence drive as a prerequisite to talks. The Catalan parliament is expected to unilaterally declare independence from Spain next week.

Catalan leader Puigdemont

Spain on Wednesday turned down calls by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont for mediation to find a way out of the violent political crisis sparked off by the region’s controversial referendum for independence on Sunday that ended with a rash of violence that left hundreds injured.

“If Mr. Puigdemont wants to talk or negotiate, or wants to send mediators, he knows perfectly well what he must do first: Return to the path of the law,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s office said in a statement.

Rajoy was responding to a call for mediation by Puigdemont made earlier during a televised address.

“This moment calls for mediation. We have received various offers in the last hours and we will receive more,” Puigdemont said. “But we have never received a positive response from the state.”

Puigdemont criticized Spain’s King Felipe VI who on Tuesday lashed out at “irresponsible behavior” of the Catalan leaders. The Catalan leader accused the king of ignoring the Catalans by calling on them to give up their bid for independence. The king’s address did not mention those injured during the vote.

“The king has adopted the (national) government’s position and policies which have been disastrous with regard to Catalonia,” Puigdemont said. “He is deliberately ignoring millions of Catalans.”

Read moreCatalan separatist movement driven by more than just economics

Independence declaration imminent

Without specifically mentioning plans for an independence declaration, Puigdemont added: “I am sure that in the next few days we will show the best of our country when the institutions of Catalonia will have to apply the results of the referendum…Today we are closer than yesterday to our historic wish.”

Catalonia is expected to declare independence as early as Monday, when a special parliamentary session has been called to evaluate the results of the October 1 vote and discuss the plan for secession.

Mireia Boya, a Catalan lawmaker from the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) said it would be “a plenary to proclaim the republic” of independent Catalonia.

According to the Catalan government, 90 percent of the people voted for independence in Sunday’s referendum, which was declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court and was marred by police violence. But turnout was only about 43 percent as Catalans who favor remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the ballot.

Read moreCatalonia to South Sudan: A world of separatist movements

No takers for mediation call

European leaders have so far sided with Spain and have called on both sides to talk with each other.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said on Wednesday there was a “general consensus that regional government of Catalonia has chosen to ignore the law when organizing the referendum.”

During an emergency session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, leaders from the two biggest party groups warned Catalan leaders not to forge ahead with independence.

Germany said on Wednesday that it hoped tensions between Madrid and Catalonia would soon calm down, but emphasized the conflict was an internal Spanish matter.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Merkel wasn’t seeking to mediate the dispute between Madrid and Catalonia’s regional government in Barcelona.

“Chancellor Merkel is not pursuing a mediation mission. It is an internal matter for Spain,” he said.

ap/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

Catalan Commission to Investigate Claims of Abuse During Banned Referendum

October 2, 2017

MADRID — Catalonia will create a special commission to investigate claims of abuse by Spanish police during a banned referendum on independence on Sunday after more than 800 people were left injured, leader of region Carles Puigdemont said on Monday.

Thousands of Spanish police were shipped in to the region to prevent the vote on secession though scenes of violence due to heavy-handed tactics by armoured, baton-carrying riot units have received international condemnation.

The vote which the constitutional court banned and Madrid said was illegal, yet still attracted millions of defiant voters, was valid and binding, Puigdemont said during a conference.

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with Spain’s central government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favour of mediation in talks over the region’s future, which should be overseen by the European Union.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)