The former separatist president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, confirmed on Wednesday that he would be returning to Belgium on Saturday, as had been announced earlier. At a press conference in Berlin, Puigdemont defended his plan for an independent Catalonia and said he would continue to work to achieve it from Belgium.
Catalonia has been in crisis since October 2017, after the organisation of a referendum on the region’s independence from Spain followed by a vain declaration of independence, which was judged illegal.
For the deposed president, the Catalonia crisis must be resolved at the European level and is more than a simple Spanish domestic issue, which is why, he said, he had decided to return to Belgium, to be close to the European institutions.
He will be returning on Saturday to his residence in Waterloo, Belgium, from where he will continue to work for an independent Catalonia, he explained, insisting that the “will of the people” of Catalonia must be respected. “I do not know if I ought to wait 20 years before going back to Spain, but I know I should not wait 20 years before returning to Catalonia,” he said.
“The Catalan independence movement is deeply pro-European,” he added, arguing that an independent Catalonia could definitely join the European Union (EU). “It would not be coherent to say that medium-sized and small states like Catalonia, which has the size of Denmark, have no future … whereas attempts are being made to integrate other countries of similar size!” he exclaimed. “A Europe of 30 nations (…) is good when it integrates new states, but doesn’t that hold for a nation already part of the EU?”
Last week, the international arrest warrant against Puigdemont and five other Catalan leaders was withdrawn by the Spanish judge in charge of the investigation into the Catalonia secession attempt, Pablo Llarena. He justified his decision by referring to a ruling by a German court that accepted to hand over Puigdemont to Spain solely in connection with misappropriation of public funds, and not rebellion.
Puigdemont had been arrested in Germany on the 25th of March while returning to Belgium following a trip to Finland.