Independence not only solution to Spainish stand-off, says Puigdemont

Catalan leader says country needs mediator to try to address political crisis

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont poses with fellow politicians after a press conference in Berli. Photograph: EPA

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont poses with fellow politicians after a press conference in Berli. Photograph: EPA

 

Ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said he does not see independence as the only solution to the political stand-off with Spain.

At a packed press conference in Berlin on Saturday, Mr Puigdemont called for an international intervention to resolve the conflict that saw him imprisoned for almost two weeks until Friday.

“I think the country needs someone who can act as a mediator,” he said. “Today we are demanding that the Spanish government takes a new position.”

He accused Madrid of having an “anti-European position” and of abusing the “right to political participation” of himself and his campaigners, many now imprisoned in Spain.

Five months after fleeing to Belgium, the 55-year-old said he would make a new base for now in the German capital until a court decides on a Spanish arrest warrant against him.

Asked if independence was the only solution for the conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish government, he said: “No.”

Dialogue

Instead he called on Madrid to reconsider his offer of dialogue, after German authorities dismissed two of the three grounds for their European Arrest Warrant (EWA) against him

“I hope the situation could help ... Spanish authorities understand that political measures are needed,” said Mr Puigdemont. “This opens a new opportunity of dialogue.”

Mr Puigdemont said he was “shocked” when he was detained by German Autobahn police almost two weeks ago after crossing the border from Denmark on his way back to Berlin from Finland.

He was held on remand in a prison in Neumünster, an hour north of Hamburg, where he was treated “very well, professionally”.

“The days were very intense,” he said.

On Thursday evening judges in the northern city of Schleswig ruled Mr Puigdemont could be released on bail of €75,000 after they dismissed the more serious charge of rebellion against him.

He still faces a charge of misuse of public funds to finance last October’s banned independence referendum, which Madrid views as illegal.

The Catalan politician is not permitted to leave Germany until the Schleswig court rules on whether to proceed with the European Arrest Warrant (EWA) against him. He also has to report weekly to police in Neumünster and inform them of his place of residence.

For now that is to be Berlin, he said, “one of the most interesting cities in Europe”.

Waterloo

If not returned to Spain, he hopes to return to Waterloo in Belgium where he has lived in self-imposed exile since last October. “I would like to return to a normal life,” he said.

At the same time he insisted he would not give in to Spanish efforts to silence him, and called for the release of fellow Catalan independence campaigners.

“It is my duty to travel around Europe to explain what happened, what is going on in Catalonia and in Spain,” he said. “We cannot implement the will of the people because the Spanish government hinders us.”

In October’s vote, 92 per cent were in favour of independence from Spain, on a turnout of 43 per cent.

Even if Mr Puigdemont is returned to Spain on the arrest warrant’s corruption charge, he can no longer be prosecuted on the sedition or rebellion charges struck out by German authorities.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would respect the ruling of the German court.

“I have always said, and I repeat here, that judicial rulings are to be respected and followed,” he said at a conference of his conservative People’s Party in Seville.