Puigdemont says independence not only solution to crisis
BRUSSELS: The deposed leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, said on Monday that there could be solutions to Spain’s political crisis other than independence for his region, insisting he was still open to an “agreement” with Madrid.
“I’ve always been willing to accept the new reality of a different relationship with Spain,” Puigdemont said in Brussels, where he traveled to after his government declared independence from Spain last month.
“It’s still possible. I’ve been pro-independence all my life, working for 30 years to secure a different way of integrating Catalonia within Spain. I’m still for an agreement,” the former leader told Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper.
Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis in decades when Catalan lawmakers voted to split from Madrid following a banned referendum in the wealthy northeastern region on Oct. 1.
The central government hit back, revoking the region’s autonomous powers, sacking its parliament and Puigdemont’s government, and calling fresh regional elections for Dec. 21.
The crisis has caused deep distress in the EU as it comes to terms with Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc. It has also sent business confidence plunging in Catalonia — home to 7.5 million people and accounting for a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) — with more than 2,400 firms re-registering their headquarters outside the region.
Puigdemont said he wants to run as a candidate in the regional election but his PDeCAT party is lagging far behind another pro-independence group in polling.
The leftist ERC — whose leader was Puigdemont’s deputy — said last week it would not allow its candidates to run on the same ticket as PDeCAT.
Several Catalan former lawmakers are in jail accused of violating Spain’s constitution for declaring independence.
Puigdemont, who says he is in Belgium because he cannot get fair treatment from courts back home, has spoken of slowing his independence drive and last week accused Madrid of planning a “wave” of repression against separatists.
“We’ve been forced to adapt our agenda to avoid violence,” he already said at the end of October.
“If the price to pay is slowing the creation of a republic, then we need to consider that as a price worth paying in 21st-century Europe.”
Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said he will brief his EU counterparts on alleged cyber-meddling from Russian territory and elsewhere aimed at spreading misinformation about the independence push in the northeastern region of Catalonia.
Dastis said he would tell the EU’s top diplomats Monday in Brussels that data showed internet traffic by media networks “in Russia and other countries” after a banned Oct. 1 secession referendum in Catalonia.