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.

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