Brussels the center of attention on day three of campaign
Together for Catalonia, Esquerra Republicana and CUP take part in protest in Belgium, while other Catalan parties stay away
Brussels has once again become the focus for the December 21 election campaign in Catalonia. With president Carles Puigdemont and his four ministers exiled in the Belgian capital for over a month since the Spanish government deposed the Catalan executive, on Thursday Brussels was the center of attention. Yet, this time they were not alone. Around 45,000 Catalans demonstrated in the EU capital with a wake-up call for Europe to take action in helping to free imprisoned Catalan leaders. While representatives of some Catalan parties attended the rally, others criticized it during their campaign events.
‘Have you ever seen a demonstration anywhere in the world in support of criminals? Puigdemont asks Juncker
Together for Catalonia’s main candidate, Carles Puigdemont, attended the protest along with campaign officials. “Have you ever seen a demonstration anywhere in the world in support of criminals?” he asked European Commission head, Jean Claude Juncker, during his speech at the end of the rally. Puigdemont criticized EU leaders for “stimulating” Spain’s “repression”. He also called for a Union “which is not afraid to tell one of its members that it does not respect basic rights.” Meanwhile, the second candidate on the Together for Catalonia ticket, Jordi Sànchez, who is still in jail, has asked the judge if he can take part in some campaign events.
Esquerra Republicana: ‘They never play clean’
Pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana also took part in the rally. Its main candidate, Oriol Junqueras, is also in jail and could not attend the event. However, the left-wing party’s second candidate, Marta Rovira, did take part. “They never play clean, not even in an election,” she said. “They do not play clean because they are afraid of democracy,” she added. “Did they really think that by sending half of the government into exile and to prison that they would stop us?” asked Junqueras’ number 2.
Fanaticism in Brussels, says People’s Party
Spain’s ruling People’s Party took a completely different stance on the Brussels event. The party’s main candidate in the election, Xavier García Albiol, not only stayed in Catalonia, but harshly criticized the rally. For Albiol, the demonstration even had “a fanatical side” and he added that now, not only could Catalonia and Spain see it, but also Europe. Albiol also branded the demonstration a “grotesque spectacle”.
Election the true test for Ciutadans
“No matter how many people made the effort to travel to Brussels, the true test is at the ballot box,” said the second candidate for the unionist Ciutadans party, Carlos Carrizosa. For him, “democracies are built” with votes and not with demonstrations. He further insisted that the unionist parties must get “enough seats” to prevent the pro-independence parties from keeping their joint majority.
‘Strength is demonstrated by voting’ says Socialist leader
Nor did the Socialists turn up. In fact, PSC party leader, Miquel Iceta, took a similar stance to Ciutadans. “Fortunately, in a democracy, strength is demonstrated by voting with all guarantees” and not with rallies, said Iceta. Yet, he also said that he supports the right to demonstrate. In a political event on Thursday morning, Iceta claimed that restoring “stability and legal safety for companies” is essential in the future.
Not in an electoral context, says Catalonia in Common leader
Between the pro-independence and unionist parties, the far-left Catalonia in Common party was not in Brussels on Thursday. Despite firmly rejecting the incarceration of political leaders, its main candidate, Xavier Domènech, said his party did not take part “because it comes in an electoral context.” Yet he stressed his “respect” for the rally and said he would not question its “legitimacy.” Domènech also insisted on all left-wing parties coming closer together after the election regardless of their stance on the issue of independence.
CUP: EU accomplice of Spain’s “violence”
While the CUP party did attend the protest, one of its representatives, Joan Coma, harshly criticized the European Union. Madrid’s measures suspending Catalonia’s self-rule “would not be possible” without EU approval, Coma said from Brussels. For him, “non-compliance” with both Spanish and European authorities is essential in order to create a new Spain and Europe on the basis of “peace and fraternity.” What’s more, Coma accused the Union of being an accomplice of Spain’s “violence”.