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Puigdemont’s party considers leaving European liberals over Catalonia stance

PDeCAT and ALDE officials meet in Brussels as liberals look into expelling the Catalan party

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14 September 2018 11:49 AM

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ACN | Brussel·les

Catalonia’s PDeCAT party is considering leaving the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe party (ALDE), following discrepancies over independence and the right to self-determination. This would mean abandoning the liberal group in the European Parliament.

PDeCAT, the party of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, was part of the government that held a referendum on independence last October despite Spain’s opposition. The party is back in power, but some of its leaders are either in jail or abroad.

PDeCAT and ALDE officials are to meet in Brussels on Friday. Earlier this week, ALDE said they were demanding clarifications from the Catalan party after it was accused in a major corruption scandal. The option of expelling them was on the table.

PDeCAT officials told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that bringing up the corruption case was just an excuse, as they have "nothing to do with it".

ALDE officials say PDeCAT’s ideology or the party’s stance on independence is not the issue at stake, as they claim not to interfere in national politics on a general basis.

Leaving the European Parliament group by themselves, rather than being thrown out, might be a solution to the rise in tensions between parties in the wake of Catalonia’s push for independence.

http://www.catalannews.com/images/cna/images/2018/09/foto_3089756.jpg

ALDE’s leader in the chamber, Guy Verhofstadt, rejected last October’s declaration of independence and dismissed it as “unconstitutional.” Hans van Baalen, the party president, recently took on Catalonia’s head of government, Quim Torra, and accused him of promoting a “racist and separatist" discourse.

PDeCAT’s former leader, Marta Pascal, left her post as ALDE’s vice president in 2017 due to the group’s stance on Catalonia.

Ciutadans: pro-independence foes join ALDE

The relationship between PDeCAT and ALDE started deteriorating in 2016 when Ciutadans, Catalonia’s main unionist party, joined the European liberals.

Currently, Ciutadans has two MEPs—one more than PDeCAT. In recent times, the party has soared in polls all across Spain, and is very likely to increase its number of MEPs in the upcoming European Parliament election.

The ‘3%’ case

Last July, Spain’s National Court widened the investigation of the so-called ‘3%’ corruption scandal to include PDeCAT and its precursor, Convergència (CDC). Both parties are accused of influence peddling, bribery, and money laundering.

CDC, which governed Catalonia for almost 30 years, allegedly used two foundations to get kickbacks from private companies in exchange for public contracts.

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  • ALDE president Hans Van Baalen (left) and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (by Albert Segura)

  • ALDE president Hans Van Baalen (left) and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (by Albert Segura)