Nearly 1,000 people attend debate with Puigdemont in Geneva

Catalan deposed leader claims that Swiss mediation between Catalonia and Spain would be a "privilege"

Carles Puigdemont takes part in a debate in Geneva (by Bernat Vilaró)
Carles Puigdemont takes part in a debate in Geneva (by Bernat Vilaró) / ACN

ACN | Geneva

March 18, 2018 10:51 PM

The Catalan crisis has officially landed in Switzerland. Nearly 1,000 people attended the debate with Carles Puigdemont that was held in the Swiss city of Geneva on Sunday. In a press conference after the discussion, the deposed Catalan leader stated that Swiss mediation between the Catalan and the Spanish administrations would be a "privilege". Puigdemont noted that Switzerland has a broad "experience" in international mediation, as well as in the fields of peace and human rights. Still, he stressed that the international mediation needs to be accepted by both parties. Once the debate was over, the deposed Catalan leader insisted on the idea of international mediation between Catalonia and Spain, as they could encourage political "dialogue" between both administrations.

During the debate, the deposed Catalan leader claimed that the states should "follow their citizens' will." Puigdemont defended Catalonia's right to self-determination and criticized Spain's conception of the state based on the "sacred unity." According to Puigdemont, a state should be based on "peoples will".  

The deposed Catalan leader took part in a debate over self-determination at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH). The descussion came after the screening of a French documentary on the current political situation in Catalonia. After the screening, the attendees asked their questions to Puigdemont, as well as to the other speakers. They asked questions about Catalonia's push for independence and the latest political events in the country. Yet they were also interested in other issues, such as the Franco's regime and its consequences nowadays in Spain.

The documentary is called ‘Catalogne, l’Espagne au bord de la crise de nerfs’ (Catalonia, Spain on the verge of a nervous breakdown), and tackles the use of violence by the Spanish police in order to prevent the October 1 referendum from being held, as well as the political events that marked the second half of the last year. It is made by Sylvain Louvet, Gary Grabli and Julie Peyrard.

Among the attendees there were the former CUP MP Anna Gabriel, who moved to the Swiss city seeking refuge from the Spanish judiciary, as well as the vice president of one of the major pro-independence civil society organizations. The wives of some incarcerated Catalan leaders also attended the event, and some of them will take part in debates on the Catalan crisis in the coming days.  

The deposed Catalan president took part in a press conference before the documentary's screening. In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Puigdemont confirmed that he will meet the former CUP MP Anna Gabriel, currently living in Geneva, on Monday. According to him, they will sit down in order to tackle Gabriel's role in the 'Council of the Republic', the body launched by Puigdemont from Brussels.  

The second time that he crosses a border

The deposed Catalan president is in Geneva from Saturday evening. He is expected to remain in the Swiss city until at least next Wednesday. It is the second time that he crosses a border since he moved to Brussels following the declaration of independence and Spain’s imposition of direct rule on Catalonia on October 27, 2017.

In January he travelled to Copenhagen, for two days, amid concerns of a possible arrest by the Danish police in the event Spain reissued a European arrest warrant. In the end, he was not arrested despite the Spanish prosecution’s attempt.

Several debates will be held this week

The Catalan has already landed in Geneva. Several debates will be hosted from Saturday in different sites of the Swiss city, including the United Nations offices. The 37th ordinary session of the Council of Human Rights of the UN will prompt events on self-determination featuring Catalan speakers related to the latest push to the country’s independence last autumn, including Carles Puigdemont.

Monday: first event at the UN offices

On Monday at 1.30pm the Catalan Institute for Human Rights (IDHC) will host a side event in the UN’s council for human rights. The debate, named ‘Human Rights Regression in Spain,’ will feature, among others, the wife of a jailed official, Laura Masvidal; the president of the IDHC, David Bondia, and a senior lecturer in Public Protest Law at the University of East Anglia, Michael Hamilton. It will be the first time that Catalonia's push for independence is discussed in an event in a UN main office. Especifically, it will be held in the Room XXIII of the building.