Puigdemont in Berlin: ‘I won’t take 20 years to set foot on Catalan territory’
Former president acknowledges new Spanish government’s “change of style and language” but calls for “action”
“It will not take 20 years before I set foot on Catalan territory,” swore exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday. In a press conference alongside his lawyers in Berlin, his first since Spain’s Supreme Court dropped attempts to extradite him, Puigdemont also acknowledged the “change of style and language” of Pedro Sánchez’s new Spanish government, but insisted: “ What is now needed are not gestures but actions.”
One of the first benefits of the softer approach adopted by the new Spanish executive towards Catalonia was the meeting Sánchez recently had with Catalan president, Quim Torra. “I think the Torra-Sánchez meeting served to respectfully present the points of view of each government,” said Puigdemont, who added: “After everything, it wouldn’t make any sense not to talk about Catalan-Spanish relations in the political conversations between Catalonia and Spain.”
Despite welcoming the thaw in the relationship between the two governments, the former president nevertheless remained firm about “respecting the will of a people regarding their future and destiny,” in relation to the majority in Catalonia who voted for independence in the October 1 referendum and then the December 21 election. “The decision by the Catalan people to establish an independent republic is a fact,” said Puigdemont.
Although the Puigdemont government went ahead with a unilateral referendum in October, leading to direct rule and the former president and some of his ministers leaving the country, “the formula of an agreed referendum was a priority,” he insisted.” In fact, Puigdemont believes a binding vote is possible under current Spanish law: “With an open reading of the Spanish constitution there is room for a Catalan referendum,” he said.
"For those in jail or exile to return home should not be seen as a problem, but as the start of the solution
Carles Puigdemont · Former Catalan president
As for Catalonia’s relationship with the European Union after Brussels decided to stay out of the political conflict with the Spanish authorities, Puigdemont insisted: “We have always linked the project for a Catalan state with belonging and working with the EU.” He also admitted that the independence project had gained no support from EU member states, but added: “Is Europe only its states? Because we have a lot of support from European citizens who feel affected when rights are cut back somewhere in the EU.”
Meanwhile, commenting on one of the more controversial aspects thrown up by the political conflict, Puigdemont made reference to the issue of the Catalan political leaders held in custody or forced to remain abroad, such as himself. “For those in jail or exile to return home should not be seen as a problem, but as the start of the solution,” he said.
The former president said that his intention now is to return to Belgium where he first took up residence after leaving Catalonia. With plans to leave Germany on Saturday morning, Puigdemont said he would take with him the “thousands of letters from German citizens and from around the world expressing support.” He also said he would be taking with him a four-month experience that has “marked his life,” and one that “will have left all of us stronger, more resilient and also more determined.”