Puigdemont to Europe: “I ask you to react”
Catalan president denies being in Brussels to apply for asylum, but “to act with freedom and without threats”
Carles Puigdemont and his government ministers, dismissed by the Spanish government, are not in Brussels to seek asylum, but instead to “act with freedom and without threats.” Indeed, Puigdemont and his government were already in the Belgian capital on the 30 October, but the reason for their stay was unclear. Following charges of rebellion, sedition, and others officially filed on Monday by the Spanish government towards Puigdemont, the Catalan government, and several Parliament bureau members, the question arose as to whether the reasons for the visit to Brussels was political.
However, in a speech at the Press Club in Brussels on October 31 carried out in four languages, Carles Puigdemont explained that he and the Catalan government ministers were not abroad to ask for asylum, as some had speculated. Indeed, he explained that as an EU citizen, he could reside in whichever EU member state he chose. He detailed that he and his colleagues would return to Catalonia, he said, but would not until they could be guaranteed to be able to act “with freedom and without threats” from the Spanish government. In a question directed at the international community and especially to Europe, he urged: “I ask you to react.”
“A republic for all cannot be built from violence”
Carles Puigdemont · Dismissed Catalan president
A “fair trial with a reasonable outcome”
As per the charges filed against him, the Catalan government, and some members of the Catalan Parliament bureau, Puigdemont clarified that he and his colleagues weren’t trying “to evade justice.” Indeed, they “don’t want to,” he said, adding that he is not trying to “escape judicial responsibility.” Minister of Education Clara Ponsatí, sitting next to Puigdemont, added that they would return if guaranteed a “fair trial with a reasonable outcome.” Yet, Puigdemont stated, the Spanish government “is not acting in a neutral way” and, inasmuch, this fairness was no longer guaranteed in Catalonia.
“Ideas, not crimes”
As an example of this, Puigdemont noted that the Attorney General’s press statement detailing the charges filed against the Catalan government was originally named, as discovered through metadata, “The Harder the Fall.” Additionally, included in what the Catalan president described as an “unprecedented offensive” from the Spanish government is the implementation of Article 155, as well as the various arrests, incarcerations, charges filed, and “repression.” He further denounced the “politicization of the Spanish justice, its lack of impartiality as well as its will to persecute ideas, not crimes.”
Home Affairs Minister Joaquim Forn, also present, explained that he and his colleagues are “convinced” to have acted “democratically,” in a “calm, civil” and “peaceful” way. “A political conflict requires a political way out,” Forn stated. Also present at the press conference Minister of Government Meritxell Borràs, Minister of Health Antoni Comín, and Minister of Culture Meritxell Serret.
“To make evident the Catalan problem”
Indeed, Puigdemont and his cabinet emphasized that they were not in Brussels for matters of “Belgian politics,” he stated, but instead because it is “the capital of Europe.” This was, he continued, “to make evident the Catalan problem,” about which he urged the continent “to react.” He explained that “Catalonia’s cause” was the very same upon which “Europe is founded,” including, for example, the principles of “non-violence” and “welcome.” In his view, allowing the Spanish government to act the way it has, using “violence,” “military” means as well as “prison,” he said, would mean “finishing with the idea of Europe.”
December 21 elections welcomed as a “democratic challenge”
Addressing the snap elections called by the Spanish government on December 21, Puigdemont welcomed them as a “democratic challenge.” This is because, he said, “it’s in the territory of democracy that we’re always the strongest, where we’ve always won.” He further noted that he, his government, and the Catalan people would respect the outcome of the election – whatever they were. Yet, he posed a question to the Spanish government. “Will you do the same?” he asked, mentioning that Article 155 will be applied. “A republic for all cannot be built from violence,” he continued.
“Fighting with maximum creativity to keep Catalan institutions alive”
Carles Puigdemont also claimed that he and the Catalan ministers were still legitimate – and active – members of the Catalan government, despite being removed from office by the Spanish government and its implementation of Article 155. “Nobody has abandoned their post,” he explained. Members of his government who remained in Catalonia, he continued, would keep on working as active ministers. Meanwhile, he asked for “support” for these individuals, who are, according to Puigdemont, “fighting with maximum creativity to keep Catalan institutions alive.” Indeed, he also detailed that one of the priorities at hand was to “oppose Article 155.”