Puigdemont will not return to Catalonia before election

The ousted president dismissed rumours as false, calling Spain "delusional" for basing border policy on hearsay

The Together for Catalonia campaign event on Friday in Barcelona, where Puigdemont broadcast live from Brussels (by ACN)
The Together for Catalonia campaign event on Friday in Barcelona, where Puigdemont broadcast live from Brussels (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 16, 2017 11:08 AM

The deposed Catalan president and top of the list on the Together for Catalonia (JxCat) ticket, Carles Puigdemont, has confirmed that he will not return to Catalonia before the December 21 election.

In an interview with La Vanguardia newspaper due to be released on Sunday, but previewed on Puigdemont’s website, he dismissed the notion that he would return to the country before the vote as “false rumours.” Recent Spanish police reinforcement at the borders, confirmed by Spain’s Home Affairs ministry on Thursday, only reinforced the hypothesis that Puigdemont would return in order to strengthen his candidacy.

“That a whole state defines its border policy based on a rumour that is false,” he said, is “delusional.”

Running a remote campaign from Brussels thus far, Puigdemont had said on Monday that if he wins the election, he will return to Catalonia and take office, even if that means risking arrest as soon as he sets foot in the country.

However, the ousted premier said in the interview that he does not believe he will be detained, emphasizing his wish to return to Catalan soil.

“I believe in democracy, and I think that what the ballot boxes authorize cannot lead to prison,” he went on to say.

Long distance campaign

In what is proving to be an unconventional election campaign, with candidates in prison and abroad, Puigdemont did not let distance muffle his message as he addressed a crowd of more than 3000 attending a campaign event for JxCat in Barcelona.Carles Puigdemont campaigning in the Catalan election live and direct from Brussels (by ACN)A victory for his candidacy, he stated, would mean the release of the incarcerated independence leaders, as well as the return of the government in “exile.” Indeed, independence and the aftermath of its declaration were focal points of Puigdemont’s speech. He insisted that the December 21 election would be the “second vote” of the October 1 referendum.

A European arrest warrant

Carles Puigdemont left the country, alongside various members of his cabinet, the day after voting on the declaration of independence which saw members of unionist parties such as the People’s Party leaving the chamber in a statement of abstention. The parliament's proclamation of Catalonia as a soverein state prompted a rapid response from Madrid ruling to strip Catalonia of its autonomy. While many of his colleagues found themselves behind bars without bail, in preventive detention, he called on Europe for help and tried to make the political conflict between Spain and Catalonia an international issue. All the while Belgian law evaluated the extradition case against him.

Spain repealed the European arrest warrant on him last week, unofficially asking the European Commission to assess the “list of crimes” that warrant an automatic extradition between two countries. The crimes for which Puigdemont and fellow members of his sacked cabinet were charged did not fit the bill.

“Extending the catalogue of crimes will not directly solve the issues,” said Vera Jourová, the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality on December 8. The European Commission, she affirmed, has no plan “to introduce the changes which were requested by the Spanish government.

On Thursday,  a Belgian judge closed the extradition case against Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his four ministers, a week after the Spanish Supreme Court announced the withdrawal of its European Arrest Warrant