The ex-Catalan leader said he traveled to Brussels because he can act there in “freedom and safety” as Spanish prosecutors pursue sedition charges against him. He accused Madrid of undermining “our political project.”
Catalonia’s former President Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday said he will return to Spain if he received certain guarantees, noting that he left to Brussels because it is the capital of Europe where he can act in “freedom and safety” and not to specifically apply for asylum.
“The situation is developing every day. Here we have better guarantees for our rights and we can meet our obligations from here,” Puigdemont said.
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“If they can guarantee to all of us – and to me in particular – a just, independent process, with the separation of powers that we have in the majority of European nations – if they guarantee that, we would return immediately.”
Puigdemont added that he will accept the challenge of snap elections slated for December. But he urged Spanish authorities to accept the results of the election, saying pro-independence forces could once again come into power in the region.
Spain wants Catalonia “to abandon our political project, and they won’t achieve it,” Puigdemont said. “I ask the Catalan people to prepare for a long road. Democracy will be the foundation of our victory.”
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According to a new poll conducted by Catalan authorities, 48.7 percent of Catalans said they wanted an independent state of Catalonia, compared to 43.6 percent who responded with “No.”
Positive reception in Madrid
Shortly after Puigdemont’s statement, Madrid’s chief representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said the former Catalan leader’s remarks were received well in the capital.
“It means the acceptance of the return of the democratic legality,” said Millo. “They are showing that they are public servants that respect the law and democracy, as they should.”
In Spain, authorities have moved quickly to curb the growing political crisis. Spain’s Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended Catalonia’s declaration of independence, while Spanish prosecutors announced on Monday they were seeking charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against Puigdemont.
The Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence prompted the central government to move on a Senate demand to impose direct rule on the region. Puigdemont, however, claims that he and his former government have the right to pursuit independence following a controversial referendum earlier this month.
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said his country would be surprised if Brussels granted Puigdemont political asylum, saying there was a level of “reciprocal trust” concerning the rule of law between EU member states.
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“It would be surprising that he could receive the right to asylum under the current circumstances,” Dastis told Spanish Cadena SER radio. Accepting a request for asylum “would not be a situation of normality” in relations between the EU countries, he added.
Belgium’s prime minister denied that Puigdemont had been welcomed by his government.
“The Belgian government has not taken a single step to encourage Mr. Puigdemont to come to Belgium,” said a statement from Prime Minister Charles Michel’s office. “The Belgian government has repeatedly called for a political dialogue to solve the crisis in Spain.”
Belgium allows citizens of other EU countries to submit a request for asylum on political grounds. Belgian authorities have previously accepted asylum applications from members of the outlawed Basque separatist group ETA.