Catalan separatists want to create symbolic institutions in Brussels

Ousted premier Carles Puigdemont would head Council of the Republic and spread the independence message abroad

Ex-Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont in Brussels.
Ex-Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont in Brussels.Olivier Matthys (AP)

Catalan separatists want to create symbolic institutions-in-exile under the leadership of Carles Puigdemont, the ousted premier who fled to Belgium to avoid a rebellion probe after Madrid moved against a unilateral declaration of independence passed by the regional parliament last October.

After Puigdemont failed in his bid to get remotely reinstated following the Catalan elections of December 21, which gave a majority to separatist parties, the latter are now offering him a symbolic position as head of a Council of the Republic and an Assembly of Representatives of the Republic, both to be based in Brussels.

Puigdemont’s role would be to “foment specific policies to materialize the Republic”

The plan was designed by Puigdemont’s own Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat) party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), and described in a document drafted by the third separatist party in Catalonia, the anti-establishment CUP, the newspaper Ara reported.

The Brussels-based Council would be made up of three members of JuntsxCat, three from ERC and one from CUP, and receive private funding from a foundation. Puigdemont’s role would be to “foment specific policies to materialize the Republic,” and above all to spread the separatist message internationally.

As part of the deal, former pro-independence association leader Jordi Sànchez, who is in pre-trial detention in Madrid in connection with a rebellion probe, would be nominated as the official candidate to form a government in Catalonia, where the lack of leadership could lead to a fresh election if the impasse is not overcome soon.

It is unclear whether Sánchez would be granted leave to attend the investiture debate in the Catalan parliament, a required step to get appointed. Puigdemont’s refusal to return to Spain for this session, on the grounds that he would be immediately arrested as part of a rebellion investigation against ex-officials of the Catalan government, automatically ruled him out as a valid candidate.

CUP deputy Carles Riera inside the Catalan parliament.
CUP deputy Carles Riera inside the Catalan parliament.Massimiliano Minocri

The government and opposition parties have called on separatists to produce a nominee who is not caught up in legal issues so the region can get a new government and self-rule can be restored. Catalonia has been under central administration since early November, right after separatist deputies unilaterally declared independence for the region. Several independence leaders have since told the courts that the declaration was merely symbolic.


But separatist parties are still seeking a public show of support for the “restitution of Catalan institutions.” On Thursday, inside the Catalan parliament, JuntsxCat and CUP filed a revised draft of a motion that underscores Puigdemont’s “legitimacy” to bid for reinstatement. However, the text stops short of reasserting the validity of the unilateral declaration of independence made on October 27.

The far-left CUP had originally wanted this wording to be included in the motion. Spanish prosecutors warned on Wednesday that they would act against the Catalan parliament’s speaker’s committee, the Mesa, if its members accepted debating a motion containing renewed support for unilateral independence.

English version by Susana Urra.


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