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Catalonia should be independent state inside EU, says exiled leader Carles Puigdemont

Region 'has a clear desire to be part of European project as we feel profoundly involved,' 

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 30 January 2019 00:44 GMT
Mr Puigdemont spoke at Trinity College Dublin
Mr Puigdemont spoke at Trinity College Dublin (PA)

Exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has spoken of his hopes to return home and for Catalonia to join the European Union as an independent state.

Speaking in the Republic of Ireland's capital Dublin, the separatist leader also said he wants the political conflict with Spain to be resolved “peacefully”.

Mr Puigdemont fled to Belgium in 2017 after his regional government held an unauthorised referendum on independence from Spain.

Spanish authorities took over the Catalan government for several months after a subsequent declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament received no international recognition. Some of Mr Puigdemont’s former regional cabinet are now being prosecuted for their involvment in the failed bid.

Adressing an auidence at Trinity College about the current political situation, Mr Puigdemont said: “The Catalonia proposal is profoundly pro-European. First of all it was the Catalan people who chose to become a new fully fledged state in the EU under the rules of the European Union.

“Indeed, Catalonia in general has a clear desire to be part of European project as we feel profoundly involved.

“We firmly believe in the common European project and we are convinced that we have a future together. Our country, history and culture make us more stronger and more prosperous. Catalan people hope and trust that the political conflict of our nation can be resolved peacefully without war, without violence or without winners and losers. We reject all the violence used in the last century to resolve political conflicts.”

Spain’s supreme court dropped its international arrest warrants for Mr Puigdemont in July last year. In October he launched a new separatist party called Crida Nacional (National Call) from his new base of Belgium.

He told the Dublin audience that the independence referendum was held “under extreme conditions... we endured the rage of Spain that does not want to hear our voice."

He added: “The Spanish police hit defenceless members of the public and injured over 1,000 people. The aim was to make people give up their right to vote. People overcame fear and went out to vote. We know many tried to do so unsuccessfully.”

He said that he and his former colleagues have been accused of crimes of rebellion and are facing prison sentences of up to 25 years.

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“No violence action has been carried by the people who are being prosecuted,” he added.

Mr Puigdemont held a private meeting with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Republic of Ireland. He would not, however, be drawn on whether he would support Ms McDonald’s call for a poll on the question of the Irish border following Brexit.

He said: “I want to remain very respectful considering the internal domestic decisions. It’s not my duty or goal to talk about the Irish and UK relationship or what happens if there is a hard Brexit or no-deal.

“I have my personal opinion but I insist we must, as Catalan people, respect the decision of the UK and Ireland. Brexit is a matter of British people and we as Europeans we will back Ireland of course. We will help in order to correct the negative effects in the case of hard Brexit.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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