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21st Feb 2024

Exiled Catalan leader sets conditions to make Sanchez PM

  • 'We are prepared in case there are elections, but we are also ready for a negotiation that could culminate in a historic agreement,' said Catalan former separatist leader and current MEP Carles Puigdemount in Brussels (Photo: European Parliament)
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Catalan former separatist leader and current MEP Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday (5 September) in Brussels set out preconditions for negotiations to support Pedro Sánchez as the next prime minister of Spain — stressing he would not give up on Catalonia's unilateral right to independence.

On top of his demands, the self-exiled Puigdemont urged Spain to drop judicial action against those conntected to the pro-independence movement, and the decriminalisation of events related to the illegal referendum that took place in the region in October 2017, as prerequisites for further talks.

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"We have not held our position all these years in order to end up saving a legislature but to defend the mandate received from the citizens," he said during a conference in the EU capital, Brussels.

After July's general election, neither conservative leader Alberto Nuñez Feijóo nor the socialist party's Sánchez secured a majority, forcing a difficult scenario to form a government.

Although Nuñez Feijóo is to lead an investiture vote later this month, it is unlikely to succeed.

As Sánchez previously won the support of other small regional parties, his fate is now mainly in the hands of Puigdemont's Junts party.

"Spain has a complex dilemma to resolve," Puigdemont said, referring to the possibility of either holding new elections or Sánchez's need to forge a substantial agreement with a pro-independence party that aspires to secure a "historic deal" for Catalonia, rather than just a temporary fix.

"We are prepared in case there are elections, but we are also ready for a negotiation that could culminate in a historic agreement," Puigdemont said.

The Catalan leader, who has been in exile in Belgium now for almost six years, has also asked for guarantees to ensure that the parameters of any negotiation are those defined by international agreements and treaties.

That is a clear inference that the limits should not be those of the Spanish constitution — which is based on the indissoluble unity of Spain.

'Political will'

Given the lack of trust, he also called for a "mechanism" to ensure the compliance and monitoring of any agreements reached.

Although Puigdemont said this tool would be "essential" from the beginning of negotiations, he did not provide specific details or clarify whether an external mediator or supervisor was under consideration.

None of these preconditions is contrary to the Spanish constitution or European treaties, he said. "They only depend on political will."

While he did not seek a guarantee for a referendum as a precondition for talks, Puigdemont called for recognition and respect towards "the democratic legitimacy of independence" in Catalonia — pointing out that he would continue advocating for the right of Catalonia to choose its own future.

"What is decisive is the national recognition of Catalonia, and therefore of its right to self-determination. The Catalan people have the right (…) to become an independent state in the form of a republic," he said.

"Only a referendum agreed with the Spanish state could replace the political mandate of 1 October [2017], as we have emphasised for years," he added.

Tuesday's press conference came 24 hours after Puigdemont held a meeting with Spain's deputy prime minister, the head of the leftist Sumar party, Yolanda Díaz.

"This new legislative term must be the one that definitively leaves behind the fractures wrought in 2017," Sanchez said on Monday, advocating for dialogue as the best solution in the defence of plurality in the country.

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