Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

  • Belgian police estimated 45,000 attended the march (Photo: EUobserver)

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont led a demonstration of some 45,000 people in Brussels with appeals to the European Commission for support in mediating their cause.

The march on Thursday (7 December) follows a tense stand-off between Puigdemont and Madrid over his bid to separate Catalonia from Spain and comes ahead of a regional Catalan election later this month.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Addressing both the crowds and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker by name, Puigdemont said "Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis".

Pro-Catalan independence supporters have felt slighted by a commission that has tacitly backed Madrid's hold on one of Spain's wealthiest regions.

Spain says Catalan's independence bid is a violation of the Spanish constitution. A show of force in October saw Spanish police beat referendum voters in footage that was widely condemned.

Puigdemont said the display of public solidarity by tens of thousands of people on Thursday demonstrates the legitimate rights of democrats.

"Is there any place in the world that holds demonstrations like this to support 'criminals'?" he said, in reference to an imprisoned Catalan leadership in Spain.

Puigdemont along with four other Catalan ministers had fled to Brussels to escape the Spanish justice system. Spain had also issued a European warrant for his arrest, which was recently rescinded.

Puigdemont intends to run in the upcoming regional elections but plans to remain in Belgium for the moment.

He is likely to get arrested upon his return to Spain. The independence movement views Brussels as an important platform for its cause.

TV restrictions

But images of the march are unlikely to reach some of the Catalan public back home, given an order by Madrid to impose public television and radio restrictions.

The Spanish government had activated an article in the constitution that limits Catalan public media exposure of the movement until the 21 December elections.

Frans Timmermans, the EU commission vice-president, told reporters on Thursday that people have a right to demonstrate but noted that not everyone supports the Catalan position.

"It is not really a one-way protest, if we take into the account what we have seen in the streets of Barcelona in recent months," he said.

He noted that any citizen has a right to organise in an effort to express a political ambition or hope.

"What is not permissible in a country - where there is a rule of law - is to ignore the law," he said.

EU urges Spanish and Catalan leaders to talk

MEPs and the European Commission have called on Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont to "sit together" and find a way out of the crisis over the push for the region's independence, and ruled out any mediation.

Let Puigdemont fight elections, Nobel winner says

Spain should allow Catalonia's deposed political leaders to return freely home and participate in the upcoming December elections, Finnish former president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Martti Ahtisaari, has advised.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us