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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Catalan parliament proposes exiled Puigdemont as leader after Spain fails to reissue arrest warrant

Mr Puigdemont left Belgium for Denmark on Monday where he took part in a debate at the University of Copenhagen

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrived in Copenhagen, defying a threat by Madrid to issue a warrant for his arrest if he leaves Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid. Jonathan Nackstrand/ AFP Photo
Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrived in Copenhagen, defying a threat by Madrid to issue a warrant for his arrest if he leaves Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid. Jonathan Nackstrand/ AFP Photo

Carles Puigdemont was named as the sole candidate for leader of the Catalan parliament on Monday in a move which could deepen further the split between Barcelona and Madrid.

Mr Puigdemont, who fled to Brussels in October after the failed bid for Catalan independence, heard the news from Denmark where he took part in a debate at the University of Copenhagen.

It is the first time he has left Belgium since fleeing Spain about 80 days ago.

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Read more:

Catalan separatists join to re-elect ousted Puigdemont as leader

Former Catalan president presses his case for a return to power

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The former Catalan president had been warned before he left Belgium that Spain would try to extradite him again if he stepped foot in another country.

However, Spain’s supreme court rejected prosecutors’ request to re-issue a European warrant, on charges of sedition and rebellion, for his arrest on Monday.

Judge Pablo Llarena said the request was "reasonable” but refused to grant it, arguing it was important to wait until constitutional order had been restored in Catalonia.

Mr Puigdemont became the top choice to regain his position as Catalonia’s leader this month, after a deal was struck between the main separatist parties, who won a majority in December’s regional election.

"I confirm that the only candidate that has been proposed is Mr Carles Puigdemont," said Roger Torrent, the Catalan parliament's newly-elected separatist speaker.

Mr Torrent said he was “conscious of the warnings that weigh upon him, but I am also conscious of his absolute legitimacy to be candidate”.

He called for a meeting with Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy in a bid to reach a resolution to the situation.

Mr Rajoy has maintained that if Mr Puigdemont is re-elected as regional leader when the Catalan parliament votes on January 31, he will not be permitted to govern from abroad.

However, Mr Puigdemont has raised the possibility that he would be able to govern via video link.

In his address at the University of Copenhagen, he said that the EU showed “failures” in the face of crises both inside and outside its borders.

“The EU has been a success in promoting freedom, democracy, prosperity and welfare on our continent,” Mr Puigdemont said. “However, we’re all aware of each failure every time there is a crisis.

“We saw it in Greece, we saw it in Ukraine, we saw it with the refugees and now we see it with the failure to defend the fundamental rights in Catalonia.”

According to the former leader “Catalan citizens see great concerns on some developments happening around EU institutions.

“We are of course pro-Europeans but we cannot close our eyes for each failure, we want more integration but only if it leads to more democracy and a uniformed application of the EU law in all member states.”