Ousted Catalan leader praises Swiss model ahead of Geneva visit

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected] • 15 Mar, 2018 Updated Thu 15 Mar 2018 08:04 CEST
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Catalonia's deposed leader said on Wednesday that a majority of Catalans might accept being part of a Swiss-style federal system in Spain, an apparent departure from the separatist bid for full independence.

"If Spain proposes a model like the one in Switzerland, I think that would be an idea we could work with and perhaps an idea that could convince the majority of Catalans," Carles Puigdemont said in an interview with Swiss public broadcaster RTS.

Switzerland is split into cantons or federal states that enjoy significant autonomy and independence.

And Puigdemont said that if Spain were organised along such lines, "there would be none of the problems there that we are seeing now."

Read also: Ten things you need to know about the Swiss political system

Puigdemont is heading to Switzerland this weekend to participate in the 2018 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva.

He has been in Belgium since he sought exile there after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on October 27th following a banned referendum on secession.

He faces arrest if he returns to Spain.

Puigdemont suggested that if Madrid were willing to shed its intransigence, it could be possible to create an autonomous Catalonia within the Spanish state.

"I think that the majority of Catalonian separatists have shown over the course of the past 40 years that they are capable of working within an autonomous framework," he said.

'Legitimate president'

The 55-year-old earlier this month formally abandoned his bid to be re-appointed Catalan president, proposing imprisoned Jordi Sanchez as a candidate.

But in the interview, he did not fully relinquish his claim to lead Catalonia.

"I was elected the president of the government, which was illegally pushed from power. I am still the legitimate president," he said.

Authorities in Bern said they had "taken note" of Puigdemont's intended visit.

"The Swiss and Spanish authorities are in contact... As a Spanish citizen, Mr Puigdemont is entitled to travel freely within the Schengen area. He is also at liberty to give political speeches with due respect for the Swiss legal system," a foreign ministry statement said.

The question of Catalonia was "an internal matter for Spain," the statement said.

In February, Anna Gabriel , a former regional deputy with Catalonia's far-left CUP party – a member of the ousted coalition government in the region headed up by Puigdemont – went into self-imposed exile in Switzerland to avoid prison.



AFP/The Local 2018/03/15 08:04

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