BFF-75 Exiled Spanish Catalan leader seeks EU mediation

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Exiled Spanish Catalan leader seeks EU mediation

BRUSSELS, Sept 25, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The exiled former president of the
Spanish region of Catalonia wants Europe to step in to mediate an end to the
stand-off with Madrid, he told AFP Tuesday.

In a book on the crisis that forced him to flee a Spanish arrest warrant,
Carles Puigdemont suggests EU President Donald Tusk would fit the bill.

But, speaking to AFP after launching the book in the Belgian capital
Brussels, Puigdemont conceded he had not broached the idea with the former
Polish leader.

“I cite him simply because of the importance of his role, for his great
neutrality, as one possibility, not the only one,” the pro-independence
leader said.

Tusk, who heads the council of leaders of EU member states, criticised the
use of force to counter last year’s banned Catalonia independence referendum,
but has said Madrid is his only interlocutor.

His office on Tuesday reiterated that position, adding it had not been
“aware” of Puigdemont’s suggestion.

“President Tusk will, as he has said repeatedly before, continue his
approach with encouraging dialogue, avoiding the use of force and respecting
the rule of law,” the office said in a statement.

“The solution should be found within Spain and in full respect of Spain’s
constitution.”

The European Commission, the union’s executive arm, has always described
the crisis as an internal matter for Spain to resolve with its region.

Puigdemont’s former Catalan administration staged the independence vote
despite a Spanish court order banning it and a determined police operation.

He and some of his colleagues has since sought refuge in Belgium and a new
Catalan government has opened a tentative dialogue with Spain’s central
authorities.

In his book — “The Catalan Crisis: An Opportunity for Europe” — and in
his interview, Puigdemont called for “independent international mediation.”

He says his priority would be a negotiation with Spain to lead to a
“recognised referendum”, but says that otherwise October’s vote remains
legitimate.

Puigdemont still faces arrest in Spain and up to 25 years in prison if
convicted of “rebellion”. He lives in a villa in the Brussels suburb of
Waterloo.

“I’m not thinking of playing a future role,” he insists in his book. “I
just want to return to normal life and to live as freely as possible.”

BSS/AFP/MRI/2338 HRS