During the debate on Catalonia at the Facullty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Prof. Marlene Wind asked Catalan politician Puigdemont if the rights of the approximately 50 percent of the Catalans who don’t favor separation from Spain weren’t being trampled in the rush to independence
by Rose Maramba
ESCAPE TO BELGIUM
Secessionist parties have been able to keep their absolute majority in the Catalan parliament following the late December snap election called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who hoped to restore peace and stability in the fractious region. As confirmed by Roger Torrent, speaker of the regional parliament, the leader of the secessionist Together for Yes coalition (now Together for Catalonia), Carles Puigdemont, fugitive from Spanish justice since his government was dissolved, will be the candidate of the secessionist parties for president of Catalonia when the regional parliament votes the new government into office this coming 31 January.
The Spanish government, by virtue of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, ousted the old Catalan government last October when the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence from Spain after the illegal referendum in which 90% of the voters chose to secede. Impressive. Except that less than 50% of the Catalan electorate showed up at the polls.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium in the wake of the illegal declaration. (Incidentally, no sovereign nation has recognized Catalonia’s independence.). He, along with some dozen consellers (ministers in the regional government), is accused by the Spanish government and courts of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds among other crimes relative to their declaration of independence. For which Puigdemont risks being arrested once he sets foot on Spanish soil.
DEBATE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN
Immediately after Puigdemont made it known that he will be a candidate for the presidency of the Catalan government, his team contacted the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Political Science to see if they were interested in setting up a public debate on Catalonia with the self-exiled leader.
From all appearances, the move and motivation were calculated: Puigdemont would be assured of a sympathetic audience which would consist mostly of a student body known to be supportive of the independence of the Faroese Island from Denmark. Hard to imagine Puigdemont didn’t factor the audience in.
Marlene Wind, professor at Copenhagen University and head of the Political Science Department as well as director of the university’s Center for European Politics, said: “We were asked for hospitality and we granted it, but we did not ask [Puigdemont] to come.”
On the fact that they were tough on Puigdemont during the debate, despite a sympathetic audience, Prof. Wind explained that “the University [of Copenhagem] must be a forum of debate, but if we hadn’t asked him difficult questions it would have been pure propaganda.”
Wind, who later talked with the media, asked Puigdemont whether democracy is just about referendums or if it is about upholding the rule of law too. Further, she asked if the rights of the approximately 50 percent of the Catalans, who reject separation from Spain, weren’t being trampled in the rush to independence.
In fact, Wind had a long list of incisive questions for the Catalan politician.
The debate on Catalonia proved unpropitious for Puigdemont’s designs, judging by Wind’s statements. In fact, the mainstream Spanish media say Puigdemont made a fool of himself in Copenhagen. The professor, who described the secessionist politician as “very skillful at presenting himself as a victim of the Rajoy government,” accused him of “creating a circus” in Denmark.
Puigdemont said during the debate that “We will not surrender to authoritarianism despite Madrid’s threats. . . Soon we will form a new government … It’s time to end their oppression and find a political solution for Catalonia.”
NO REISSUING OF ARREST WARRANT
Knowing Puigdement’s plan to leave Belgium for Denmark on 22 January (the debate was held on that day at 2 PM at the Faculty of Social Sciences, City Campus), Spanish prosecutors asked that a European arrest warrant be reissued so Puigdemont could be extradited from Copenhagen. However, Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena argued that the crafty Catalan politician had gone to Denmark “to provoke this arrest abroad” as part of a strategy to enhance his chances of being sworn in as president of Catalonia again.
Llarena turned down the request for a reissued warrant.
Back in the Fall, the Spanish High Court had issued an EU-wide arrest warrant for Puigdemont, but Belgium refused to enforce it.
>Featured image (Montage: Puigdemont in 2017, cropped; Marlene Wind in 2012)/Generalitat de Catalunya, CC BY2.0 via Flickr, and Ane Cecilie Blichfeldt, CC BY-SA2.5 via Wikimedia Commons respectively
> Spanish Constitution/Certes Constituyentes via Wikipedia, PD
> Center for Health and Society, University of Copenhagen/xiquinhosilva via Wikipedia, CC BY2.0
>Llarena/contrainformacion.es, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikipedia
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