STRASBOURG, France – The deposed regional Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said on Monday the ongoing political crisis in Catalonia was a European issue.
Puidgement’s comments came as he arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to take his seat as an MEP.
“We are here today to prove that it is a European affair that has an impact on the foundations Europe is built on,” he told reporters.
The MEP for pro-Catalan independence party JxCat lamented that his former deputy Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the left-wing Catalan party ERC, was not accompanying him to the chamber.
“Someone’s missing. If the EU was really a space for freedom and rights, then Junqueras should be here with us.”
Junqueras, whose status as an MEP was withdrawn after a short-lived tug of war between EU and Spanish institutions, is serving a 13-year sentence for his role in the banned Catalan independence referendum in 2017.
Spain’s Supreme Court rules that Junqueras’ MEP status did not grant him immunity.
Nine others Catalan leaders were imprisoned in the same trial and Puidgemont, who is exiled in Belgium, faces a Spanish arrest warrant for charges of rebellion and sedition should he ever set foot in Spain.
The current Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, and the regional parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, met with Puigdemont.
“It’s important that the EU does not look the other way,” Puigdemont said.
“He (Junqueras) was voted for by more than a million people, but his freedoms are not respected at the same level as ours,” he added.
The leader of Spain’s conservative Popular Party in the European Parliament, Dolors Monserrat, petitioned the chamber’s president David Sassoli, to only start paying Puigdemont and fellow JxCat MEP Toni Comin from Jan. 7 onward, the date they officially gave up their seat in the Catalan regional chamber.
Puigdemont has been living in Belgium since charges were first brought against those involved in the abortive independence referendum of Oct. 1, 2017.