Carles Puigdemont

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The Right Honourable
Carles Puigdemont
MP
Retrat oficial del President Carles Puigdemont cropped.jpg
Puigdemont in 2016
130th President of the Government of Catalonia
In office
11 January 2016 – 27 October 2017
Monarch Felipe VI
Vice President Oriol Junqueras
Preceded by Artur Mas
Succeeded by Direct rule
(Quim Torra from 15 May 2018)
Member of the Parliament of Catalonia
for the Province of Barcelona
In office
17 January 2018 – 10 July 2018 (suspended)
Member of the Parliament of Catalonia
for the Province of Girona
In office
10 November 2006 – 27 October 2017
Mayor of Girona
In office
1 July 2011 – 11 January 2016
Preceded by Anna Pagans (ca; es)
Succeeded by Albert Ballesta i Tura (ca)
Member of the Municipality Council of Girona
In office
11 June 2007 – 11 January 2016
Personal details
Born Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó
(1962-12-29) 29 December 1962 (age 55)
Amer, Catalonia, Spain
Political party Catalan European Democratic Party
Other political
affiliations
Junts per Catalunya
Spouse(s) Marcela Topor (m. 2000)
Children 2
Residence Girona / Germany
Occupation Journalist
Signature
Website Carles Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó (Catalan: [ˈkarɫəs ˌpudʒðəˈmon i kazəməˈʒo] (About this sound listen);[a], born 29 December 1962 in Amer, Girona) is a Catalan politician and journalist from Spain. A former Mayor of Girona, Puigdemont served as President of the Government of Catalonia from January 2016 to October 2017 when he was removed from office by the Spanish Government following the unilateral Catalan declaration of independence.[1] He is chair of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) and leader of the Junts per Catalunya (JuntsxCat) electoral alliance.

Puigdemont came from a family of bakers. After education in Amer and Girona, he became a journalist in 1982, writing for various local publications and becoming editor-in-chief of El Punt. He was director of the Catalan News Agency from 1999 to 2002 and director of Girona's House of Culture from 2002 to 2004.

Puigdemont's family were supporters of Catalan independence and Puigdemont became involved in politics as a teenager, joining the nationalist Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), the predecessor to the PDeCAT, in 1980. He gave up journalism to pursue a career in politics in 2006 when he was elected as a member of the Parliament of Catalonia for the constituency of Girona. He was elected to the Municipality Council of Girona in 2007 and in 2011 he became Mayor of Girona. On 10 January 2016, following an agreement between the Junts pel Sí (JxSí), an electoral alliance led by the CDC, and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), the Parliament of Catalonia elected Puigdemont as the 130th[2] President of Catalonia.

On 6-7 September 2017, he approved laws for permitting an independence referendum, and the juridical transition and foundation of a Republic, a new constitution for Catalonia that would be in place if the referendum supported independence. On 1 October 2017, the Catalan independence referendum was held in Catalonia despite Spain's Constitutional Court ruling that it breached the Spanish constitution. 92% supported independence though turnout was 43% due to a boycott by opponents of secessionism, even there were no warranties on the actual counting. The Catalan Parliament declared independence on 27 October 2017 which resulted in the Spanish government imposing direct rule on Catalonia, dismissing Puigdemont and the Catalan government. The Catalan Parliament was dissolved and the Catalan regional election, 2017 was held. On 30 October 2017 charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds were brought against Puigdemont and other members of the Puigdemont Government. Puigdemont, along with others, fled to Belgium and European Arrest Warrants (EAW) were issued against them. At the regional elections held on 21 December 2017 Puigdemont was re-elected to Parliament and Catalan secessionists retained a slim majority. Official results shown an actual support for independence of 47,6% versus a 43,5% that voted constitutionalist parties, the rest being non-aligned parties and blank votes. Puigdemont called for fresh talks with the then Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy but these were rejected.

Puigdemont remained in Belgium to avoid arrest if he returned to Spain, with this situation being defined as exile by some, self-imposed exile by some others, and also as fugitive from justice.[3][4][5][6][7] On 25 March 2018, he was detained by a highway patrol in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. He was released on bail, with the court deciding he could not be extradited for "rebellion"[8][9][10] as German law does not coincide with Spanish law on this point, an EAW requirement. On 10 July, 2018 a Supreme Court judge suspended him as a deputy in the Catalan parliament.[11] On 12 July 2018 a German court decided that he could be extradited back to Spain for misuse of public funds.[12]

Early life and family

Puigdemont (right) as a child with his elder brother

Puigdemont was born on 29 December 1962 in Amer, a small mountain village in the Province of Girona in north-eastern Catalonia.[13][14] The son of Francesc Xavier Puigdemont i Oliveras, a baker, and his wife Núria Casamajó i Ruiz, he is the second of eight brothers.[14][15] Puigdemont's grandfather, who fought in the Spanish Civil War before fleeing to France, founded the Pastisseria Puigdemont in 1928.[16][17][18] The Puigdemont family still own the bakery located in Amer's main square.[19] Puigdemont's great-grandfather and his uncle Josep Puigdemont were mayors of Amer and were supporters of Catalan independence, as was Puigdemont's father Xavier.[17]

Puigdemont received basic education in Amer before, aged nine, he was sent to study at the Church-run Santa Maria del Collell boarding school in Girona where he was taught in Spanish and "learned to be a fighter".[14][20] At the age of 16 he was already a reporter for the Diari de Girona newspaper, writing articles on football and other news.

As a teenager Puigdemont attended political meetings with his uncle Josep and helped found the Nationalist Youth of Catalonia.[17] In 1980 he joined the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), a conservative Catalan nationalist political party, now known as the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT).[14]

After school Puigdemont joined the University College of Girona to study Catalan philology but dropped out to pursue a career in journalism.[15][17][20] In 1983, aged 21, Puigdemont was involved in a car accident which left him seriously injured and with a slight scar on his face.[15][17][21] It has been suggested that this explains his Beatle haircut but friends deny this.[15][17]

Journalism career

Puigdemont joined the El Punt, a pro-independence Catalan language newspaper, as a journalist in 1982.[14][17][21] He rose up the ranks to become the paper's editor-in-chief.[13] He also wrote a weekly column for the Presència magazine.[13][22] He is a member of the Catalan Journalists Association.

Beginning in 1988, Puigdemont started collecting references about Catalonia in the international press, material that resulted in the publication of the 1994 book Cata... què? Catalunya vista per la premsa internacional ("Cata...what? Catalonia as seen by the foreign press").[22][23] During the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona Puigdemont was a member of an organisation supporting Catalan nationalists detained as part of "Operation Garzón".

In the 1990s Puigdemont took a year off work to study linguistic policies elsewhere in Europe.[17] As a result, he started working on application of new technologies in the provision of news and founded the Catalan News Agency (ACN) which was established by the Generalitat de Catalunya in 1999.[13][17] Puigdemont also founded the Catalonia Today, an English language magazine.[13][24] Puigdemont was director of ACN until 2002, when the then-president of the Diputació de Girona, Carles Pàramo, offered him the position of director of the Girona cultural centre, the Casa de Cultura, a position he held until 2004.[22]

Political life

Protest against the trial of Artur Mas, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau on 6 February 2017

Puigdemont left journalism to devote himself fully to politics in 2006 when the Convergence and Union (CiU) electoral alliance invited him to a be a candidate for the Parliament of Catalonia.[25] Puigdemont contested the 2006 regional election as a CiU candidate in the Province of Girona and was elected.[26] He was re-elected at the 2010, 2012 and 2015 regional elections, the latter as a Junts pel Sí (JxSí) electoral alliance candidate.[27][28][29]

Puigdemont contested the 2007 local elections as a CiU candidate in Girona and was elected but the CiU remained in opposition.[30] At the 2011 local elections, in which Puigdemont we re-elected, the CiU ended the Socialists's 32-year rule in Girona.[13][31] Puigdemont became Mayor of Girona.[17][32] He was re-elected at the 2015 local elections.[33] He was a member of Executive Committee of the Association of Municipalities for Independence and in July 2015 succeeded Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal as its chair.[13][22][34]

Following a last-minute agreement between pro-Catalan independence parties Junts pel Sí and Popular Unity Candidacy to replace Artur Mas, Puigdemont was elected the 130th[verification needed] [13][22][35][36][37][38][39] President of Catalonia on 10 January 2016.[15][22][40][41] He resigned as Mayor of Girona on 11 January 2016 as no-one is allowed to be a regional president and a municipal mayor at the same time.[42] He was the first President of Catalonia to refuse to take the oath of loyalty to the Spanish constitution and the Spanish monarch.[13]

Constitutional crisis

Puigdemont addresses a crowd following the Catalan declaration of independence on 27 October 2017

In June 2017 Puigdemont announced that the Catalan independence referendum would be held on 1 October 2017.[43][44] The Catalan Parliament passed legislation on 6 September 2017 authorising the referendum which would be binding and based on a simple majority without a minimum threshold.[45][46] The following day Constitutional Court of Spain suspended the legislation, blocking the referendum.[47][48] The Spanish government put into effect Operation Anubis in order to disrupt the organisation of the referendum and arrested Catalan government officials.[49][50] Despite this the referendum went ahead though it was boycotted by opponents of secessionism[51] and turnout was only 43%.[52][53] Among those who voted 92% supported independence.[54][55] Around 900 people were injured as the Spanish police used violence to try to prevent voting in the referendum.[56][57][58]

On 27 October 2017 the Catalan Parliament declared independence in a vote boycotted by opposition MPs.[59][60] Almost immediately the Senate of Spain invoked article 155 of the constitution, dismissing Puigdemont and the Catalan government and imposing direct rule on Catalonia.[61][62] The following day Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan Parliament and called for fresh regional elections on 21 December 2017.[63][64] On 30 October 2017 Spanish Attorney General José Manuel Maza laid charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds at the Audiencia Nacional against Puigdemont and other members of the Catalan government.[65][66] The charges carry maximum sentences of 30, 15 and 6 years in prison respectively.[67]

Puigdemont and five other Catalan ministers (Dolors Bassa, Meritxell Borrás, Antoni Comín, Joaquim Forn and Meritxell Serret) arrived in Belgium on 30 October 2017.[68][69] According to Spanish media the group had driven to Marseille shortly after the charges were laid before the Audiencia Nacional and from there flown to Brussels.[70][71] Puigdemont claimed that he had gone to "the capital of Europe" to speak from a position of "freedom and safety" and that he would not return to Spain unless he was guaranteed a fair trial.[72][73][74] Earlier Belgium's Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification Theo Francken had stated that prospect of Puigdemont being granted asylum was "not unrealistic".[75][76]

Exile

Protest march in Barcelona in support of Puigdemont on 15 April 2018

On 3 November 2017 a Spanish judge issued European Arrest Warrants against Comín, Clara Ponsatí i Obiols, Lluís Puig, Puigdemont and Serret after they failed to attend a high court hearing in Madrid the previous day.[77][78][79] On 5 November 2017 the five politicians, accompanied by their lawyers, surrendered to the Belgian police but after a ten-hour hearing a Belgian judge released them all on bail.[80][81][82] They were ordered not to leave Belgium without permission and had to provide details of their accommodation.[83] On 5 December 2017 the Supreme Court of Spain withdrew the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Puigdemont and four others stating that EAW weren't valid for alleged crimes committed by a wider group of people, e.g. the Catalan government.[84][85] But judge Pablo Llarena warned that the national arrest warrants remain valid, meaning that the group risked arrest if they returned to Spain.[86][87]

Puigdemont attending a memorial for the bombing of Guernica in Berlin on 26 April 2018

While remaining self-exiled,[6][7] Puigdemont contested the 2017 regional election as a Junts per Catalunya (JuntsxCat) electoral alliance candidate in the Province of Barcelona and was re-elected to Parliament.[88] At the election Catalan secessionists retained a slim majority in the Catalan Parliament.[89][90] After the election Puigdemont called for new unconditional talks with the Spanish government and that he was willing to meet Rajoy outside of Spain.[91][92] Rajoy rejected the offer, saying that he was only willing to speak with the leader of the Catalan government, whom he considered to be Inés Arrimadas, leader of the unionist Citizens, the largest single party in the Catalan Parliament.[93][94]

On 1 March 2018, Puigdemont was hoping to be selected by the Catalan Parliament as President of Catalonia again, but the Catalan Parliament heeded warnings from Spain’s judiciary and postponed the session in which Puigdemont could be selected. Subsequently Puigdemont announced that he was no longer seeking re-election as leader of Catalonia.[95][96] Later he announced the creation of a government-in-exile organization named "Council of the Republic".[97][98]

On 25 March 2018, while returning to Brussels from a trip to Finland, Puigdemont was stopped near the Danish border with Germany and arrested pursuant to the European warrant that had been reissued against him two days previously.[99][100][101] On 5 April 2018, the Oberlandesgericht in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein ruled that Puigdemont would not be extradited on the charges of rebellion,[102] and released him on bail.[103][104] The court confirmed that Puigdemont may still be extradited based on charges of corruption.[103] According to that decision, Puigdemont must report to police once a week and isn't allowed to leave Germany without permission of the public prosecutor. Now it is up to the public prosecutor to go ahead and to give further details for the charge of corruption or close the case.[105]

After his release, Puigdemont called on Spain’s government to release Catalan separatists from imprisonment and establish a dialog with them. [106]

On 12 July 2018 the higher court in Schleswig-Holstein decided that Puigdemont could be extradited back to Spain to face charges of misuse of public funds. Piugdemont's legal team said they would appeal any decision to extradite him.[107]

Personal life

President Puigdemont walking through Barcelona with his daughters on Saint George's Day

Puigdemont married Romanian journalist Marcela Topor in 2000.[22][108] They have two daughters, Magali and Maria, and live in Girona.[24][108] He speaks Catalan, English, French, Romanian and Spanish.[17][21] Puigdemont is a supporter of Girona FC and FC Barcelona and plays rock guitar and the electric piano.[22][109][110] As a youngster Puigdemont played bass in a short-lived Catalan rock band formed about 1980.[110]

On 2 February 2018, the Belgian commune of Waterloo confirmed that he had rented a villa and planned to establish his official residence there.[111]

Electoral history

President Puigdemont, Prime Minister Rajoy and King Felipe attending the Barcelona rally in response to terror attacks in August 2017
Electoral history of Carles Puigdemont
Election Constituency Party Alliance No. Result
2006 regional[26] Province of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 6 Elected
2007 local[30] Municipality of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 1 Elected
2010 regional[27] Province of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 6 Elected
2011 local[31] Municipality of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 1 Elected
2012 regional[28] Province of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 3 Elected
2015 local[33] Municipality of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Convergence and Union 1 Elected
2015 regional[29] Province of Girona Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Junts pel Sí 3 Elected
2017 regional[88] Province of Barcelona Catalan European Democratic Party Junts per Catalunya 1 Elected

Notes

References

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External links

  • Catalan Parliament profile (archive)
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Govern de la República
  • Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó on Facebook
  • Carles Puigdemont on Twitter
Political offices
Preceded by
Anna Pagans
Mayor of Girona
2011–2016
Succeeded by
Albert Ballesta
Preceded by
Artur Mas
President of the Government of Catalonia
2016–2017
Succeeded by
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría
as Minister for Territorial Administrations
Party political offices
Preceded by
Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal
President of the Association of Municipalities for Independence
2015–2016
Succeeded by
Josep Andreu
New office Chair of the Catalan European Democratic Party
2017–present
Incumbent
Leader of Together for Catalonia
2017–present


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