Deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been freed on bail by a German court where judges have ruled out considering Spain’s extradition request over “sedition” and “rebellion” as German judges have found Puigdemont to have never engaged in nor promoted violence during his time in office where he declared Catalonia a sovereign republic.
While the court has rejected Spain’s’ immediate extradition request, German judges will consider whether extradition is appropriate concerning allegations that Puigdemont misused public funds. Critics of Spain content that all of the charges levelled against Puigdemont are political in nature and are being used as tools to persecute the individual who became the most visible symbol of Catalonia’s drive for independence in 2017.
While today’s move is seen as a boost to Puigdemont’s position, the German court also ruled that they do not believe that he would be subject to political persecution in Spain, which contradicts Puigdemont’s statements and those of his supporters, many of whom have been jailed by Spanish authorities.
The safety of Carles Puigdemont is no longer just a Catalan and Spanish issue, it is now a pan-European issue and Europe has failed from every perspective. No one in Europe could have be forced to take sides on the question of Catalan independence, even though the Catalan independence movement was and remains pro-European in its outlook. But by failing to condemn Spain for disallowing what at minimum could be termed a return to normalcy, the EU has abrogated its own duty to ensure the rights of peaceful protesters and the autonomy of non-violent political movements throughout the Union.
If Puigdemont is not given his freedom, which includes his freedom to travel to Barcelona unmolested, the EU will have capitulated to the most anti-democratic tendencies of one of its constituent members. Spain’s approach to the Catalan question means that the issue has gone from one of black and white to one where Catalan leaders will likely attempt to negotiate enhanced autonomy, seeing as there is little international support for independence. In other words, an issue that burnt brightly just months ago, has reverted to a kind of frozen conflict that can be most easily settled through direct talks between Barcelona’s independence factions and Madrid. Such talks would ideally be mediated by EU officials, except for the fact that at present, the EU has arrogantly washed its hands of one of the most pressing issues that the Union has faced since the 2007/2008 banking crisis.
The EU owes it to its citizens to see that Carles Puigdemont is treated with dignity as a man whose position in Spain is controversial, but one that is not violent. This is especially ironic as major EU powers backed the violent terrorist campaigns against the integrity of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, while many, particularly in Germany are sympathetic to Kurdish secessionist terrorist groups in Turkey, most notably the PKK. So while Germany supported the blood-soaked KLA in Yugoslavia and the blood-soaked PKK in Turkey, the largest state in the EU has seen fit to treat Carles Puigdemont like a menace, when even if one disagrees with his politics and his methods, no one could argue that he poses a danger to the life of anyone, anywhere.
Once again, the EU has let itself down at a moment when it could have served as an example for how to manage what ultimately is a political movement that renounces all forms of violence.