Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has gone to Brussels this Monday where he has held meetings with a number of Flemish politicians. Catalan government sources have confirmed to El Nacional that a delegation of ministers, headed by the president, are in Brussels, "met in a safe and discrete place". The Spanish government has also confirmed the reports. The other ministers in the Belgian capital are reported to be Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn, Meritxell Borràs, Toni Comín and Meritxell Serret respectively Work and Families, Interior, Governance, Health and Agriculture ministers.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Puigdemont will appear in Brussels to explain the reasons for the trip. Some media outlets suggest that the president might request political asylum.
Puigdemont's journey, first reported by El Periódico, coincides with the Public Prosecutors' Office announcing two lawsuits, one against the president and government, the other against the Board of the Catalan Parliament. They are charged with crimes of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public funds. According to El Periódico, the president and ministers first went to Marseilles by car, before catching a flight to the Belgian capital.
The journey also comes shortly after a diplomatic dispute between Belgium and the Spanish state over statements by the Belgian Immigration minister, Theo Francken, who suggested on Sunday that his country might grant political asylum to president Puigdemont, if this was so requested given the possibility he might not receive "a fair trial" if arrested after the proclamation of the Catalan Republic.
Contacts with the New Flemish Alliance
Puigdemont's visit to the Belgian capital is reported to have been for meetings with leaders of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance), Francken's party, currently the largest party in the coalition government in the Flemish Parliament.
Yesterday, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel asked for Francken to not "add more wood to the fire" after he didn't discount the possibility of offering political asylum to Puigdemont.
Francken, a Flemish nationalist, said that the hypothetical granting of asylum "isn't unrealistic if you look at it" in an interview with Belgian channel VTM. "They are already talking about a prison sentence. The question is to what extent he would get a fair trial," he added.
Farewell to Altafaj
The trip also coincides with the Catalan government's permanent representative to the EU, Amadeu Altafaj, saying farewell, having been removed by the Spanish government on Saturday. This Monday he left his office in Brussels, saying it was a "sad moment", but also praising the work carried out and being carried out by the teams entrusted with European affairs.