Carles Puigdemont hadn't given a press conference in Catalonia since campaigning for the December 2017 Catalan Parliament election. This Monday, however, he did so again via videolink from Brussels, with a yellow ribbon and presidential badge on his lapel. It was a homecoming in more ways than one: at the start of the press conference, Puigdemont congratulated organising news agency ACN on its twentieth birthday this year as the journalist running proceedings from Barcelona noted the former president was the agency's first editor.
Then it was straight to business, and an important announcement. Asked whether he would leave his seat in the Catalan Parliament if elected an MEP later this month, he said he would, arguing that "I see it as a continuation of a responsibility that we accepted when we arrived into exile". That responsibility, in his own words, comprises "not staying quiet, moving, traveling, meeting with political leaders and the media and I'll continue to do so". It also means he has to abandon any hope of being restored to the presidency.
That said, he said he's "never renounced being president" but that "everyone knows that they've blocked it and continue to block it", "they" being the Spanish state which has set up "a wall of legal engineering". On the other hand, he "has no interest in being candidate in an election to the Parliament of Catalonia". He says standing as an MEP is an opportunity to not remain in the situation of being unable to do anything.
The Iceta question
This Thursday, the Catalan Parliament is to vote on whether or not to send Miquel Iceta (PSC) to the Spanish Senate. The numbers mean it's in the hands of the pro-independence parties. If they vote no, he won't be a senator; he's already been tapped by acting PM Pedro Sánchez to be the upper chamber's speaker. Iceta called for ERC and JxCat to vote for him out of parliamentary courtesy.
Puigdemont noted that he has been suspended as a deputy so cannot vote and that Iceta was one of those who supported blocking him in the Parliament. "PSC has the right to have a senator, that's not in question", the president noted, but he left it up to the parliamentary party to decide whether or not they would allow Iceta to be that senator. He did, however, criticise the role PSC's leader has played since the independence referendum and revealed that no one from that party had contacted him since he went into exile.
Plans for Europe
After its predecessor Convergència broke with the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), Junts per Catalunya will have to decide which group it will join, and will then need to be accepted by it. On that subject, Puigdemont said they'll "only be in a parliamentary group which defends the right to self-determination and which defends human rights", conditions which "exclude [ALDE] which has been hostile". He suggests a better fit would be the European Free Alliance (EFA), which their Catalan government colleagues ERC are in.