First summit meeting between the new Òmnium Cultural team and Catalan president in exile Carles Puigdemont, in Waterloo. This Friday, the incoming president of the leading Catalan pro-independence and cultural organization, Xavier Antich, paid his first visit to Puigdemont in Belgium, where he has been in exile since the Catalan independence process of autumn 2017. Antich was accompanied by the new vice-president of the organization, Mònica Terribas, and in addition to visiting the president, they also took the opportunity to meet with exiled Catalan government ministers Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig: "Our denunciation of Spanish state repression does not stop," the organization wrote in a series of tweets, which also made clear that Òmnium will always be at their side.
Antich also spoke about the meeting on his own social media accounts, saying that it was an honour to have met with Puigdemont: "It is an honour to meet president Carles Puigdemont for the first time, on behalf of the new board of Òmnium, when it is more necessary than ever to strengthen the defence of the language, the culture and the country. The resilience of exile is a source of collective pride," said Antich, who also posted a photo of himself with Puigdemont. He noted that it was a pleasure to meet Toni Comín "and exchange analysis on the country's challenges", while he was excited to meet Lluís Puig and Clara Ponsatí: "The strength of exile is and continues to be a lever for struggle. "
Antich's visit comes after he was elected president of Òmnium at the end of February, at the same time as much of the cultural entity's board was renewed. Thus, it's taken scarcely a month and a half since he took over the presidency for his first visit to the president displaced from power in 2017 by Spain's direct rule over Catalonia under Article 155. Once elected, Antich said in his first speech that the organization would be proactive but also sent a very clear message to the pro-independence leaders: new leadership is needed, and also a review of the whole strategy, because victory, the Catalan republic, has not yet been achieved. In that same speech, he also reflected on civil and political rights, affirming that the best way to defend them is to exercise them. At that point he made reference to Carles Puigdemont and the other exiles.
Two visits in six months
This is the second time in a relatively quick succession that Òmnium has visited the exile centre in Waterloo, the "House of the Republic". At the end of October last year, the then-president Jordi Cuixart also visited Puigdemont for the first time, holding a joint press conference and explaining that they had "conspired" to do it again, to do it together and not to give up until the Catalan republic was reached.
From there, Cuixart also acknowledged the enormous work of president Puigdemont, and highlighted the significance of exile: "We see it as essential to come here to reiterate the importance that exile continues to have in the internationalization of the conflict between Catalonia and the State." Puigdemont also thanked Cuixart for his visit, with his presence in an "iconic place for the independence struggle".