Catalan former leader forms new party a year after independence bid

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2017 Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (C) sings the Catalan anthem "Els Segadors" after a session of the Catalan parliament that approved a motion declaring independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 28 October 2018
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Catalan former leader forms new party a year after independence bid

  • The trial of 18 former Catalan leaders over their role in the separatist push, expected to start in early 2019, helps to keep the separatist camp mobilized

BARCELONA: A year after threatening the unity of Spain with an attempt to declare independence, the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont launched a new party on Saturday, as he tries to rally separatists from his base in Belgium.
The new group, named “The Call,” held a founding congress Saturday evening, marking the one year anniversary of the secession push, but it has struggled to attract a groundswell of support, with some allies languishing in Spanish jails and others choosing a more moderate political path.
The meeting of Puigdemont’s new party was held in the pro-independence town of Manresa, in the center of Catalonia, near to the prison where independence leaders are being held.
“A year ago we decided that we would continue the fight, whatever the conditions and circumstances, and that we would commit ourselves to building a better country, a republic,” said Puigdemont said in Brussels of the new party.
In a speech relayed on a giant screen to his supporters, he alluded to divisions within the separatist camp, insisting on “moving forward united” rather than apportioning blame.
However many of his former allies who have adopted more moderate and pragmatic positions have refused to join the new party.
The current Catalan leader Quim Torra, in a somber televised address to mark the October 27, 2017 declaration of independence said “the year that separates us from this historic date did not unfold as we wished” but added that “turning back is not an option.”
The independence declaration threw Spain into political turmoil, with the central government ousting Puigdemont, who then fled to Belgium, dissolving parliament and imposing direct control over the wealthy northeastern region.
Snap polls in December saw separatist parties once again win an absolute majority in the regional parliament.
But Torra, who regularly seeks counsel from Puigdemont, presides over a Catalan government divided between those who back disobedience to advance the cause of independence and those who favor dialogue with new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
The trial of 18 former Catalan leaders over their role in the separatist push, expected to start in early 2019, helps to keep the separatist camp mobilized.

Several dozen activists from the powerful grassroots separatist organization ANC, which has previously staged massive pro-independence street protests in Barcelona, gathered at the city’s regional administration offices in the rain on Saturday to demand the official publication of the independence declaration.
“This anniversary is quite bittersweet, a day of great hope that did not materialize,” said ANC president Elizenda Paluzie.
Later, more radical elements rallied in front of the regional government building, berating Torra for his cautious approach But their numbers never swelled beyond 200.
Their slogan: “One year of relinquishment, one year of submission, that is enough!“
Madrid continues to refuse to allow any referendum on self-determination in Catalonia, despite Sanchez’s reliance on Catalan separatist parties to pass legislation.
This has helped further fracture the independence movement.
Puigdemont is due to present a “Council of the Republic” — a sort of Catalan government in exile in Belgium — in the coming days aiming to rally support for a continued independence push.
“We are not talking about a dream, we are talking about a reality, we are talking about the Catalan Republic,” says a TV clip for the new party.


Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

Updated 27 June 2019
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Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

  • The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event
  • Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday suffered another episode of uncontrolled trembling, a week after a similar incident that sparked questions about her health.
The latest lapse came hours before Merkel was due to board a plane for the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
The German leader began to tremble as she stood next to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was giving a speech at a ceremony to formally appoint a new justice minister.
The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event.
Merkel folded her arms visibly in a bid to stop the trembling.
She only finally brought it under control once she was able to take a few steps.
She was offered a glass of water but turned it down.
Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day.
Despite the latest incident, a German government spokesman said Merkel would not be canceling any appointments on Thursday and Friday.
“The chancellor is well,” he said, adding that she will be flying as planned to Osaka for the G20 summit.
Merkel, frequently called the European Union’s most influential leader and the most powerful woman in the world, turns 65 next month.
She has said she will leave politics at the end of her term, in 2021.
There were brief concerns about her health in 2014 when she was taken ill during a television interview. The broadcast was briefly interrupted when she experienced a drop in blood pressure.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert explained at the time the leader did not feel well for a moment, then ate and drank something and continued the interview.