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World

AFP
November 14, 2017

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‘Independence not only solution to crisis’

‘Independence not only solution to crisis’

BRUSSELS: The deposed leader of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont said on Monday that there could be solutions to Spain’s political crisis other than independence for his region, insisting he was still open to "agreement" with Madrid.

"I’ve always been willing to accept the new reality of a different relationship with Spain," Puigdemont said in Brussels, where he travelled to after his government declared independence from Spain last month.

"It’s still possible. I’ve been pro-independence all my life, working for 30 years to secure a different way of integrating Catalonia within Spain. I’m still for an agreement," the former leader told Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper.

Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis in decades when Catalan lawmakers voted to split from Madrid following a banned referendum in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1.

The central government hit back, revoking the region’s autonomous powers, sacking its parliament and Puigdemont’s government, and calling fresh regional elections for December 21. The crisis has caused deep distress in the European Union as it comes to terms with Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc.

It has also sent business confidence plunging in Catalonia -- home to 7.5 million people and accounting for a fifth of Spain’s GDP -- with more than 2,400 firms re-registering their headquarters outside the region. Puigdemont says he wants to run as a candidate in the regional election but his PDeCAT party is lagging far behind another pro-independence group in polling. The leftist ERC -- whose leader was Puigdemont’s deputy -- said last week it would not allow its candidates to run on the same ticket as PDeCAT.

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