Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont issued a stinging attack against the European Union on Tuesday, attacking them for their support for Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy who has brought the unruly region back under direct rule from Madrid.
Addressing a gathering of 200 pro-independence Catalan mayors in Brussels who had flown there to show their support for their exiled leader, Mr Puigdemont asked “Will you accept the result of the Catalan referendum or will you continue to help Mr Rajoy in his coup d’etat?”
Mr Puigdemont was granted bail by a Brussels judge on Sunday from the European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain that had called for his arrest on charges of rebellion and sedition, charges that could see him spend up to 30 years in jail. He is fighting extradition to Spain.
The secession crisis kicked off when Catalan leaders held an independence referendum on October 1 despite a court ban. Regional authorities said 90 percent opted to break away from Spain, though less than half of eligible voters turned out in a region deeply divided over independence.
The unregulated referendum was also repressed by police trying to stop people from voting.
Then on October 27, Madrid took direct control of the once semi-autonomous region after the Catalan parliament declared independence, dismissed regional leaders and called elections for December 21.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Puigdemont called for pro-independence parties to unite for the vote.
“We have no option but to go all in together,” he told Catalan radio.
The crisis has deeply divided Catalans and seen more than 2,000 businesses move their headquarters out of the wealthy region, home to 7.5 million people.
Mr Puigdemont has said he is prepared to run as a candidate on December 21, but it is far from clear whether or not he will even be in the country by then.
In the region's last elections in 2015, the ‘Together For Yes’ coalition – composed of left-wing party ERC and Mr Puigdemont's conservative PDeCAT – delivered a majority with 72 seats out of the 135-seat parliament, aided by their smaller ally, the far-left CUP party.
Although parties still have until later this month to officially register on electoral lists, politicians in Madrid will watch closely for any possible cracks in the pro-independence front.