The Council for the Republic, an organisation working towards Catalan independence headed by exiled pro-independence leaders, was presented on December 8 in Brussels. The event was attended by Catalan president Quim Torra, as well as his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, currently exiled in Belgium.

Puigdemont spoke at the event and said that without unity, the Catalan pro-independence movement will lose “moral authority.” Inasmuch, the former president deposed by Article 155 defended the Council as a tool to “conjure strategic unity.” “There’s a call for unity running through Catalonia,” said Puigdemont, “and we should listen to it.”

Unity

“There’s a call for unity running through Catalonia,” said Puigdemont, “and we should listen to it.” The former president also asked for citizens to support the council to achieve “the hardest goal of all: for the Catalan state to be recognized,” which he deemed as “one of the great objectives” of the organization, which he posited “will go further than institutions were able to go.”

“Today, in the European Union, there are six countries with fewer inhabitants than the number of Catalans who voted ‘yes’ during the October 1 referendum,” said Puigdemont, who further urged the audience that it is necessary to “be many and to persist, without fear.”

“We Catalans, we’ve lost our fear,” said Catalan president Quim Torra, who also participated. “You all have lost your fear, those in prison have lost their fear, and we citizens of Catalonia have lost our fear,” proclaimed Torra, adding that “there’s no going back in the road to freedom.”

The Slovenian example

The Catalan president compared Catalonia to Slovenia, praising their tacticts. “Slovenians knew what they wanted, they decided to self-determinate and go forward with all the conequences that came with it until they achieved this, let’s do it like they did.” Torra just finished a trip to Slovenia, during which time he met the president, speaker of the house, and various high-ranking officials.

Among the exiled pro-independence figures in attendance were former cabinet members Toni Comín (fomer minister of health), Clara Ponsatí (former minister of education), Lluís Puig (former minister of culture), and Meritxell Serret (minister of agriculture).

Comín, Puig and Serret currently reside in Belgium, while Ponsatí is in Scotland. All left Spain after the previous government was deposed and parliament dissolved following a declaration of independence.

Other officials present at the act included members of the government such as vice president Pere Aragonès, and ministers Jordi Puigneró, Josep Bargalló, Damià Calvet and Laura Borràs, as well as MPs for pro-independence ERC and JxCat parties and civil society representatives. Members of the far-left CUP party did not attend as they do accept the Council for the Republic.

Llach & Valtònyc

The event also saw the performance of artists who have stood behind the independence movement, including singer-songwriter Lluís Llach, and exiled rapper Valtonyc, who is in Belgium facing an extradition order, where he went following a prison sentence in Spain.

The rapper, born in Mallorca, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison last spring after being found guilty of glorifying terrorism, slander, and defamation of the crown in some of his songs’ lyrics. The rapper’s next hearing in Ghent will be at the end of January.

The Council for the Republic was expected to be settled earlier, but with Puigdemont in Germany with an extradition case pending when Torra was sworn in, it was delayed until now. The Catalan government made clear on Tuesday afternoon that the group is private and will have no public funding, although it will “interact” with the executive.

The Council for the Republic, presented at the KVS Flemish Theater in Belgium, has also previously been presented in Barcelona on October 30. At that time and again on Saturday, the organization was criticized by unionist Ciutadans (Cs) party, which stated today that in creating it, Torra is “forgetting” about the “real” problems Catalans face.