The president of the Crans Montana Forum, Jean-Paul Carteron, said that it’s “inadmissible” for the European Union to have “political prisoners and refugees” in the 21st century, in reference to Puigdemont and his pro-independence colleagues jailed in Spain.

Carteron, founder of the Ambassadors Circle in Paris, praised Puigdemont and said he was being “persecuted for his ideas” as the former Catalan president “had not killed anyone.”

According to the head of the forum, he received several emails the night before from people who “didn’t like” Puigdemont speaking there. Yet, Carteron stressed that he is a citizen in “a free country called Switzerland.”

World leaders

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont attended the Crans Montana Forum in Geneva on Thursday, where he met world leaders, such as the presidents of Armenia, Bangladesh, and Lesotho. Puigdemont addressed the audience at noon to explain the political situation in Catalonia and its impact on European Union security.

“It’s time to vindicate the right to self-determination as a tool for peace that allows us to prevent conflicts” said Puigdemont.

Puigdemont was the head of the Catalan government a year ago, when a referendum on independence was held despite Spain’s opposition. Accused of violent rebellion, he left the country alleging he did not trust Spanish courts to offer him a fair trial. Currently based in Waterloo, Belgium, he has become Catalonia’s most well-known politician internationally.

Respect and recognition

“It’s not fair that only those countries that started wars and killed each other can have the right [to self-determination] recognized” said Puigdemont, and added that it’s those countries that are committed to exercising self-determination in a “democratic, non-violent, inclusive and peaceful way” that should be “respected and recognized” by the international community.

Attendees also include ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Solomon Islands, as well as the former president of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic.