03:04 GMT07 July 2020
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    As Catalan's ex-President Carles Puigdemont launched an election campaign from exile in Belgium, he suggested that it is up to the voters to decide in the December regional elections whether the rebellious region should be a part of the EU in future.

    MADRID (Sputnik) – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday criticized the idea of dismissed Catalan government head Carles Puigdemont of holding a vote in the autonomous region on its status within the European Union.

    "It is absurd to claim that Catalonia will leave the European Union. The European Union is a region with the highest level of democracy, freedom, human rights, as well as the best region in terms of attention to population and its prosperity," Rajoy told journalists.

    In his recent interview with the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation Kan, Puigdemont criticized the European Union as an outdated organization. Responding to the repeated claims made by EU officials that Catalonia would remain out of the bloc if it left Spain, Puigdemont said that Catalans should be the ones to decide whether to stay within the European Union, which the ex-leader considered was "not sensitive to the abuse of human rights."

    READ MORE: Puigdemont is 'Moscow Spy Cipollino': Russian Pranksters Troll Spain's Minister

    Puigdemont was dismissed by Rajoy after the Catalonia declared independence following its October 1 referendum, during which the majority of Catalans backed the community's secession from Spain. The declaration led to Madrid invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which introduced direct governance by Spanish authorities in Catalonia, and to the dissolution of the regional parliament.

    The move has not been recognized by Puigdemont, who subsequently left the country for Belgium in late October. In early November, the Spanish authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Catalan politician and several of his supporters.

    READ MORE: Catalans Undecided on Support for Independence Bid — Poll

    After being detained in Brussels, Puigdemont was released on bail and is currently awaiting the decision of the Belgium court on whether to extradite him to Spain, where he faces charges of rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement. While the court ruling is due by December 4, the ousted Catalan president has started an election campaign for the snap Catalan parliamentary vote, slated for December 21.


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