18:53 GMT29 March 2020
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) might field a candidate on the list of a Catalan party linked to Carles Puigdemont, in exchange for his participation in the European elections as a candidate from N-VA, a source close to Jan Jambon, the Belgian interior minister and a prominent member of the Flemish party, told Sputnik.

    "The Flemish NVA could also present a candidate on a list of the Catalan party of Puigdemont in Catalonia – Spain, in exchange for his candidature in Belgium. Cross-candidatures in a way. I am sure it would function very well," an adviser to Jambon said under condition of anonymity.

    At the same time, the party's official response to Sputnik was that it is too early to speak about such a possibility as the list for the election will be draft no earlier than next year.

    "From the party, I can only give you one reaction: the list for the European elections in 2019 will only be composed in 2019. First, the municipal elections of 2018 … And every statement about Mr. Puigdemont is by definition premature," a party's representative said.

    Legally, Puigdemont could use this opportunity to participate in the European elections under the EU laws, which allow any citizen of a member state to vote or be a candidate in their country of residence, a Flemish Professor of EU law at the Ghent university, Peter Van Elsuwege, told Sputnik.

    "Puidgemont can in principle be a candidate on an N-VA list, just as a Flemish person can be a candidate on a list in Spain… But what is more interesting probably in this case, is that Carles Puigdemont, with his parliamentary immunity, automatically obtained when he is elected MEP, could travel to Spain, without being arrested by the Madrid government!" Van Elsuwege said.

    Pierre d’Argent, Professor of International Public Law at Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL), found the idea of swapping candidates paradoxical and possibly "irresponsible."

    "The N-VA wants to dismantle the Belgian state but would designate a candidate in Spain thanks to the fact that Belgium has signed the Treaties… Paradoxical and for some ridiculous or even irresponsible," d'Argent told Sputnik.

    Puigdemont, as the head of Catalonia, participated in the organization of an independence referendum in October last year, and fled to Belgium soon after Madrid imposed the direct rule over Catalonia in response to the region unilateral proclamation of independence.

    READ MORE: Puigdemont Says to Keep Working on Catalan Independence Cause From Belgium

    Earlier in the day, Belgian media reported that Puigdemont could be offered an opportunity to run for the European Parliament on the list of N-VA. Puigdemont's movement and N-VA both support the increased autonomy of their respective constituencies.

    In Spain, Puigdemont would risk being arrested on suspicion of rebellion and misuse of public funds. Nevertheless, Madrid removed a European warrant for the politician's arrest after a German court ruled that Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain on embezzlement charges but not over sedition.

    Sputnik went to Waterloo, Belgium, to try and meet Carles Puigdemont himself at his address, rue de l’Avocat, but was told that the Catalan exile is on holiday abroad. His press officer, Joan Maria Pique told Sputnik on the phone that he was not available now and that there would be no comments on the issue. The official mission of Catalonia in Brussels said they were not representing Puigdemont and also declined to comment.


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