French Catalans offer to host ‘government in exile’ as tensions rise in Spain

French backers of Catalonia's possible secession from Spain plan to "offer hospitality to president Carles Puidgemont to lead a government-in-exile in Perpignan," a southern French city with deep Catalan roots, a statement said Monday.

French Catalans offer to host 'government in exile' as tensions rise in Spain
People hold Catalan flags and placards outside Spain's embassy in Perpignan. Photo: AFP
Catalan separatists have threatened “mass civil disobedience” if Madrid carries out threats to depose their leaders, including Puidgemont, as tensions rise over a bid to sever the region from Spain.
“We feel that Europe has not been playing its role,” said Jaume Roure, the head of Unitat Catalana which seeks self determination for French Catalans.

How does France's 'Northern Catalonia' feel about independence?Photo: AFP

“As the storms are gathering, we have asked people … to see if they can host the Catalan government and those people who are forced to leave,” he said, speaking of Perpignan, the capital of France's Pyrenees-Orientales department which acts as a bridge between Barcelona and the south of France.
The region was for centuries a part of Catalonia and only became French in the latter half of the 17th century.
Several Catalan Republicans fled to this region from Spain during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.


UPDATED: Police break up separatist protest on Spain-France route

Catalan separatists once again blocked routes linking Spain and France on Wednesday morning in an ongoing protest to try to draw international attention to the Catalan independence issue.

UPDATED: Police break up separatist protest on Spain-France route
Spanish policemen face Catalan separatist activists blocking traffic on a motorway linking France and Spain.Photos: AFP

Police on Wednesday managed to disperse Catalan separatist protesters from a busy motorway linking Spain and France, reopening the road in both directions after more than 48 hours of intermittent blockages.

The demonstration caused chaos on an artery which is particularly important for cross-border freight transport and is used by some 20,000 lorries per day.   

The highway jam began on Monday morning when hundreds of activists flocked to the border area of La Jonquera, blocking the busy AP7 motorway linking northeastern Spain and southern France.

Organised by activist group Democratic Tsunami, it was just the latest operation in an ongoing campaign of protest that began in mid-October when Spain's top court jailed nine separatist leaders over a failed 2017 independence bid.   

Although the blockage was briefly cleared by French and Spanish police on Tuesday morning, protesters shifted their action some 65 kilometres (40 miles) further south, where the motorway passes through the city of Girona.

With the motorway impassable, many cars and trucks were stuck there overnight.

Also Tuesday, demonstrators blocked another cross-border motorway in Irun, at the other end of the Pyrenees, linking Spain's Basque country with southwestern France, calling their protest “Operation Snail”.

By Wednesday morning, clashes broke out at the Girona site where masked protesters torched barricades and hurled stones at the security forces who eventually managed to disperse them, the Catalan regional police said.

Democratic Tsunami, which managed to flood Barcelona airport with some 10,000 protesters on the day of the verdict, is a recently-formed group that says it does not depend on separatist parties or civil associations for support.   

Its leaders remain unknown and they keep in touch with each other through encrypted messaging apps such as Wire.

The protests were also backed by activists from the radical CDR, which has also vowed to continue its direct action.   

“As long as there are hostages… and we do not have the right to self-determination, there will be chaos. Independence or barbarism!” it tweeted on Wednesday.