COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A small group of Danish lawmakers met Tuesday with Catalan ex-leader Carles Puigdemont at Denmark’s Parliament, saying that listening to him is the best way to understand what is going on in Spain’s Catalonia region.
Puigdemont was welcomed to Parliament by a Faeroese lawmaker who had invited him for the unofficial meeting with politicians during his visit to Denmark from self-imposed exile in Belgium. The Catalan politician spoke at the University of Copenhagen on Monday after a Spanish judge refused a Spanish prosecutor’s request to have him arrested in Denmark.
Lawmaker Magni Arge said it’s best to hear his views from “the horse’s mouth.”
Arge, a member of the left-wing Republican Party from the Faeroe Islands, a semi-autonomous Danish territory, criticized the Danish government and opposition lawmakers for rejecting invitations to meet Puigdemont.
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“One can start to understand each other by talking together, not by ignoring each other,” he said.
Holger K. Nielsen, a former foreign minister and member of left-wing Socialist People’s Party, said that although he doesn’t agree with Puigdemont “it is important that we get an explanation from him about what he wants.”
In Denmark, any elected member of the 179-seat Folketing assembly can invite anyone to speak before lawmakers in a closed meeting.
Puigdemont’s journey to Denmark came nearly three months after he was removed from office and fled to Belgium. A warrant for his arrest remains open in Spain, whose interior minister said Tuesday that the country will step up surveillance to ensure that Puigdemont can’t re-enter the country undetected.
Spanish authorities are investigating him and other Catalan officials for possible rebellion and sedition charges related to regional parliament’s Oct. 27 declaration of independence.
Puigdemont has the backing of a slim majority of Catalan lawmakers to be voted in as the region’s president, although his re-election faces legal challenges and a fierce political opposition.
Asked on Tuesday about whether the government feared for Puigdemont to re-emerge in the regional parliament later this month, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said: “We are very worried, because we don’t know what a person with this behavior might do.”
Zoido told broadcaster Antena 3 that security forces face a difficult challenge given the many possible ways to enter Catalonia. “We are analyzing all the possibilities,” he said. “We are going to make sure that he can’t even enter in the trunk of a car.”
Denmark has two semi-autonomous territories — the Faeroe Islands in the North Atlantic and the huge Arctic island of Greenland — that for years have sought more say in own affairs.
The Faeroe Islands and Greenland have both referred to themselves as nations and floated the idea of full independence. Denmark has been supportive but efforts have stopped short because of economic considerations. The two territories only fisheries and tourism as their main income.
The Faeroes plan a referendum on a new constitution April 25 which Faeroese Premier Aksel V. Johannesen has said must reflect “our identity as a nation” and “our right to self-determination.” No text has yet been published.
Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.
This story corrects that it was Spain’s interior minister, not justice minister, who said the country will step up surveillance to ensure that Puigdemont can’t re-enter the country undetected.