The struggle for Catalan independence from Spain has spilled over the border, as "Northern Catalans" marched to demand independence from France.
As Catalonia’s ex-president Carles Puigdemont and four former cabinet members have been released pending a court ruling, a French region across the border have demanded a united Catalan state. Madrid had issued a European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont.
Some 2 000 protesters took to the streets on Sunday in the town of Perpignan, southwestern France, to demand their own independence referendum.
Activists at the peaceful march said they were marching for a “united Catalan state” that would break apart Spain and France – amid fears of an independence fever in Flanders too gripping the EU.
Demonstrators waved esteladas – Catalan independence flags – during the massive rally in Perpignan, with the motto “We are Northern Catalonia, we want to decide”.
The demonstration in the Pyrénées region of France, marked the anniversary of a 1659 Treaty, when Catalonia was taken over by French and Spanish rulers.
One protester told The Express: “I am for democracy, for freedom and for defending the freedom of Catalonia North and South. We are here to support political prisoners.”
Another said: “We are behind the protesters in Catalonia and I am very proud of the mobilization here in Perpignan.”
The local town hall has refused the Catalan esteladas, because councillors say they feared “extreme politicitization”.
The marchers also demanded the release of the Catalan “political prisoners” – members of the deposed Barcelona government who have been imprisoned by Spain.
Nine Catalonian politicians have meanwhile been arrested and jailed, and members of the Catalonian leadership face up to 30 years in prison for their attempt to breakaway from Spain.
On Saturday too, thousands of Basque people showed solidarity with Catalan independence.
The Catalan region’s declaration of independence in late October sent shock waves across the country and the continent.
“The Catalan conflict could help legitimate pro-Russian secession in Crimea and Donbass,” Spanish journalist Enric Juliana claimed in the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia on Wednesday.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, while calling it “internal matter of Spain,” also made some ironic remarks on her Facebook page.
“Is this the Europe that wants to talk to us about the Crimea referendum and upholding rights?” she asked in a post on her social media account.
Days after Catalonia held their independence referendum on October 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin told an audience in the Russian town of Sochi that the region’s breakaway bid amounted to a domestic issue.
“Russia’s position is known here,” Putin said. “All that is happening is Spain’s internal business and must be resolved according to Spanish law and on the basis of democratic traditions.”
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