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What next for deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont?

Now he is rid of a Spanish international arrest warrant, Catalonia's deposed president Carles Puigdemont can go anywhere he pleases save Spain, and continue playing a central role in his region's separatist politics from afar.

What next for deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont?
Photo: AFP

So what's next?

Return to Belgium

Sacked as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27, Puigdemont fled to Brussels several days later as did several members of his executive who had also been deposed.

There, he settled in Waterloo before being arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.   

Puigdemont was freed on bail around 10 days later and set about waiting for a German court decision on an extradition request by Spain, where he is wanted over his role in the independence drive.

But on Thursday, Spain's Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against separatist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.   

That means Puigdemont, who is currently living in Hamburg, will return to Waterloo, said Gonzalo Boye, one of his lawyers.   

From there, he will be able to travel where he wants, save Spain where he is still wanted for rebellion, which carries up to 25 years in jail, and misuse of public funds.

In theory, Puigdemont could remain in self-exile for 20 years, which in Spain's legal system is the time limit after which the rebellion charge is no longer valid.

Puigdemont is “aware this could last many years in the worst-case scenario,” said Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, another of his lawyers.

High profile

Since he left at the end of October, Puigdemont has maintained a prime position in Catalan politics.

He led the list for his Together for Catalonia grouping in December regional elections which separatist parties won.   

He was however unable to make a comeback as Catalan president and rule from abroad after the Constitutional Court ruled against it, and nominated Quim Torra as his successor.

Once back in Belgium, Puigdemont, whom Torra considers the “legitimate” Catalan president, will put in place a “republican council” from which he intends to lead the separatist camp from afar.

Why did judge drop warrant?

In his court ruling, Llarena said he had taken the decision after a German court agreed to extradite Puigdemont earlier this month for misuse of public funds and not rebellion.

READ MORE: Spain drops international arrest warrant for Puigdemont

“He did it to avoid other setbacks,” says Xavier Arbos, constitutional law professor at the University of Barcelona.   

Already in December, Llarena had withdrawn international arrest warrants against Puigdemont and other former members of Catalonia's separatist executive, arguing Belgium could potentially reject some of the charges in the warrant.

He re-activated them in March, when Puigdemont travelled to Finland and then Germany.

But as he had anticipated, a Belgian court in May refused to extradite three of his former regional ministers who had remained in Belgium.   And then in another setback, the German court said it would only extradite  Puigdemont for misuse of public funds.   

Analysing the decision, Spanish media said accepting that Puigdemont be returned to Spain on just that charge would have weakened his entire case against other separatist leaders who are in custody in Spain and also accused of rebellion.

The El Pais daily argued it would have been difficult for the judge to put Puigdemont in preventative custody just for that charge, creating an imbalance with the others who are in jail.

As such, Puigdemont could even potentially have made a comeback as Catalan president.

But this may not be the end of arrest warrants.   

According to Catalonia's La Vanguardia daily, Puigdemont's lawyers are expecting Spanish courts to re-activate international arrest warrants if those separatist leaders in custody in Spain are convicted of rebellion in a trial expected in October.

By AFP's Mathieu Gorse and Alvaro Villalobos 

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CATALONIA

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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