Europe

Catalan independence: Puigdemont moots 'attractive' Swiss model

Catalan ex-leader Carles Puigdemont attends a panel discussion titled "Self-determination", at the FIFDH (International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights), in Geneva, Switzerland on 18 March 2018. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Puigdemont fled Spain for Belgium after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence.

Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont says a majority of Catalans might support Swiss-style federal autonomy rather than full independence.

Mr Puigdemont's remarks in Geneva appear to suggest a departure from his previous support for full independence.

The ex-president fled to Belgium after Catalonia's declaration of independence after a disputed vote last October.

The restive region remains under direct rule from Madrid, imposed after the stand-off.

This is despite elections being held in December, with a majority of seats won by pro-independence parties.

Mr Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on charges of rebellion and sedition.

Four other Catalan leaders, including the former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, remain in prison for their part in October's independence vote.

Catalonia's self-government remains on hold, as Spain's Supreme Court refuses to free from jail the man nominated to lead Catalonia's regional government.

Mr Puigdemont, who was speaking at an international human rights film festival in Geneva, suggested independence might not be the only option.

"Maybe, (among other ways of doing things), the Swiss model is the most efficient and attractive", he said.

Switzerland has a highly decentralised government, with regional governments, known as cantons, having a significant amount of power.

More on this story