24 January 2018

World looks on as Puigdemont visits the University of Copenhagen


Hundreds of thousands of TV viewers and Facebook users tuned in to see Carles Puigdemont, leader of the Catalan independence movement, visit the University of Copenhagen on 22 January.

Supporters of Catalan independence turned up for the debate and welcomed political exile Carles Puigdemont like a rock star.

All of the major Danish and Spanish TV stations and newspapers were there, as were international news agencies and dozens of radio and web journalists. CNN even livestreamed the event. More than 100 journalists and photographers from Denmark and abroad, and as many students and other spectators, attended the debate in the densely packed auditorium on City Campus. More than 96,000 people watched it on UCPH’s Facebook page.

During the debate in the Faculty of Social Sciences, professors of political science Marlene Wind and Christian Rostbøll confronted the Catalan leader with questions like: When is a vote democratic? Who should have a say in whether Catalonia should be an independent state? Is the Spanish constitution not also a democratic instrument which you should respect?

The controversial politician has been in exile in Belgium since last autumn. Even just a few hours before the visit, uncertainty still reigned as to whether the debate would go ahead because the Spanish public prosecutor was demanding that Puigdemont be arrested and extradited to Spain on charges including sedition.

However, shortly before the starting time, the Spanish media announced that the supreme court in Madrid had refused to issue an international arrest warrant for him. Puigdemont’s visit to Copenhagen was his first trip outside of Belgium since going into exile in Brussels in an attempt to avoid imprisonment in Spain.

Despite the many journalists and rolling cameras present, the Catalan leader refused to let the debate degenerate into a press conference. He expressed his pleasure at having been invited to take part in an academic discussion at a university, and stated that he would not let it become a media circus. He asked that journalists withhold their questions until the following day.

Professor of Political Science Marlene Wind had so many incisive questions for Carles Puigdemont that she asked him to write them all down during the debate.

“We were delighted to host an important debate that gave our students and others a chance to participate in the discussion about democracy and the situation in Catalonia, in all its complexity,” said Head of Department Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen from the Department of Political Science.

Relive the debate here (on UCPH’s Facebook stream).