Puigdemont can apply for political asylum in Belgium, Francken says, but PM reacts

Rumours have emerged in Spain that the Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont is considering moving to Belgium, as he is facing a prison sentence in Spain, after the recent Catalunya turmoil. The Belgian Asylum Secretary Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) confirmed to the VRT that Puigdemont has the possibility to do this, but it is not sure whether or not he would actually be granted asylum.

The central Spanish government has threatened to bring Puigdemont to court after his attempt to give the Spanish region of Catalunya an independent status. The Spanish constitution states that it's an offence to break away as a region. In a worst-case scenario, Belgium could have a solution for Puigdemont.

"Catalan citizens that feel threatened, can apply for asylum in Belgium. This also goes for the Catalan premier Puigdemont. This is perfectly legal", explains Francken (N-VA). Belgium is one of the few European countries where you can still ask for asylum as a European.

Francken points to the fact that in the past, political refugees of the Basque region in Spain already applied for asylum. "At this moment, there is no application yet, but things are changing fast. We will see what happens in the next hours and days."

PM Charles Michel intervenes

This being said, it is not sure whether Puigdemont would receive asylum if he would apply. Critics say that the comparison with the Basque country is wrong.

Also this afternoon, the Belgian PM Charles Michel asked Theo Francken to "refrain from adding fuel to the flames". Earlier, the Spanish Partido Popular, part of the coalition in the central Spanish government, labelled Francken's suggestion as "unacceptable".