The event was organised by Studium Generale as part of a ‘College Tour.’ Puigdemont will continue to lecture across Europe.
The talk was divided into sections detailing Puigdemont’s early life, his memories of the movement and the future he sees for Catalan independence. The President of the University Council, Tim Huiskes served as the independent moderator.
When Puigdemont first walked into the room, he was met with a standing ovation from more than half of the room. His first action after taking his seat would be to straighten his Catalonian Ribbon. Puigdemont wore a smart black suit with freshly polished shoes.
Puigdemont spoke passionately and articulately for almost two hours. Tim Huiskes, the moderator, began with a series of questions before delving into a background of Puigdemont.
There were smiles at old pictures and jokes when Puigdemont opened up about his past. Two Catalan members of the crowd in the front row would be on the edge of their seats all evening. Puigdemont even revealed that this was not his first time Groningen, he came during his early career as a journalist.
Once videos were shown of the Spanish reaction to the Catalonian protests, Puigdemont’s face would turn stern and serious. He is still committed to a pacifist movement, describing himself as ‘militant, but not a militarist.’ There was rousing applause from parts of the crowd when he condemned the actions of both Spain and the European Union.
Puigdemont would briefly talk about what comes next for the Catalonian independence movement. He admitted there was still an uncertain future, but offered separatists anxious for new developments some hope. Puigdemont insisted that ‘we will use it [the unilateral declaration of independence] if we have to,’ but would not provide a deadline for this action.
The floor was also opened to the audience a handful of times. Their questions would range from climate change to Puigdemont’s future in the Catalonian independence movement, and Puigdemont answered them all.
Moderator Tim Huiskes would defer when asked if he fulfilled his role as an impartial mediator, insisting it was not for him to say. When pressed Huiskes said ‘I think I succeeded. We got the most out of it [the event].’
Eva Daussa, who played a big part in organising Puigdemont’s visit, was delighted with the event. ‘It was a time to hear the Catalans out, it provided a necessary complement to the Spanish perspective. This has been a possibility to contrast both positions, to collect more balanced information’, Daussa says.
Was it worth it?
Not everyone was satisfied with Puigdemont’s performance. Spanish student Alicia Macia, a biology student at the RUG, left feeling frustrated. ‘It was not really informative. He was not open or honest.’
24 year old RUG student Raul Maicas thinks Puigdemont left out some important information during the interview. ‘People are influenced by the opinion of one man, but he’s not talking about the whole truth. I guess most people here [at the RUG] don’t know the whole story.’
The final question of the night came from Alicia who asked was it all worth it? Puigdemont reply was simple: ‘Ask the Catalonian people.’