FORMER Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has said he will return to Belgium on Saturday, following Spain’s decision to withdraw a European warrant that prompted German authorities to arrest him in March.

The pro-independence leader spoke to reporters in Berlin, a week after a court in northern Germany said Spain’s decision meant he was now free to leave the country.

Spain had sought Puigdemont’s extradition on rebellion charges for promoting independence for Catalonia.

But the German court ruled he could only be sent back to face a lesser charge of embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for holding a referendum on Catalan independence which a judge had outlawed. An earlier Spanish attempt to extradite Puigdemont from Belgium failed.

Puigdemont said he will pick up where he left off in March, continuing his work to fulfil “the people’s mandate” and support fellow politicians who are imprisoned in Spain.

Earlier this month, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan president Quim Torra – who is Puigdemont’s hand-picked successor – agreed to open talks over Catalonia’s future.

Sanchez took office last month after securing a narrow parliamentary majorit to oust predecessor Mariano Rajoy.

Puigdemont said: “Clearly the change of Spanish government has meant a change of style, climate and language.

“But it is time for facts and not gestures,” he added.

“We have shown that we are prepared ... for dialogue, but we have to address the essential part of this dialogue: the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.”

Puigdemont insisted that the matter “is no longer a Spanish domestic affair”.

He said that while European governments have offered little support, “we have plenty of support from European citizens”.