FORMER Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s Council for the Republic was officially constituted yesterday with a call from him to chart the course towards independence for Catalonia.

The 121 members of its Assembly of Representatives held their first in-person meeting in the town of Canet del Rosselló in Northern Catalonia, which saw Ona Curto, a councillor for the far-left in Arenys de Mar, elected its president.

The council is a private body formed to organise and promote the Catalan independence movement and defend civil and political rights.

MEP Puigdemont is living in exile in Brussels and, although he can travel freely around Europe, he faces arrest should he try to re-enter Catalonia where he is still wanted by Spanish authorities for his role in the October 2017 independence referendum.

“The advances that have been made throughout history, and in particular in Catalonia, have been charted. And it is up to us to do so,” Puigdemont told the gathering. “Not everyone feels comfortable with this role and not everyone feels happy. It means we’re doing well.”

Puigdemont said their opponents were concerned because a movement was under way, which was organised and not afraid, and added: “It’s a reality that may impress some, it encourages us a lot.”

He said that until now its purpose had been to preserve the evidence of the 2017 poll, and stressed their position on it had been maintained since the first day he and others, including St Andrews academic Professor Clara Ponsati, arrived in exile.

“Now the goal is to take that legacy and make it bigger and push it ... this is a struggle that comes from far beyond.”

The new assembly will have power to elect its own government and will be responsible for representing its membership of more than 101,000. In its anticipated two-year term it will also promote political action.

Puigdemont said it would not follow “so-called Spanish democracy” but would look towards democratic radicalism – to break “the very rigid walls that sometimes restrict democracy and alienate citizens”.