Saturday

27th Nov 2021

Anti-separatist Spanish MEPs dominate liberty committee

  • Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium (Photo: parlament.cat)

The new Spanish leadership overseeing the European Parliament's powerful committee dealing with rule of law and rights, known as Libe, are staunch opponents of Catalan secession.

The committee's newly-elected chair, Spanish socialist Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, said the Catalan debacle had nothing to do with fundamental rights and should not be discussed at the European Parliament.

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"The rule of law in Spain, which is a constitutional democracy, means that nobody is allowed to break the rule of law and get away with it. Nobody," he told this website on Wednesday night (10 July), moments after he took the Libe chair.

Lopez Aguilar's view stands in sharp contrast to the Catalan foreign ministry, which says the issue must be dealt with at the European level.

But Lopez Aguilar disagrees.

"It is a matter of rule of law and so I only hope that it won't be a problem in this European Parliament," he said.

He also said the decision was not up to him when asked if several freshly-elected MEPs from Catalonia, currently barred from entering the European Parliament, should be able to take their seats in the plenary.

"It will be an independent judicial body to decide," he said.

Lopez Aguilar's tough views on Catalonia are not alone.

The first-vice chair of the committee is Spanish liberal MEP from Renew Europe, Maite Pagazaurtundua.

Pagazaurtundua has in the past spoken out against Catalonia and accused Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont of spreading lies and propaganda.

Three Catalan MEPs in limbo

It means the anti-separatist stand of the Spanish dominated Libe committee leadership could pose a major headache for Puigdemont and his supporters should the issue ever make it to the European Parliament.

The Libe committee is among the most active and powerful in the assembly, drawing reports and shaping positions of the entire European Parliament on politically charged issues ranging from asylum and immigration to civil liberties in member states.

Lopez Aguilar is mandated to lead it up until January 2022.

Meanwhile, Puigdemont, the former president of the Government of Catalonia and former councillor Toni Comin, are both living in self-imposed exile Belgium out of fear of being jailed in Spain for having declared a unilateral independence of Catalonia.

A third MEP, Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president of the Generalitat, is in detention awaiting trial over his role in organising the referendum for independence in October 2017.

All are required to swear an allegiance to the Spanish constitution as part of an national electoral procedure to get the official accreditation to enter the European Parliament.

Earlier this month, the EU court had also complicated their efforts after dismissing a request for them to take a seat in the assembly.

The issue has sparked demonstrations.

Some 4,000 people waving Catalan flags showed up outside the inaugural opening of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

Opinion

European Parliament cannot shut door to Catalan MEPs

Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras and Toni Comin, former members of the Catalan government who are currently in exile or in pre-trial detention, have been elected by 1,720,500 citizens of Spain and Catalonia to represent them in the European Parliament.

Opinion

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

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Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

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The European Parliament's civil liberties committee offers a snapshot of the European "state of mind", says its chair Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar. Its biggest challenge will be getting member states to unblock the EU asylum package.

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Although the European Parliament tries to keep a geopolitical balance within the committees, the breakdown of the actual chairs of the committees by political party and nationality is uneven - with a clear under-representation of central and eastern EU countries.

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