Sunday

19th Sep 2021

Sassoli stuck in middle as Catalan MEPs enter building

  • Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and minister Toni Comín have now entered the European parliament's building, after EP president David Sassoli (left) lifted the ban on the pair (Photo: European Parliament)

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, has now urged his own parliament's legal services, plus the relevant Spanish authorities, to study the bombshell ruling this week from the EU's top court that a jailed Catalan leader has "immunity" as an MEP.

And, speaking to MEPs at Thursday's (19 December) plenary session in Strasbourg, he warned the verdict could affect the overall composition of the chamber.

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  • Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium for over two years since fleeing Spain

The parliament's legal services are currently analysing whether the three Catalan leaders who were elected in the European elections last May - former president Carles Puigdemont, former vice-president Oriol Junqueras and former minister Toni Comín - can now be accredited as members of the European Parliament.

However, it is still unknown when this assessment will be made public.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concluded on Thursday that Junqueras, the 'Spitzenkandidat' of European Free Alliance (EFA), enjoyed "immunity" as an MEP since 13 June, when the official declarations of the results of the European elections took place in Spain.

Likewise, according to the court, the immunity of Junqueras as an "elected" MEP should have allowed him to travel this summer to take part in the inaugural session of the newly-elected European parliament.

However, these rights were denied by the Spanish Supreme Court and subsequently, Junqueras - who was already held in custody - was sentenced in October to 13 years in prison for his role in an illegal 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

As a result, it is still not clear how the court's ruling will affect Junqueras' case, as he is currently in jail.

"So long as Oriol Junqueras is not allowed to take up his seat in the European Parliament it violates his rights and the choice of the 1.2 million people who voted for him and are not represented today in the European Parliament," said Catalan MEP Diana Riba from the Greens/EFA.

Ripple effect?

The decision has set a precedent for the Catalan leaders living in self-imposed exile in Belgium, Puigdemont and Comín, who have also launched legal challenges against the European parliament.

Sassoli lifted on Thursday the ban on Puigdemont and Comín entering the parliament building - which was imposed last October by his predecessor, Antonio Tajani, when Spain reactivated the European arrest warrants for them.

As a result, the pair on Friday entered the building of the European Parliament in Brussels with a temporary accreditation - although the European arrest warrants remain active, according to the Spanish authorities.

In order to get full acreditation, both Puigdemont and Comín will have to wait for the evaluation of the legal services of the parliament.

"European justice says that we are MEPs since July. Every minute counts. Fundamental rights are being violated," Puigdemont said.

However, even if there is a positive evaluation from the parliament's legal services, Spanish authorities are still entitled to request the parliament to waive the immunity of the Catalan leaders. Such a request would be done vote on in the plenary.

Once the request is evaluated by the parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI) in a closed session, the resulting report would be then voted by MEPs in plenary session by a simple majority.

The representative of the government of Catalonia to the EU, Meritxell Serret, said that "Junqueras must be immediately released and, together with Puigdemont and Comín, be able to represent [in the European Parliament] the two million citizens that voted them".

Catalan party: release leader after MEP 'immunity' verdict

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled on Thursday (19 December) that imprisoned Catalan leader, Oriol Junqueras, enjoys parliamentarian immunity as MEP, in a legal victory for the separatist movement which saw nine of its leaders jailed earlier this year.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Catalan support for Sanchez breaks Spanish deadlock

Catalonia's largest separatist party to abstain during the upcoming confidence vote in the Socialist-led government in exchange for promises of political dialogue. Meanwhile a Belgian judge has suspended an arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont.

Two Catalan MEPs take their seats - with a third in jail

Catalan separatist leaders Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to take their seats as MEPs on Monday, pledging "the Catalan crisis is not an internal matter, it is a European one".

Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin look for a party

The former head of the Catalan regional government, Carles Puigdemont, and one member of his government, Toni Comín, have requested to join the Greens/EFA group - but they do not close the door to other political groups.

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

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