Monday

1st Jun 2020

Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin look for a party

  • MEPs Toni Comin and Carles Puigdemont - they have seats, but are now searching for a home (Photo: European Parliament)

Two Catalan MEPs - the former head of the Catalan regional government, Carles Puigdemont, and one member of his government, Toni Comín - have asked to join the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament - but indicated they are open to other groups.

But the two Catalan politicians face some opposition from one of the leaders of the group, Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, who has accused them of showing political sympathy to the Flemish nationalists (NVA), since they fled to Belgium in 2017.

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"If Carles Puigdemont feels closer to Flemish nationalists, who are drifting to the far-right, that sounds good to me..." but then he should join the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) - to which the NVA belong- Lamberts told Catalan media VilaWeb on Tuesday (14 January).

However, according to sources from the ECR, the topic "has never been raised in the group" - to which the Spanish far-right party Vox also belongs.

Likewise, the Catalan pair have said that they will never share the same political group with Viktor Orban's party Fidesz, or Vox.

According to Comín, their work in the European Parliament will be based on three pillars: the right to self-determination in Catalonia, the commitments of its political programme, and the future of Europe.

"We would like to share a political group with those who support the right to self-determination in Catalonia and have politically helped us during these years," he told told EUobserver.

"We are not closing the door to other possibilities, such as [the leftist group] GUE/NGL," Comín said.

The debate within the Greens/EFA is still ongoing, according to their co-chair, Ska Keller, who believes that "it's important to talk to EFA and come to a decision together".

"We all know that Mr Puigdemont is not a green [politician] and he is not a part of our EFA party in Catalonia [Republican Left of Catalonia - ERC]," she added.

However, Comín believes that "there is an ideological affinity" with the environmental group, and especially with the European Free Alliance (EFA).

According to another Catalan MEP Diana Riba (ERC), negotiations between the Greens and EFA are ongoing, although EFA has already given Puigdemont and Comín the green light join the group.

The coalition statutes establish that, when there is a disagreement between EFA and the Greens, there is the possibility to hold a "reconciliation committee" to try to reach a consensus, she said, adding that EFA has already request this event to take place next week.

"Hopefully this will help us to reach an agreement," said Riba, who believes that "the [Greens/EFA] must be a shelter for those who are being unfairly persecuted for exercising fundamental rights".

"In case the conciliation committee is not effective, we would consider voting the issue within the Green/EFA group and let its members decide," she added.

Renew's Catalonia ties

Additionally, Puigdemont's old party (PDeCAT) was part of the liberal group Renew Europe (previously ALDE) until the last European elections, although the PDeCAT was expelled from ALDE in 2018 - after the referendum for independence took place in Catalonia in October 2017.

"Nationalism and populism represent the opposite of what liberals stand for, and this is one of the reasons why the liberal party decided to expel PDeCAT in 2018," Renew sources told EUobserver.

"They were also expelled for systematic and endemic corruption in the party," they said, adding that this might have motivated the change of the name of the Catalan party.

Comín also believes that Renew Europe is not a political option for them at the moment.

"I don't share the same political ideology," said Comín, who expects to merely build bridges and relationships with members from the liberal group, since he does not feel that there is a "political incompatibility" - as they would have with the far-right group Identity and Democracy (ID).

Immunity battle

The parliament announced on Thursday that it has officially received a petition from Spain's Supreme Court to waive the immunity of both Catalan MEPs.

Now the procedure is in the hands of parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI), who will meet several times during the next months to prepare a report in the form of a recommendation.

"We believe and hope that [those] MEPs want to do their jobs objectively," Comín said.

Also, the committee may ask for any information or explanation which it deems necessary from the MEPs.

It is still unclear when the final vote in plenary session will take place since the procedure in the legal affairs committee might take months, an EU official said.

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