Thursday

2nd Jul 2020

Catalan party: release leader after MEP 'immunity' verdict

  • 'Justice has arrived from Europe,' jailed Catalan MEP Oriol Junqueras tweeted right after the CJEU’s decision was made public (Photo: Jordi Bedmar/ Government of Catalonia)

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.

Junqueras, the head of the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana party (ERC) and 'Spitzenkandidat' of European Free Alliance (EFA) was elected in the European elections in May this year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Justice has arrived from Europe. The rights of more than two million of [Catalan] citizens who vote for us have been violated," Junqueras tweeted immediately after the CJEU's decision was made public.

With the ruling, the CJEU supports the opinion of the advocate general of the CJEU, Maciej Szpunar, who said in an advisory opinion earlier this year that the jailed politician was indeed an elected MEP, and that it was "up to the voters" who became an MEP.

But Junqueras had not been allowed to leave custody to pledge his signing-in oath by the Spanish Supreme Court - a requirement to take office as an elected MEP in Spain.

Junqueras has been in custody since November 2017. In October, he was sentenced by the Spanish Supreme Court to 13 years in prison for his role in an illegal 2017 Catalan independence referendum - under charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.

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

"The immunity entails lifting any measure of provisional detention imposed prior to the declaration of that MEP's election," said the CJEU.

If the Spanish Supreme Court believes that Junqueras should remain in custody, it should have already requested the European Parliament to waive the immunity of Junqueras, the decision of the EU's top court states.

Problem for coalition?

Following the final decision of the court, Junqueras has asked for the annulment of the sentence, and freedom "for all" Catalan politicians.

The ERC, the party on which the investiture of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez might rely, is demanding the immediate release of Junqueras.

However, it is still unclear how this decision will affect the current negotiations between ECR and the Socialists (PSOE) - Sanchez's party.

"There are still judges in Europe. The EU Court of Justice defended the same criteria that we have defended against the European Parliament and the Spanish authorities, who have tried to alter the functioning of the European democracy," the exiled Catalan former president Carles Puigdemont tweeted, demanding the immediate release of his colleague.

Meanwhile, Spain's far-right party Vox has questioned the EU top court's decision saying that its decision is an "insult" for the Spanish judiciary system.

Earlier this year, the representative of the Catalonian government to the EU, Meritxell Serret, said that the situation of Junqueras and the other elected MEPs has brought the Catalan conflict to the European stage.

"Now it is obvious that the political conflict [in Catalonia] has consequences at the European level," she said then.

The ruling of the CJEU is likely to set a precedent for the other Catalan leaders living in self-imposed exile in Belgium and elected in May as MEPs, Puigdemont and Toni Comín, who have also launched legal challenges against the European parliament.

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.

Nine Catalan separatist leaders given long jail terms

Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over their role in Catalonia's 2017 bid for independence. The possible legal immunity of some MEPs remains unanswered.

Sassoli stuck in middle as Catalan MEPs enter building

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

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.

Spain poised for first coalition government since Franco

Spanish caretaker prime minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) leader, Pedro Sánchez, is expected to win the second investiture vote on Tuesday - after he lost the first attempt on Sunday in an extremely tight result.

News in Brief

  1. Malaysia pushes to keep selling palm oil to EU
  2. Austria raises corona alert on Western Balkans
  3. Turkey poised to convert Istanbul museum into mosque
  4. France leaves Nato operation after clash with Turkish ships
  5. EU Commission sets up skills agenda for next five years
  6. Bundestag gives floor to 'disgrace' Schröder on pipeline
  7. EU bans Pakistan's national airline over cheating pilots
  8. Report sheds light on Yemen torture camps

Agenda

EU's virtual summit with China This WEEK

This week, the European Union and China are holding their first joint summit since April 2019. It comes amid the pandemic, which first surfaced in China's Wuhan, protests in Hong Kong and a belligerent US president.

Coronavirus

EU leaders to reconvene in July on budget and recovery

Most EU leaders want an agreement before the summer break, but the Dutch PM, leading the 'Frugal Four', warned there might not even be a deal then. But the ECB's Christian Lagarde has warned of a "dramatic" economic fall.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU silent on US buying up world's remdesivir supplies
  2. Merkel warns of gaps as Germany takes EU helm
  3. Regions urge EU to act on 'green hydrogen'
  4. On toppling statues
  5. EU Parliament hits back at Czech PM in fund misuse row
  6. EU: Accountability needed on Uighur 'forced sterilisations'
  7. France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges
  8. The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us