Court of Justice admits appeal of Puigdemont and Comín to be recognised as MEPs

Political prisoner Oriol Junqueras will not be able to take seat in Strasbourg tomorrow either

VilaWeb
VilaWeb / Catalan News Agency
01.07.2019 - 15:41
Actualització: 01.07.2019 - 17:41

The European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, has accepted the procedure only four hours after the lawyer of exiled president Carles Puigdemont and his former minister Toni Comín presented an appeal against the impediments to enter the European Parliament of their clients. The Court will take a decision within a short period.

Puigdemont and Comín have been unable to take up their seats because chamber president Antonio Tajani has refused to recognize them as elected MEPs. Spanish authorities defend that MEPs must complete an accreditation procedure in Madrid in order to take up their seats, but Puigdemont and Comín were unable to return to Spain, where they would be arrested over the 2017 independence bid.

With the inaugural session of the EU parliament set to take place on Tuesday, sources from the EU court told the Catalan News Agency that a decision on the appeal would come “soon” and that it “it will not take weeks or months.”

European affair

On social media, Puigdemont described the court’s decision to admit the appeal “a good start” and said accepting the appeal showed that the issue is a “European affair that concerns the European judiciary.”

After Puigdemont and Comín, and jailed former vice president Oriol Junqueras, were unable to complete the accreditation process, the Spanish authorities declared their seats vacant and their names were not on the list of Spanish MEPs sent to Brussels.

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, on Monday accused Tajani of “depriving elected MEPs of their right to passive suffrage” and preventing them from “acting as representatives of a national minority.” Over a million people voted for the two candidates.

On Friday, Puigdemont and Comín issued a joint statement saying Tajani had ignored all the letters they had sent him, and warning that it “will not avoid a formal response from the European judicial authorities to this serious violation of fundamental rights.”

Oriol Junqueras: different case, same problem

On Thursday, Spain’s state prosecutor wrote to the Supreme Court opposing its decision to refer to the EU Court of Justice about whether Oriol Junqueras, the jailed Catalan leader awaiting a verdict in the independence trial, should be allowed to take up his seat.

The prosecutor says the appeal is unnecessary because the legislation leaves “no doubt” that Junqueras can only enjoy the immunity afforded MEPs if he has completed the procedures for taking up his seat, which the court denied him permission to do. What’s more, the prosecutor insists that Spanish law trumps EU legislation when it means preserving such things as public order or territorial integrity, or when preventing a crime from being committed or the infringement of other people’s rights.

Exiled leaders in Belgium

Puigdemont and Comín, who are both in exile in Belgium, have been unable to take up their seats as MEPs, as they could not complete the official accreditation procedure in Madrid without being arrested. Last week, Puigdemont and Comín took the EU Parliament president Antonio Tajani to task for blocking their access to the chamber and for failing to recognize them as elected MEPs. They also revealed they had sent four letters to Tajani without receiving a response.

In a joint public statement, Puigdemont and Comín, who were elected to the EU chamber with over a million votes, warned Tajani that ignoring their letters “will not avoid a formal response from the European judicial authorities to this serious violation of fundamental rights.”

Puigdemont backed up his criticisms of Tajani from Geneva, where he was attending a conference. “If an issue that affects elected European representatives does not deserve the attention and interest of the president of those MEPs, what is the presidency for?” he asked.

Supreme Court making “grievous error,” says expert

In an interview with Catalan News in collaboration with Euractiv, Barcelona University law professor, Jordi Nieva, downplayed the accreditation issue, saying that “people voted for that person, so what’s important in democratic terms is that he or she gets their seat in the EU parliament.”

Nieva also said that Spain’s Supreme Court was making a “very grievous error” by setting a dangerous precedent: “If the EU parliament accepts what the Supreme Court is doing in Spain, how can it then tell another supreme court that it can’t do the same thing?”

Despite admitting that politics has influenced Spain’s handling of the issue, Nieva rejected criticism that Spain cannot be considered a proper democracy: “I think Spain is a full democracy, but some people in all democracies don’t always act democratically,” he said.

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