Didier Reynders (picture by European Parliament)

The European Commission will consider the exiled Catalan pro-independence leaders’ cases, including that of exiled president Carles Puigdemont, in a possible review of the European arrest warrant system. “We are reviewing a complete transposition complying with the EU regulation in Belgium and Germany, and we will pay special attention to this kind of individual cases” stated the justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, in reference to the Catalan politicians.

He made the remarks on Monday during a debate considering a draft report on possible changes to the implementation of extradition requests between member states, whose rapporteur is the Spanish People’s Party MEP Javier Zarzalejos. Indeed, several Spanish unionist parties have been trying to modify the European arrest warrant system ever since Puigdemont and other officials moved to Belgium in 2017 in order to avoid being tried in Spain for their role in the independence referendum three years ago.

The former Catalan president has seen two extradition requests against him fail in Belgium and Germany while a third one is frozen pending an EU chamber decision on waiving his immunity. In their latest effort to change the extradition regulation, the report by Zarzalejos also included a far-right Vox MEP, Jorge Buxadé, and a Ciudadanos MEP, Maite Pagazaurtundúa as shadow rapporteurs. Three out of the five officials involved are Spanish, something not “common” in such reports, sources at the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee told the Catalan News Agency (ACN).

Reynders against automatic extradition

The paper urges the European Commission to include crimes “against the public order and the constitutional integrity” in the list of reasons allowing for an automatic extradition. An “effective” control of arrest warrant timings was also requested. Yet, on Monday, Reynders sided against expanding the list of crimes for automatically handing a suspect in to another country.

Several groups had their say during the debate, including the Socialists, who also urged the EU to make sure the regulation works in cases like those of the pro-independence leaders. As for the Greens-EFA and the GUE-NGL groups, they sided against expanding the list of crimes permitting an automatic extradition. The report will be voted on once the EU groups present their amendments and, in any case, it will be non-binding as the Commission is not obliged to implement its content.

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