I’m sure everyone is well aware that last week the European General Court (EGC) granted a temporary injunction to President Carles Puigdemont and Ministers and MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí against the withdrawal of their parliamentary immunity. All three, therefore, have had rights returned to them which they had acquired thanks to a democratic vote and will thus be able to move freely throughout the European Union –though it is not advisable for them to enter Spain. For the time being. They will travel to Spain when the time is right and with all their rights and privileges.
The decision is surprising due to the speed with which it was taken by a court which is usually extremely reluctant to grant temporary injunctions and also thanks to a highly unusual aspect: the court has restored the three MEPs’ immunity before having heard the legal arguments from the European parliament. The EGC considers that the statements made by the exiled members of the Catalan government are sufficient to grasp the gravity of the situation and for the loss of their immunity to be overturned, thus ordering parliament to restore their political privileges.
The EGC will hear the European Parliament’s legal arguments at a later date before making its final decision on the matter. This means there is still a long way to go, as long as six months. However, the first victory, this week’s, was the hardest to imagine. This, in turn, generates a great deal of confidence as to the success of the coming steps.
However, speaking in political terms, I think there are two lessons which can be learnt. The first is that, once again, it has been shown that there was and remains a means by which Catalan independence can defeat Spain, a path which is not one of surrender but of struggle and one which has already accumulated sufficient victories not to be brushed aside. The second, highly important lesson, is that we have reached a key milestone on the long journey which began with the surprise press conference given by the legitimate government in Brussels, a few hours after the proclamation of the Catalan Republic.
This milestone is all the more crucial because, for the first time, Spain wasn’t the one who was on the receiving end of the anti-democratic repression against the Catalans; instead, it was the European institutions. That is irksome in a whole different manner. The finger-pointing and the accusations of wrongdoing are no longer aimed at Spain but at the institutions in Brussels; in this case, the European parliament. And this immediately puts a different kind of pressure on Spain. I’m convinced, for example, that if the vote on parliamentary immunity were to be repeated now, Spain would suffer a resounding defeat. Because justice is respected in Europe, especially among MEPs.
Before 2017, there was already talk –documented in various White Papers– of the need for the European Union to get involved in resolving the conflict between Catalonia and Spain, in order to overcome Madrid’s inevitable resistance to agreeing to a democratic solution. And lists of incentives were drawn up to achieve this objective. Well, these incentives are starting to be highly visible at the moment. They not only include Spain’s foreign debt and its economic woes, but —above all— the political unease that Spain’s eccentric behaviour causes throughout the EU as a whole. Up until yesterday, this was apparent in diplomatic circles –one need only recall the controversies and criticisms the European Union is forced to endure from countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and Morocco thanks to Spain’s behaviour. But since yesterday, these annoyances have been joined by legal notices. This is of enormous significance in a democratic Europe that is truly law-abiding by nature.