Sunday 14 August 2022
Home ECJ Withdrawal of mandate of Catalan MEP controversial

Withdrawal of mandate of Catalan MEP controversial

After a months-long legal battle, former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont and MEP Toni Comin took their seats in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Upon their arrival, Puigdemont criticized the absence of the Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras imprisoned in Spain. "Spain no longer respects the rule of law," he said.

"If the European Union were really an area of freedoms and rights, then Oriol Junqueras would be among us today. He has the same rights as us. He received one million votes in the European elections in May, Puigdemont said at a press conference in the European Parliament in Strasbourg about the fate of his former Catalan deputy prime minister.

After the Catalan independence referendum of 2017, Puigdemont and Comin fled to Belgium to escape the Spanish court. Junqueras remained in Spain and was sentenced to thirteen years in prison last October for incitement and misappropriation of funds. That sentence was confirmed on appeal last week.

Junqueras, Puigdemont and Toni Comin were elected MEPs in May of last year, but they could not take their seat because Spain demanded that they swear allegiance to the Spanish constitution in their own country. In December, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the three Catalans enjoyed parliamentary immunity from the day their election was announced.

President David Sassoli confirmed that Puigdemont and Comin were admitted to the European Parliament, but that the Junqueras mandate ended on 3 January. That happened after the Spanish electoral commission had withdrawn its mandate on that day. The Supreme Court confirmed that decision a few days later.

Sassoli reiterated that he only followed the legal rules when deciding on Junqueras. They state that the European Parliament must take into account the final decisions of national authorities without delay. This has not led to a hot debate in parliament so far. The President of Parliament ignored all questions for intervention.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that there will still be a "political debate" on this "legal issue", since the Legal Committee of the European Parliament must ratify the suspension decision of President Sassoli. That committee can take decisions by simple majority. It is also to be expected that the revocation of the mandate will be submitted to the European Court of Justice.

Critics say that the European authorities and the European Parliament should have been able to defend the inviolability of the elected European representatives a little more firmly. They think that Sassoli hides behind legal rules very easily.

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