CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DRIVE

Ousted Catalan premier collects provisional accreditation as MEP-elect

Carles Puigdemont and former regional health minister Toni Cómín have begun the process of taking their seats in the European Parliament, after a favorable EU court ruling on parliamentary immunity

Carles Puigdemont (l) and Toni Comín take a selfie in the European Parliament.
Carles Puigdemont (l) and Toni Comín take a selfie in the European Parliament.Francisco Seco / AP

Barely 24 hours after a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was issued regarding jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras, the former regional premier Carles Puigdemont and his one-time colleague in government Toni Comín traveled to the European Parliament to collect their accreditation as Members of the European Parliament-elect.

The passes that they were granted, which are valid for one day, allowed them to begin the necessary processes to be given their permanent credentials for after the Christmas break, according to parliamentary sources.

Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye

On arrival at the European Parliament, Puigdemont stated that laws must be followed. “The European justice system says that we have been MEPs since July,” he told reporters. “The law must be observed.”

Puigdemont, of the Together for Catalonia party, fled Spain to avoid arrest in the wake of the 2017 secessionist drive in Catalonia, which saw an illegal referendum on independence followed by a unilateral declaration of independence passed by the regional government. He has been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels ever since, despite attempts by Spain to see him extradited back to his home country to face trial for his role in the events of that year.

His former deputy premier, Oriol Junqueras, who is the head of the Catalan Republican Left party, was among the dozen or so politicians and civic association leaders who did face trial in the Supreme Court. He was jailed for his offenses, which included sedition and misuse of funds. The CJEU ruling released yesterday found that Junqueras should have been considered an MEP from the moment that he was elected, thus enjoying parliamentary immunity.

Both Junqueras and Puigdemont ran for and won seats in the European Parliament in May, but the former was unable to be sworn in given that he was being held in custody ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, while Puigdemont was not permitted to access the parliament buildings given that he was being sought by the Spanish justice system.

The Supreme Court is now tasked with deciding what should happen next in the case of Junqueras

However, the CJEU ruling has changed the situation considerably, with the Spanish Supreme Court now tasked with deciding what should happen next in the case of Junqueras, who is currently in prison serving his jail sentence. The European court’s decision has also paved the way for Puigdemont and Comín to today start the process of taking their seats.

The pro-independence leaders arrived at the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels barely two hours before the administrative services closed for the Christmas break. “We wanted this issue to be resolved before [the Parliament] went on vacation,” they told reporters.

Meanwhile, Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, recommended that the former Catalan premier be “prudent,” and that he not return to Spain for risk of arrest, despite the court ruling stating that he enjoyed immunity from the moment of his election as an MEP. “Given the situation with Mr Junqueras I believe that the immunity that the Supreme Court could offer is not to be trusted,” Boye said in an interview with Basque station Radio Euskadi.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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