Puigdemont to appear before Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee on 7 December to defend his immunity
The legal affairs committee is planning, for the time being, a face-to-face hearing
BrusselsMEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí have been summoned by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURE) on 7 December to appear before it to decide on their parliamentary immunity. This was decided on Monday by the committee's chair, Adrián Vázquez MEP, following the usual deadlines for meetings of this parliamentary committee. In principle, the committee is to meet in person, as current restrictions at the European Parliament expire in November. That said, Vázquez anticipated that it could vary depending on the decisions taken by Parliament's President, David Sassoli, on the possible need to extend the restrictions.
The format in which the hearing takes place is important because Junts MEPs' defence argues that an online hearing could infringe their rights, as the process to suspend a parliamentarian's immunity implies confidentiality and presence. However, the procedure was initiated on Monday in telematic format because the legal services of the Parliament endorsed it in a report requested by Vázquez to be able to trigger the process. "We are absolutely convinced that we have the legal certainty to carry out the procedure", said Vázquez.
On 7 December the three MEPs will have to appear alone with their legal advisers and one by one. They have 15 minutes to present their arguments and defend on what grounds they want to maintain their immunity. Monday's session was a simple presentation of the case in which there was a small debate between the committee members, but there was no intervention and not even the presence of the MEPs involved.
However, on Monday the defence of the Junts MEPs sent "comments" to all the members of the committee complaining that the same rapporteur is dealing with the three cases, because they consider that each MEP should have their own rapporteur. They argue that Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí should have different rapporteurs because they are accused of different offences. And not only this: last week they also made it known by the same route to all the members of the legal affairs committee (who are the ones who will later have to vote on the request) that the Supreme Court was not the competent body to request the suspension of immunity, another of their strong arguments to reject the appeal.
But in the face of this avalanche of e-mails, Vázquez has shown himself to be disconcerted. "I don't know what the purpose is. We are not a court, we cannot analyse certain things, nor debate them, we cannot enter into either the substance or the form of the matter," he has argued. On the fact that it is the same rapporteur, the president of JURE explained that it was considered appropriate to do so to avoid "comparative grievances" and that "no one opposed" the decision when it was taken.
So, coronavirus restrictions permitting, on 7 December the three MEPs from Junts will appear physically in Parliament and will have a quarter of an hour to defend their case. If the hearing cannot be held physically, Vázquez does not plan to call an extraordinary meeting but feels supported by Parliament's legal services to hold an online hearing. Any appeal would have to be made once the process has been concluded, which is when Puigdemont's defence plans to appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).