Politics 02/06/2021

European justice provisionally restores parliamentary immunity to Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí

EU General Court adopts precautionary measures pending resolution of appeal against European Parliament

3 min
MEPs Clara Ponsatí, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín at a press conference at the European Parliament.

BrusselsCarles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí have provisionally regained immunity as Members of the European Parliament. The General Court of the European Union (GCEU) has put the European Parliament's decision to withdraw their immunity as MEPs on hold after their appeal. The European court does not rule on whether or not the pro-independence MEPs are right or wrong, but takes this measure preventively, while it waits for the European Parliament to present its case. This should happen within the next two weeks. That is to say, the court adopts precautionary measures before resolving on further precautionary measures.

Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí lost their parliamentary their parliamentary immunity on March 9th, after a long process that the MEPs consider irregular and which was set in motion at the request of the Spanish Supreme Court, which requests their extradition through euro-orders. Over 30 days after losing their immunity, Puigdemont's defence filed an appeal for annulment before the GCEU. A few days later, on May 26, he requested the precautionary measures and this appeal is the one that has caused this Wednesday's decision by the CGEU.

As stated by the court, the pro-independence MEPs argue that the European Parliament has not guaranteed the exercise of their fundamental rights as representatives of European citizens and that, therefore, the rights provided for in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights have been violated. In their request for interim measures, they asked the vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights to suspend the withdrawal of their immunity because they consider that there is a "real and imminent" risk that they could be arrested or imprisoned, which would prevent them from representing the citizens who voted for them.

Junts consider that the removal of their parliamentary immunity allows any European state and even the United Kingdom to execute European arrest warrants and hand them over to the Spanish authorities, which, again, would prevent them from exercising their work as MEPs. They also identify a special risk taking into account that the European Parliament will resume its activity on 7 June in Strasbourg and they could be arrested if they travel to France. Now, as long as the appeal is not resolved, they regain immunity and all that it implies, meaning they can travel within the Union without the risk of being arrested, as they did before the European Parliament's decision.

This is why the vice-president of the General Court, Savvas Papasavvas, has ordered this Wednesday that the decision be suspended. Nevertheless, this could be reversed. In addition, Papasavvas explains that Parliament has not yet submitted its observations on the request for interim measures and stresses that "at this stage it is not possible to determine whether the merits [of the request for interim measures] have been sufficiently demonstrated". However, as the court's procedural rules provide for interim relief to protect "the status quo" in the event that the allegations of the plaintiffs are "founded", sources close to Puigdemont's defence deny that this decision over precautionary measures may anticipate the court's final decision, in the same way that sources in the European Parliament, who recall that the MEPs' appeal was presented just before the deadline, which is why the chamber's legal services have not yet been able to deliver their allegations.

Even so, the Consell per la República has quickly celebrated the decision: "A new victory in Europe that exposes the Spanish state and its repression". A few minutes after the ruling was made public, the Spanish government's diplomatic office informed that a joint press conference between the foreign ministers of Belgium and Spain scheduled for this afternoon at 7.30 p.m. was cancelled "by mutual agreement".

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