EU Parliament withdraws Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí's immunity

400 MEPs voted in favour, 248 voted against and 45 abstained

4 min
The MEP of Juntos , Carles Puigdemont, to the European Parliament.

BrusselsIt is back to the courts for Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí after their parliamentary immunity was withdrawn this morning. The result of the European Parliament plenary vote on Monday is the definitive confirmation which comes as no surprise. By 400 votes in favour, 248 against and 45 abstentions, in the case of Puigdemont, and by 404 votes in favour, 247 against and 42 abstentions in the case of Comín and Ponsatí, the European Parliament has decided to grant the suspension of immunity requested by the Spanish Supreme Court so that the judicial process can continue in Belgium and Scotland for their extraditions

The vote was yesterday and is secret. The results were not known until this morning because the process is completely telematic due to the restrictions imposed since the beginning of the pandemic.

The positions were clear almost from the beginning, but on Monday some of the Spanish spokespersons in the European Parliament were positioning themselves publicly. The parliamentary group that occupies more seats in the hemicycle is the European People's Party, who have voted as they did to the Legal Affairs Committee (Jure) and as announced yesterday the Catalan MEP Dolors Montserrat: "In favour of lifting the immunity of the three fugitives from Spanish justice"

The Socialists in the European Parliament are the second group and are chaired by Spain's Iratxe García, who did not speak yesterday but who had already said several times that her group's position was "in favour of the rule of law". The Spanish delegation, including the PSC MEPs, have voted in favour of lifting immunity but in this case it was also expected that some members of the social democratic family would vote in favour, because there is no group discipline. The socialists have kept a low profile throughout the process and have avoided making political statements about it.

In the case of the liberals, their position has also been mostly in favour of the request but there have also been parliamentarians against it because it is a more heterogeneous group, which includes, for example, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). Yesterday PNV MEP Izascun Bilbao explained via Twitter that they would vote against the request because "political problems are not solved through court rulings but with dialogue and politics"

The Greens were the only parliamentary group on Monday to issue a joint statement on their position on this particular case. Its co-chairs, Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, believe that "the competence of the Supreme Court in the case is still in dispute and has not been sufficiently clarified in Jure's assessment". And, in line with this group, which includes Diana Orilla of ERC and Ernest Urtasun of En Comú Podem, they call for dialogue to resolve the political conflict in Catalonia and "urge" the Spanish government to "decide as soon as possible on the different instruments" to ensure the release of prisoners

The European Left, which includes MEPs from Podemos and EH Bildu, also voted against the process. Through a statement sent on Monday, Unidas Podemos also expressed its rejection of the approval of the request. The party considers that the competence of the Supreme Court in the case is questioned by the rejection of the extradition of Lluís Puig and defends that "the political conflict in Catalonia has to be resolved by political means and through dialogue". In addition, they second one of the complaints of the Junts MEPs about the breaches of confidentiality in the process of processing the request to Jure: "If we want to be scrupulous with the rule of law, inside and outside our borders, we should start by respecting the procedures that guarantee the impartiality and independence of institutions". With opposing votes, the discrepancy between PSOE and Podemos in their position on independence is evident

These are the clearest positions as far as the parliamentary groups of the European Parliament are concerned, in line with the requests of their Spanish delegations. The direction of the vote of the groups further to the right of the European People's Party is more widespread. The group of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) includes Vox but also the Flemish nationalists of the NV-A who have sponsored the independentists in Belgium. In the case of Identity and Democracy (ID), where those of Salvini and Le Pen are, they also have some parliamentarians pending requests.

Back in the hands of justice

The approval of the request means that the three MEPs are in the hands of justice and that, in turn, the MEPs can activate a new legal route through an appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to appeal the process of the request to lift their immunity in the European Parliament that they consider irregular and politicised. The future lies, therefore, in the courts. For this reason, the examining magistrate of the Supreme Court, Pablo Llarena, has already made a move. To avoid a setback like that of the ex Catalan minister Puig, Llarena is considering the possibility of requesting a preliminary ruling from the CJEU to clarify whether the Belgian court went too far in its rejection of the euro order of the ex Catalan minister of Culture and thus facilitate the way for the extradition of Puigdemont and Comín.

The European Parliament's report states that the facts for which justice claims them are prior to their status as members of the European Parliament and that, therefore, they do not suffer political persecution related to their status as MEPs. The report also declares the chamber incompetent to judge whether or not the Supreme Court is the competent judicial body to issue the Euro-orders

From Junts, Puigdemont's have insisted in recent days on a reading of the vote on the lifting of immunity as "a dilemma" for Europe. "Today's vote is about what values we defend, what idea of democracy we have, and what future we want to build in Europe," tweeted the former president.