Without surprises or surprises, the European Parliament has fulfilled what was expected and has decided to lift the immunity of the former president of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont, with 400 votes in favor, 248 against and 45 abstentions, and with almost identical votes in the cases of the Former Catalan councilors Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí (404 in favor, 247 against and 42 abstentions).
The decision of the European Parliament, which was voted secretly on Monday, but was made public this Tuesday, allows to reactivate the extradition processes against the three MEPs demanded by the Spanish justice since their flight from Catalonia in 2017. Puigdemont and Comín are accused of sedition and embezzlement, and Ponsatí, of sedition, for their role in the process [el referéndum ilegal del 1-O y la posterior declaración unilateral de independencia].
It will now be the Belgian courts that will have to take the reins of the process (in the case of Puigdemont and Comín) and the British (in the case of Ponsatí, who settled in Scotland, although lately he resides in Belgium). The procedures initiated through Euro arrest warrants issued by the Supreme Court magistrate who instructs the cause of the independence process, Pablo Llarena, were suspended at the beginning of 2020, when Catalan politicians took possession of their minutes as MEPs, pending the European Parliament to rule on his immunity.
Its delivery to Spain will not be immediate. And the possibility seems even more distant since last January, when the Belgian justice denied the extradition of the former Catalan councilor Lluís Puig, also fled to Belgium and claimed by the Supreme Court, but whose process continued its course as he was not an MEP and for both lack special protection.
Legal chess will be complex. Catalan politicians have also announced that they will appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union for alleged “irregularities” in the procedure followed against them in the European Parliament. Judge Llarena, from the other side of the board, also took the first steps a couple of weeks ago to raise a preliminary question before the European justice in order to obtain guarantees in the process.
On video, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, affirmed this Tuesday that the decision of the European Parliament is an endorsement of the rule of law.
Foreign Ministry sources explain that this possible step by Llarena has the objective of European justice “interpreting how a euro order is to be applied”, following the position of the Belgian courts in the Puig precedent. And they assure that the Government has tried to “generate trust” between the Spanish and Belgian justice systems. They hope that the extradition will finally become effective, but they are not sure that it will. “What guarantees do we have that it will? None”. They value the result released this Tuesday: “It is a vote of confidence in the rule of law and the functioning of justice in Spain.” And they emphasize that it is a way of validating that the problems of Catalonia have to be solved in Spain, not in Europe, and that the status of MEP cannot be used to evade national justice.
PHOTO GALLERY: Puigdemont, three years on the run from Spanish justice
The request: a necessary, but not definitive, step for the delivery of Puigdemont to Spain
The vote in the European Parliament has followed the planned script: the three great political families of the popular, socialists and liberals, which add up to 432 of the 705 MEPs (61%), have voted in favor of withdrawing immunity; They have done it in a monolithic way in the first case, although with some fissures and dissensions in the block of progressives and liberals. Both the greens and the left, which have 108 seats, voted, as they had announced, in a majority against.
The division between the formations of the Spanish coalition government, whose points of view diverge on how to resolve the Catalan crisis, has also materialized in the hemicycle, with the Socialists supporting the lifting of the protection of Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí and the members of United We can uncheck themselves to vote in the opposite direction.
On video, Iratxe García, president of the social democratic parliamentary group, said on Tuesday that Podemos will have to explain why it has decided not to cooperate with justice.
“Podemos will have to explain why it has decided not to cooperate with justice,” Iratxe García, president of the group of European socialists in the European Parliament, reacted at a press conference after knowing the results. García has highlighted the “victory of democracy and the rule of law” and the “clear absolute majority” that has supported the Spanish justice “to do its job.” “This parliament is not there to comment on what judges do in Spain.”
Despite the fact that it has gone ahead, the cracks that the independence cause has generated in the European hemicycle can be detected in the difference of the vote with the other two lifting of immunities that it also decided on Monday: the cases of a Croat and a Portuguese, demanded by the justice of their countries, which received the support of 658 and 652 MEPs, respectively, more than 250 seats above the votes of the Catalans, and with a percentage similar to the usual in these procedures. Of the 59 Spanish MEPs, popular, socialists, citizens and the extreme right of Vox they would have voted in favor, while they would have voted against, in addition to Podemos, those of ERC, PNV, Bildu and the three directly involved in Junts.
“It is a sad day for the European Parliament,” said Puigdemont at a press conference this afternoon, after thanking colleagues in the chamber who have offered “more support than expected.” At the appearance, along with Comín and Ponsatí, the politicians highlighted that 42% of the European Parliament did not vote in favor of lifting their immunity, something they value as a “political victory”, despite the “arithmetic” defeat. “Today’s vote is a very clear sign that the solution does not involve placing ourselves in the hands of the Spanish justice,” stressed Puigdemont. “Verify that this is not the way to solve things […] They have taken away our immunity, but at what cost?
Regarding the differences in the vote between the partners of the Spanish Government, Puigdemont highlighted the “coherence” of Podemos, which would always have defended a solution to the Catalan conflict through political means. “I am surprised that the PSOE has not been consistent,” he said, instead, after reminding the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, of his past defense of the “depoliticization of justice.” The three Catalans have declared themselves “at the disposal of the Belgian authorities” and have confirmed that they will go to the European justice to denounce the irregularities of the process in the European Parliament.
“The political phase of the procedure has just ended and the judicial one begins,” says Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer who is part of the defense of the Catalans. “We are very calm because we know what we have to do and, above all, how it is going to be resolved.” Since the Belgian ruling on Lluís Puig, Boye considers that the legal battle would be approaching a “checkmate” on his part (non-extradition), in which the only thing left to decide is the number of plays.
After the results, which were known first thing in the morning, this Tuesday’s session has transformed the halls and intricate corridors of the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels into a Spanish hive, with press conferences convened by the main parties in the country and also by those directly involved. All waiting for the process on his extradition to go to the next phase, but already outside the walls of the hemicycle. of
The popular MEP Dolors Montserrat and the Citizen Luis Garicano have also celebrated the decision of the European Parliament in their respective press appearances at the parliamentary headquarters. “Spain wins, the European Union wins, democracy wins,” said Montserrat, who also took the opportunity to attack Podemos and the PSOE: “Puigdemont’s best ally has been Sánchez’s government partner.” Garicano, from Cs, has influenced this line: “The Government has not only been abandoned by Podemos, but by all its Government partners” in “the most important vote for Spain” of the legislature, putting at stake its “foreign prestige ”.
Podemos has defended its position through the MEP María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop: “This is a political conflict that has to be resolved in political headquarters.” Palop recalled the commitment of his group “for dialogue.” “The political forces that have made Sánchez president have always been in the not to the judicialization of politics.” And he has downplayed the divergent vote, something that has already happened at other times due to the difference between his political projects.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.