Catalan leaders take battle for EU Parliament seats to Luxembourg court
Puigdemont, Junqueras, and Comín vow to defend posts won in European election after Spain blocked their oath of office
The Court of Justice of the European Union will have its say after Spain excluded three Catalan leaders from the EU Parliament, including former president Carles Puigdemont and his jailed vice president, Oriol Junqueras.
Puigdemont and Junqueras, the leaders of Catalonia's two largest pro-independence parties, played a key role in the bid to separate from Spain in 2017, with prosecutors now requesting prison sentences for the crime of rebellion.
While Spain’s Supreme Court didn’t allow Junqueras to take up the seat he won running in the recent European election from jail, Spanish authorities prevented Puigdemont and Antoni Comín from taking the oath of office while exiled in Belgium.
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to query the EU’s top court on the extent of Junqueras’ parliamentary immunity, which he claims should apply since the moment he was elected, regardless of whether Spain confirmed his appointment or not.
On the same day, Puigdemont and Comín filed a lawsuit against the EU Parliament to the Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, and demanded to be allowed to attend Tuesday’s plenary session and take up their seats.
In a preliminary ruling, the EU court dismissed their petition to assume the posts but has yet to decide on the overall case.
Specifically, the court argues that Puigdemont and Comín have already filed an appeal to the Spanish courts for the requirement to take the oath and officially become MEPs, and that the case is still "pending." Therefore, the court affirms that this question must be resolved "by national authorities".
Demonstration in Strasbourg
As the EU chamber opened on Tuesday, the seats of Puigdemont, Junqueras, and Comín remained empty. Yet the voice of the independence movement was heard in Strasbourg, with thousands of Catalans traveling to the French city to protest.
Puigdemont and Comín considered traveling to Strasbourg to join the pro-independence march, but they rule it out over the risk of detention.
After Germany rejected extraditing Puigdemont for the crime of rebellion, Spain withdrew all international arrest warrants against exiled Catalan politicians. Yet a 2002 bilateral agreement with France could allow Spanish police to arrest Puigdemont on French soil.