EU court provisionally restores MEP Puigdemont's parliamentary immunity

Fellow pro-independence politicians Comín and Ponsatí also granted status

MEPs Toni Comín, Carles Puigdemont, and Clara Ponsatí photographed at a press conference in March 2021 (by Natàlia Segura)
MEPs Toni Comín, Carles Puigdemont, and Clara Ponsatí photographed at a press conference in March 2021 (by Natàlia Segura) / ACN

ACN | Brussels

May 24, 2022 12:05 PM

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has provisionally restored the parliamentary immunity of Catalan pro-independence MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí.

The Junts per Catalunya politicians, who became MEPs in 2019 but are still wanted in Spain for organizing the 2017 independence vote, lost their parliamentary immunity in March 2021.

Their legal team then appealed the decision made by a majority of MEPs before the EU court. In June, Puigdemont recovered his parliamentary privileges, before then losing them again in July in a provisional decision that made his defense team believe the arrest warrants against the former Catalan president were suspended.

Yet, when judges made that decision, they suggested that privileges could be provisionally granted again if Puigdemont faced the risk of arrest. Thus, following his detention, the politician's lawyers requested the European Court of Justice to recover his immunity. 

The decision from the European Court of Justice on Tuesday annuls the one from the General Court and suspends the decision from the European parliament to lift the immunity of the three Junts per Catalunya members. 

The Court of Justice ruled that the request from the pro-independence MEPs "complied with urgent requirements," and the fact that they have not yet been detained, "does not rule out that they can be," the judges' decision reads.

The European arrest warrants system is intended "in itself, to pursue the detention of those people matching the descriptions," therefore "there is a great probability that the person can be detained," the CJEU decision reads.     

"Judge Llarena will have to comply with the CJEU's decision and withdraw the European arrest warrants across the EU," Gonzalo Boye, Carles Puigdemont's lawyer, said to media outlets on Tuesday. 

He was happy with the decision as it is "very important" as it acknowledges they were right when they claimed that the immunity should not have been lifted for the members of the European Parliament. However, this is not a final decision as the CJEU will have to rule a final verdict.

European arrest warrants still active, according CJEU

One of the main concerns Puigdemont faced was regarding the European arrest warrants. According to the Spanish Court, these are not active since they launched a prejudicial sentence regarding former cabinet minister Lluís Puig. In January 2021, a court in Belgium denied extraditing Puig to Spain

Since then, the Spanish court has been waiting for a reply from the European court regarding the case, therefore for them, the European arrest warrants have been frozen

However, the CJEU disagrees and on Tuesday, they rejected the Spanish claim that the European arrest warrants are suspended. 

One of the claims Puigdemont is using after the Parliament waved his immunity is the vote made public by an EU committee.

Members of the Committee on Legal Affairs agreed with the report's recommendation, written by ultra-conservative Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki, which advised lifting Puigdemont and the others' immunity.

The paper proposed waiving their privileges, and the pro-independence leaders' group, Junts per Catalunya, denounced a "breach of confidentiality," since the chamber insists that no committee members can reveal the content of any report before its vote.

Why is Puigdemont wanted in Spain?

Puigdemont was the Catalan president in 2017 and the person who decided to go ahead with an independence referendum deemed unconstitutional by Spain. The Catalan parliament declared independence on the last day of his mandate before being sacked by the Spanish government, on October 27, 2017.

Three days later, he was included in a criminal case put forward by the public prosecutor, but while this lawsuit was announced, the very same day it was learned that he had gone into exile in Belgium.

Spain's judiciary has been unable to extradite him or any other exiled pro-independence leader for over four years because neither Belgium, Germany, Italian or Switzerland have accepted it.

Check out this Catalan News podcast published in October 2021 for all you need to know about Puigdemont's exile and arrest in Sardinia.