Puigdemont: 'EU parliament has to decide whether they allow jailing dissidents'

Former Catalan president says it is 'foreseeable' that he loses immunity as MEP after committee vote in favour of lifting it

MEP Carles Puigdemont photographed during a press conference in the European Parliament (by Natàlia Segura)
MEP Carles Puigdemont photographed during a press conference in the European Parliament (by Natàlia Segura) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 24, 2021 01:12 PM

The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, believes it is "foreseeable" that he and fellow MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lose their immunity after the EU parliament legal affairs committee sided in favour of lifting it on Tuesday. 

In a press conference on Wednesday, the exiled leader said he does not "give up the battle."

"The European Parliament has to decide whether it accepts Spain's pressure and allows jailing dissidents," he said ahead of the final and binding vote in the chamber's plenary session, set for the week of March 8. 

Puigdemont called the committee's advice "shameful", after clearly siding in favour of waiving their privileges with 15 representatives for, 8 against, and 2 abstentions. 

He also anticipated legal actions, most likely before the European Court of Justice, after the vote on the week of March 8. Fellow Junts per Catalunya MEP and exiled former minister Toni Comín said there was a "lack of impartiality" and "irregularities" in the committee.

'Breach of confidentiality’ 

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

Yet, the content of the paper was leaked before the vote, which Junts per Catalunya called a "breach of confidentiality," since the chamber insists that no committee members can reveal the content of any report before its vote.

Likely that MEPs back lifting their immunity

It is likely that in the plenary session, a majority of MEPs will give their go-ahead to lifting Puigdemont's immunity – all five European People's Party representatives in the committee backed Dzhambazki's report. 

Meanwhile, the Spanish Socialists expect a similar outcome in the binding vote – and Ciudadanos, in the liberal group, believe that the main European groups "know the truth of what happened in Catalonia and did not let themselves be fooled by the separatists' lies." 

Yet, not everyone will support it: the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) group will side against lifting the immunity that would enable the resumption of the extradition processes. 

Their co-leader, Manon Aubry, said that the 2017 referendum judicial case "has a political dimension" and believes that the Spanish Supreme Court "will not be fair."

She said not all People's Party, Socialist, and Liberal MEPs might greenlight the initiative and there might be "internal divisions" and added that the Greens will mostly reject waiving their immunities. 

Indeed, German Green Party MEP Sergey Lagodinsky, a member of the legal affairs committee, said Puigdemont's judicial case is "politicized and disproportionate." 

He voted against it and warned that far-right Vox is among the supporters of removing their privileges.