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Socialists under pressure to take stance on lifting Puigdemont's immunity

Pedro Sánchez's party gets opposing demands from pro-independence leader and right-wing Spanish unionists


14 January 2020 12:10 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

Spain's Socialist party is set to face a conundrum in the near future over the requested lift on pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont's immunity as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). 

The Spanish Supreme Court has called on the European parliament to waive the exiled politician's privileges, which will eventually result in a vote over the issue in an EU chamber plenary session in a few months. 

In the last Spanish election campaign, the Socialist candidate Pedro Sánchez pledged to make a commitment "here and today" to "return [Puigdemont] to Spain so that he can be held accountable before Spanish justice."

Rejecting Puigdemont would make dialogue with Catalonia tumble

Now Sánchez is president but only thanks to the support of pro-independence Esquerra, ally of Puigdemont's party, in exchange for launching "a bilateral negotiation table" between the Spanish and Catalan governments over the independence issue. The talks are expected to be led by both presidents, Pedro Sánchez and Quim Torra, Puigdemont's closest JxCat party colleague. 

If the Socialists support lifting the newly elected MEP's immunity, turbulence in the talks between Sánchez and Torra would follow, putting the deal with Esquerra at risk

On Monday, Puigdemont asked Spain's leader to be "coherent" in his commitment to "dejudicialize politics" and reject the Supreme Court's petition. "It would be unimaginable otherwise," he added. 

"We are sure President Sánchez did not lie before Spain's parliament when he said he does not want the judicialization of politics." 

Supporting Puigdemont would mean contradiction with campaign and Spanish judiciary

Yet, if the Socialists rejected waiving the Catalan politician's immunity, they would be contradicting not only their vow during the campaign, but also the judiciary of their own country. 

This would potentially clash with part of the Socialist party itself, and also with Spain's right-wing opposition. 

Indeed both the People's Party and Ciutadans have already urged the Socialist to stand for lifting his immunity. 

"I hope that the Socialist party does not betray the Spanish people in Europe as they have been betraying them in Spain," People's Party MEP Dolors Montserrat said on Monday. 

"I ask the Socialists to continue backing Spaniards in Europe, the rule of law, and the EU treaty." 

On the same page, the leader of Ciutadans in the EU parliament, MEP Luis Garicano, said it would be "more than unimaginable" that the party leading the Spanish government rejects supporting Spain's judges.

Vox to sue European Parliament

As for the far-right Vox party, they announced on Tuesday that they intend to sue the European Parliament for recognizing Puigdemont and his colleague Toni Comín as MEPs.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal traveled to Strasbourg to say they would be bringing the issue to the European Court of Justice and claimed that the President of the European parliament David Sassoli had "violated Spanish law".

However, it was in fact the EU court that enabled Puigdemont and Comín to take their seats as MEPs. Its December 19, 2019 ruling confirmed jailed leader Oriol Junqueras had immunity from the moment the official results of the 2019 EU election were declared.

EU parliament president comments on Junqueras

Meanwhile, the EU parliament president, David Sassoli, commented on jailed MEP-elect Oriol Junqueras, who was first recognized as MEP and then stripped of his parliamentary status within a week after a Spanish Supreme Court ruling was issued against the pro-independence politician.

Sasssoli said he "respected" European law when accepting Junqueras, Puigdemont, and Comín, but also when leaving the former out of the chamber.

"The question of Junqueras' loss [of parliamentary immunity] is very complicated. It cannot only be resolved through these simple mechanisms," he told the press.