Why is EU court ruling on jailed leader key in Spain's presidency deadlock?
Pro-independence party of jailed Junqueras expects Socialists to make a move to free politician
The EU court's confirmation of jailed leader Oriol Junqueras' immunity on Thursday is having a direct impact on Spain's deadlocked presidency, which so far has led to two elections and eight months of an interim Socialist government.
The judges in Luxembourg said that Junqueras should have been freed in June in order to take up his seat as an MEP after being elected to the European Parliament in the May election. Yet, the court did not specify if he should still be freed, because at the time he was in preventive detention and is now serving a sentence.
It is now up to Spain's Supreme Court to decide whether to free Junqueras, and the judges in Madrid have given until January 3 for all sides in the Catalan trial to have their say before they make a decision.
One of the parties is the solicitor general, representing the Spanish government, with the pro-independence Esquerra party believing the Socialists can influence the institution.
Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez aims to stay in power, but he needs Esquerra to get enough support in Congress.
"Politics must move away from repression"
"The new political era can only begin if politics moves away from repression, is that clear enough?" Esquerra's top official in the Catalan government, Pere Aragonès, said on Saturday in the party's conference.
Aragonès demanded the "immediate" release of Junqueras following the EU court's ruling, two days after the party announced that their talks with the Socialists would be frozen until the solicitor general has commented on the imprisoned politician's case.
"The new political era can only begin if politics moves away from repression, is that clear enough?"
Pere Aragonès · Catalan vice president and Esquerra's senior official
Yet, Aragonès also defended dialogue as a way out of the Catalan crisis, and said Esquerra has to play the role of "ice-breaker" in the negotiations with Spain.
Could Sánchez be Spain's president by January 5?
The party does not rule out resuming the talks with the Socialists from December 27, and that Sánchez be invested by January 5 – but first they want to see the solicitor general's view.
With an overwhelming majority (93.5% of the votes), Esquerra's party conference passed a text on Saturday to "move towards independence by any democratic and peaceful path," through a referendum, but prioritizing one agreed with Spain.
Socialists take cautious approach
Meanwhile, the Socialists have not explicitly stated what they think the Supreme Court should decide, saying only that it has to abide by the European ruling.
"The Luxembourg court is also a court for Spaniards," said Spain's acting vice president, Carmen Calvo, on Saturday, taking a cautious approach to the issue.
Left-wing pressure on Esquerra
Anti-austerity Unidas Podemos, the party that will share government with the Socialists if Esquerra supports the deal, continues putting pressure on the pro-independence force.
On Saturday, Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, the head of Unidas Podemos' Catalan allies, urged Esquerra to back Sánchez: "We have to demand of ourselves a cool head, serenity, responsibility, intelligence and political bravery to make a progressive government possible."
As for the Spanish parties on the right – expected to remain in opposition, although their support for Sánchez would unlock the deadlock without the need of Esquerra – they demand the Socialists stop talks with the pro-independence camp.
Ciutadans' Lorena Roldán called on Spain's acting president not to give in to Junqueras' "blackmail."