At the beginning of the year, the stakes were whether the request would be resolved in spring or summer. But the coronavirus pandemic, which is devastating lives and economies around the world, has also altered the agendas of MEPs. And, as a consequence of this, is that the supplications of Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí still have no date on the calendar of the European Parliament, which this Monday resumed activities after the summer.
The latest setback of the Supreme Court in Belgium leaves the aspirations to extradite Puigdemont touched
“It is very difficult while we are in blended mode,” explain sources from the Committee on Legal Affairs, the one in charge of making a first analysis of the cases before their vote in plenary. Why? Because supplications require closed-door deliberations in the committee, in addition to a secret vote, both in the committee and when the plenary session is reached. And while the sessions are not necessarily face-to-face, and it is difficult for that to happen while the pandemic is out of control, there is no way to guarantee the secrecy of deliberations or voting.
Thus, if at the end of January the most optimistic people hoped to start the process in mid-February, now they cannot even venture a date because it depends on the evolution of the coronavirus. What’s more, not even MEPs are completely convinced that the plenary sessions will be resumed in Strasbourg on September 14 after nine months without stepping on the French headquarters where, until the outbreak of the pandemic, the monthly plenaries were held. In the next few days, the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli (PD / S & D) will make the final decision.
But it is not the only decision that the President of the European Parliament has in hand. While the former, Antonio Tajani, enthusiastically accompanied the decisions of the Government and the Spanish justice to prevent Puigdemont and Comín from entering the European Parliament, Sassoli, however, opened the doors of Parliament to the independence leaders after the Court of Justice of the EU will rule – in the preliminary ruling of the Supreme Court on the case of Oriol Junqueras – that the status of MEP is derived from the votes at the polls and not from any other subsequent process, such as going to swear the Constitution in Madrid – something that still defend the Central Electoral Board and the Supreme Court against the criteria of the Luxembourg-based court.
Now Sassoli and his cabinet, after having completed the request in January, are faced with a dilemma: the Belgian justice in August has rejected in the first instance the Euroorder of Lluís Puig, former Minister of Culture of Puigdemont, considering that it has occurred a violation of fundamental rights when it is understood that the Supreme Court is not the competent body to take it, while it is not a grader before this court.
If the European Parliament continues with the processing as soon as it can return to normality, the defense may appeal to the CJEU, and there the institution that risks losing would be the European Chamber, not the Supreme Court.
To do it, remembered ACN, Puigdemont’s defense relies on jurisprudence, when in 2008 the EU court of first instance declared the admissibility of an appeal challenging the lifting of immunity against British MEP Ashley Neil Mote. At that time, Luxembourg argued that the processing of a request in the European Parliament should “be subject to a control of legality by the Community judge”. In the end, the court ended up dismissing the appeal because it did not see sufficient evidence, but it did not stop analyzing the current case.
On the other hand, if the petition ends up being voted in plenary and immunity is lifted for the three, the defense could go to the Belgian judge Jan Coopens, who takes the case of the three MEPs in the first instance and ruled in favor of Puig. And Coopens, by analogy, is foreseeable that he would say again that the Supreme Court is not competent, so that MEPs would return to Parliament with all their rights.
In both options, the European Parliament may be compromised, so a possibility that is not ruled out in Brussels is that the European Parliament is inclined to assume the Coopens ruling on Puig. The thesis contained in the Coopens ruling is that the fundamental right to have the case heard by the natural judge has been violated, as understood by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, dependent on the United Nations Human Rights Council, for the cases of Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart.
And, if the presidency of the European Parliament does that, and tells the Supreme Court that under the Coopens ruling and the report of the UN working group it is not competent, it would be a new defeat for the Spanish court and the case could return to the starting box for MEP independence leaders.
Before the European Parliament entered minimum services due to the pandemic, the Legal Affairs committee, chaired by Citizens MEP Adrián Vázquez, elected – by tacit agreement to share cases between parliamentary groups – the Bulgarian ultraconservative Angel Dzhambazki (ECR , the group of Vox, but also of the Flemish allies of Puigdemont, N-VA) to be the rapporteur for the Legal Affairs committee. Furthermore, Dzhambazki was later appointed speaker in the Ponsatí case, although the charges for which he is claimed are different: Ponsatí’s order is only for sedition, it does not include embezzlement as it does in the Pugdemont and Comín cases.
The mechanics of the supplication
If the national authorities request the European Parliament to waive the immunity of a Member, which has already happened in the cases of Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí, the President of the Parliament communicates – as he has already done – in plenary session that he has received the corresponding request and forwards it to the competent parliamentary committee, which is the Legal Affairs committee (JURI).
The commission may request any information or explanation it deems necessary. And Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will have the opportunity to be heard and may present documents or any other written evidence.
Behind closed doors – when COVID-19 allows it – the commission will approve a document – drawn up by the Bulgarian Dzhambazki – in which it will recommend to Parliament as an institution to approve or reject the request, that is, to suspend or maintain the immunity of the three MEPs.
During the plenary session subsequent to the decision of the committee, Parliament will take a decision by simple majority. After the question is put to a vote, the chairman will communicate the decision to the three interested parties, as well as to the competent authorities of the Member State in question. Everything indicates that popular, Socialists and Liberals may add majorities in each vote in favor of granting requests. But you have to vote.
Belonging to a group, and the pro-independence leaders are not – after the denial of the Greens group, they are among the Non-Registered, such as the M5S, the KKE, Golden Dawn or Vlaams Belang -, it presupposes being supported by a community . But it does not necessarily guarantee winning or losing a request. The Catalan question in the European Parliament is transversal. There are parties and deputies of all groups for and against.
On the other hand, the system of supplications in the European Parliament has different phases. The first is a step through the Legal Affairs committee, which will examine the case and in which the affected deputies will intervene, regardless of whether or not they belong to a group.
After this phase, depending on whether the committee gives free rein to the procedure, the plenary vote takes place. And the vote will not only be yes or no upon delivery to the Spanish justice system, or yes or no to the independence movement: MEPs will know that if they vote yes to the request, they may be sending Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí to jail at least 12 or 13 years by 1-O, depending on the judgment of the Supreme Court process. Or quite the opposite: they may be making a decision that is later amended by Judge Coopens. And it is that even in the event that the European Parliament approves the request, the approval of the euro order by the Belgian justice would still be pending, which, for now, questions that it is the competence of the Supreme Court.
Puigdemont himself explained in an interview with eldiario.es that the euro order issued by Judge Llarena is not adequate because he is not the competent judge: “Since we are MEPs we have immunity but we are not gauged. Therefore, Judge Llarena is not the competent judge; the Supreme Court is not the competent jurisdiction either to detain or to send a European arrest warrant, or to send a request It is a manual error. The one who should finally address the presidency of the European Parliament is the Ministry of Justice, which it has not done either. The Council of State made it clear that the competent authority in Spain to elevate to the presidency of the European Parliament a The request for suspension of immunity is the Ministry of Justice. And it does not appear anywhere. First of all, it is necessary to prove whether something as important to respect for the law as the competent judge, the competent jurisdiction, is respected or No. We clearly understand that no, we show it that it is not, and this will be the first major test to check the itinerary that this request to lift immunity will have. ”