Barcelona, 31 July 2021
Toni Comín, Carles Puigdemont and Clara Ponsatí in a picture taken in the European Parliament last June. – STEPHANIE LECOCQ / EFE
The Court sees no risk of imminent arrest as alleged in his appeal.
Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, the three Catalan MEPs, no longer enjoy the immunity of the other representatives of the European Parliament. The Court of Justice of the European Union has agreed to lift the interim measures provisionally restoring the protection withdrawn from them by the Parliament on 9 March this year.
The decision of the European Court, to which the three MEPs had appealed, is based on the certainty that there is no imminent risk of arrest, since the European arrest warrants issued at the time by Judge Pablo Llarena are suspended pending a decision by the same Court.
The dismissal of the appeal, although it is a detriment to the case of the three MEPs, was welcomed, at least apparently, without fuss by those affected, who consider that the really relevant news is that the Court itself recognises that the European arrest warrants are not active.
Toni Comín, one of the three MEPs affected, even went so far as to describe the decision as a “win win” and assured that this summer he plans to “spend many days in the south of France”.
Comín was yesterday in Perpignan, which has become a recurring place of pilgrimage for former MPs, and where yesterday the Consell per la República – a private organisation that aims to set itself up as the great command board of independence – opened a delegation with the presence of all those affected by the decision of the European Court.
The news did not go unnoticed on the other side of the border, where the Popular Party, through the mouth of its own president, Pablo Casado, immediately called on the government to do everything possible to arrest Puigdemont.
The European arrest warrants against the three MEPs are suspended at the moment.
However, and according to the decision of the European Court, this measure is inapplicable outside Spanish territory because there is no arrest warrant in force against them.
This is because, after Belgium denied the extradition of the former minister Lluís Puig, the examining magistrate in the case of the procés referred a preliminary question to the Court of Justice of the European Union in which he asked precisely how the rules of the game of the Euro warrants are applied and whether, as happened in the case of Puig, the justice system of another country could enter into the merits of the judicial case to avoid complying with the demand of another country.
While this decision of the European Court is not resolved, the arrest warrants in all EU countries, with the exception of Spain where there is a specific arrest warrant, are suspended and the three MEPs, even without the immunity enjoyed by the rest of their colleagues, can move around without any problems.
In fact, the Court itself in its decision – signed by its vice-president – also states that if an arrest were to take place, the three MEPs could again seek the protection of the European Court of Justice.
It remains to be seen what effect – if any – this decision of the European Court may have on the plea that Cares Puigdemont presented to the Court of Auditors. It should be recalled that he is one of the 34 politicians who were claimed the shared guarantee of 5.4 million euros and that Puigdemont’s lawyer argued that as an MEP he enjoyed immunity. Now he does not.
It remains to be seen what effect the decision has on Puigdemont’s plea to the Court of Auditors.
In any case, the European Court’s ruling is not indicative of anything. It does not anticipate a ruling favourable to the interests of Spanish justice, but neither is it bad news for the pro-independence leaders who fled Spain after the frustrated declaration of October 2017. It leaves things where they were.
Nevertheless, the decision, as was to be expected, gave play to everyone. Beyond the PP, also the Ciudadanos MEP and president of the Legal Affairs Committee that studied the case of the immunity of the pro-independence supporters, Adrián Vázquez, celebrated the decision: “The rule of law works”, he said.
Comín accepts the Court’s decision and assures that this summer he will spend many days in the south of France.
On the other side, Carles Puigdemont himself, on his Twitter account, said that “the story of certain Spanish press is again the same as in the previous situation. A little lime tea and, above all, that they read the decision thoroughly. The euro-orders are suspended”.