GENERAL COURT OF THE EU
The EU General Court argues that the Parliament “merely took note of the legal situation” notified by the Spanish authorities.
Josep M. Calvet, Barcelona, 6 July 2022
Puigdemont and Comín in the European Parliament / Otras Fuentes
The General Court of the European Union (GC of the European Union) has declared on Wednesday “inadmissible” the appeal that the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his former minister Toni Comín lodged against the decision of the European Parliament (EP) not to allow them to participate in the first plenary session of this legislature, on 2 July 2019, after JuntsxCat won two seats in the European Parliament in the elections of 26 May 2019. The EU Court of Justice argues that the European Parliament “merely took note of the legal situation” notified by the Spanish authorities.
The European Court concludes that the applicants’ inability to assume their functions, to exercise their mandates and to take their seats did not derive from the refusal of the then President of the Parliament Antonio Tajani to recognise them as MEPs, but from the application of Spanish law and, in particular, from the notifications of the Central Electoral Board (JEC).
The JEC excluded the complainants from the list of MEPs.
This electoral body, after proclaiming the plaintiffs as elected deputies, excluded them from the list it sent to the Chamber on the grounds that they had not sworn or promised to uphold the Constitution. It should be recalled that neither Puigdemont nor Comín, who have been living in Belgium since 2017, could not go to Madrid to carry out this act, which is mandatory under Spanish electoral law, without being arrested due to the order against them by the investigating judge in the case of the procés Pablo Llarena.
The EUAT points out that neither Tajani nor the Chamber “had no margin of appreciation whatsoever” in relation to the list sent to them by the CEC. Therefore, the Court considers that the refusal of the former President of the Parliament to recognise Puigdemont and Comín as Members of Parliament does not constitute “an act which produces binding legal effects capable of affecting the interests of the applicants”, so that – the Court finds – “the action for annulment of that refusal is inadmissible”.
They were not actionable acts
On the other hand, on 29 May 2019, shortly after the elections, Tajani gave the Secretary-General of the institution the instruction to refuse all candidates elected in Spain access to the welcome village and the assistance provided by the institution to the elected candidates, as well as to suspend their accreditation until Parliament had received official confirmation of their election.
In that regard, the Court considers that this instruction did not have any legal effect on the applicants either, so that it is not an actionable act and therefore also considers the action to be “inadmissible” on this point.
According to the General Court, this instruction did not have the effect of preventing Puigdemont and Comín from completing the administrative formalities for taking up their duties and exercising their mandates, so that their inability to exercise the rights associated with their status as MEPs does not derive from that instruction either.
They became MEPs at the end of 2019.
In any case, Puigdemont and Comín acceded to the status of MEPs at the end of that year and made their debut as such in January 2020 by virtue of a decision of the recently deceased David Sassoli, who replaced Tajani in the presidency of the institution, who admitted their status as MEPs. Sassoli’s decision was based on a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that recognised the immunity of ERC President Oriol Junqueras – who had also been elected – as it ruled that the rights associated with a Member of the House derive from the election results and not from subsequent formalities.
However, the ruling issued today can be appealed before the higher court, the CJEU, which also has pending to resolve other more important issues for the political and personal future of Puigdemont and Comín, such as the preliminary rulings that Judge Pablo Llarena raised on the scope of his Euro-orders following the rejection by the Belgian authorities of the one referring to the former minister Lluís Puig. The same court must also rule on the merits of the appeal filed by the two MEPs together with the former minister and also MEP Clara Ponsatí against the decision of the European Parliament to strip them of their immunity, a decision that, after being endorsed by the TGUE, was overturned by the CJEU as a precautionary measure.