Ciudadanos (C’s) Party MEP Adrián Vázquez Elected to Chair the Legal Affairs Commission Which Will Assess Catalan Leaders Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí’s Immunity

On Monday, Ciudadanos (C’s) party MEP Adrián Vázquez was elected to chair the Legal Affairs Commission (JURI) of the European Parliament which will discuss the response to requests for supplication sent by the Supreme Court to extradite President Puigdemont and exiled leaders Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.

The three Catalan leaders will soon appear before this commission to discuss whether their immunity as MEPs is lifted by the EU Parliament. This process is expected to take several months and will conclude with a recommendation that will be voted in the plenary.

The Legal Affairs Committee has a total of eight Spanish MEPs, five of them as holders and three more as alternates. The MEPs are the “socialists” Ibán García and Marcos Ros, and the “conservatives” Esteban González Pons, Javier Zarzalejos, and Adrián Vázquez. As substitutes are the unregistered liberal Javier Nart, the “socialist” Nacho Sánchez Amor, and the head of the far-right party Vox in the Eurochamber, Jorge Buxadé.

Vázquez joined the European Parliament in early February after the departure of British MEPs due to Brexit. According to the distribution of chairs between the political groups in the chamber, this presidency corresponded to the Renew Europe parliamentary group – the group that integrates C’s. In his presentation, Vázquez said that as chairman of the commission he wanted to work with “transparency and dialogue.”

The Greens asked for a postponement of the vote to have more time to examine and meet the candidate, but the interim president indicated that the rules did not allow it and the vote took place.

The same commission will decide in the next few days who will be assigned as the spokesperson at the request for the supplicatory issued by the Spanish Supreme Court against the Catalan leaders. Most sources point out that the Bulgarian Conservative and Reformist MEP Angel Dzhambazki will be the chosen one.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to Assess Whether to Investigate Spain for Preventing Jailed Catalan Leaders from Having Access to EU Courts

On Monday, the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, said that member states have “the obligation to facilitate all citizens’ access to the courts.” It was his response to MEP Diana Riba’s (ERC) question regarding the pitfalls that the Constitutional Court puts on the jailed Catalan leaders to prevent them from having access to the ECHR.

Sicilianos affirmed that the ECHR will investigate if such a demand is received. He added that there had already been precedents in cases where the prisoner’s access to the ECHR has been hampered. “The court will need to investigate and find out if there is a violation,” he said.

Last week it was revealed that Spain’s Constitutional Court had set a strategy of accepting all the appeals from the Catalan political prisoners to prevent them from having access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR). This procedure was performed on around fifty appeals for protection filed by Catalan political prisoners against provisions of the Spanish Supreme Court. This kept these matters away from the Strasbourg court during the Independence trial and until the sedition sentence.

If the Constitutional Court had failed to accept all these appeals – only 1% are usually accepted — it would have allowed the defenses to subsequently report a human rights violation before the ECHR that could have been resolved, or at least accepted, before there was a ruling on the case. The Spanish High Court prevented this.

The Spanish Government Lowers Expectations for the Upcoming “Dialogue” with the Catalan Administration

The Spanish government started this week lowering any expectations for the upcoming “dialogue” between the Catalan and Spanish administrations. The Spanish executive said that it will “remain seated” at the table until a solution to the Catalan crisis is found, but emphasized that it will not occur any time soon. “No-one is expecting any results in the short term,” said Spokeswoman for the Spanish government María Jesús Montero on Tuesday. She also ruled out the use of a mediator, which was aimed at facilitating the success of the negotiations.

On Thursday, Catalan President Quim Torra and Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez continued lowering the expectations. They announced that the negotiating table over the Catalan crisis will kick off this month, but that it will be a long process that will not bring immediate results. Both leaders agreed that the first summit between cabinets in February will be chaired by both heads of government.

Spain’s PM Sánchez insisted that the negotiations will not “yield any results” in the short-term. He also spoke about the need to find a way out of the independence crisis through “solutions within the legal framework and with legal security.”

Sánchez said that the fact that Torra proposed a referendum shows “how far the stances of the both parties are from each other,” thus denying the possibility of such a vote for now. He also rejected the use of a mediator for the negotiations.

President Torra cast doubt on Madrid’s thinking about resolving the conflict: “We don’t know what the Spanish government’s proposal is.”

Torra insisted on the idea of self-determination, but revealed Sánchez’s response: “He answered that their stance remains the same: self-government [of Catalonia] within Spain’s constitution.”

“We are facing a long process, it won’t be easy, it will be complex, this is a path we have to walk,” added Torra.

The agreement on creating negotiations between the Spanish and Catalan governments aimed at solving the Catalan crisis was reached by ERC and PSOE in exchange for facilitating Sánchez’s investiture and the formation of a new government. Since then, the Spanish “Socialist” government has unilaterally broken the agreement several times. Last time was last week when the Spanish government said the dialogue would not start until after the Catalan elections, which are expected to take place between spring and autumn. Finally, Sánchez rectified this saying that the dialogue is due start this month.

Due to the negative attitude of the Spanish administration towards letting the Catalans decide their own future as enshrined in international law, it appears that the dialogue has no hope.

Catalan President Quim Torra Announces Snap Elections Once 2020 Budget Is Passed

On Wednesday, Catalan president Quim Torra announced that he will call a snap election after the 2020 Budget has been approved. The President made it clear that the government had broken down because of the loss of trust among its partners, Esquerra (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), following the decision of the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, to accept the “temporary” withdrawal of his seat as an MP on Monday.

President Torra (JxCat) accused ERC of a “lack of loyalty” and called on the pro-independence camp to “rebuild unity.” He added that before calling a snap election he wanted to approve the Budget and “explore whether Spain’s government has a true desire to enter dialogue and end repression.” He is due to meet Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, in Barcelona on February 6.

ERC issued a statement saying it “respected” the president’s decision to call a snap election. They also said it was important to approve the budget and hold talks with Spain before ending the present term of office.

On Monday, Torra expressed outrage at the parliament’s Speaker, Roger Torrent (ERC), for revoking his MP’s status and thus rendering himself ineligible to vote in the chamber, even though he was still (being) recognized as president.

The President said that we were now facing a new “coup attempt,” and that “repression” had to be “fought” in order to defend the sovereignty of parliament.

“If we don’t face our challenges with solidarity and loyalty within the pro-independence movement, freedom will progressively grow more distant.” Torra urged the pro-independence movement to “re-build” unity through a snap election. “Citizens have to vote for new majorities.”

Trial of Catalan Police Leadership During the 2017 Independence Referendum Week 1, January 20, 21, 22 and 23

The trial of the Catalan police leadership during the 2017 independence referendum begun on Monday in Spain’s National Court. Former Catalan police (Mossos) chief Trapero, the former police director Pere Soler and the former secretary-general of the Catalan interior ministry César Puig are charged with rebellion, whilst former Catalan police superintendent Teresa Laplana is charged with sedition.

Former Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Trapero defended his actions during the 2017 independence bid, as well as the actions of other members of the former Catalan police leadership. He denied any cooperation with the independence bid, or any “close relationship” with the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Trapero affirmed that the Mossos (Catalan police) didn’t facilitate the referendum and instead applied criteria of proportionality in the actions to not cause greater damage. The former police chief assured that it was “impossible to stop 2.3 million” people who were holding the referendum. “There were not sufficient officers.”

Trapero also said that he offered himself to arrest Catalan president Puigdemont if it was necessary.

Intendant Teresa Laplana

On Wednesday, Teresa Lapana assured that she was “not responsible” for the police operation at the Economy Ministry on September 20, 2017. She affirmed that her task that day was to “transmit Spain’s Civil Guard’s requests to her superiors.”

Laplana: “When I arrived [at the Economy Ministry] there were already a lot of people: around 700 and the number was increasing. There were all kinds of people of all ages, including families, and the attitude was peaceful.”

Laplana also said that she only talked to the former leader of the Catalan civil society organization ANC, Jordi Sànchez, because former police chief Trapero asked her to speak with him about the “detainees’ entry and departure” and also to help the judicial commission leave the building later that same day.

Former director of the Catalan police Pere Soler

On Thursday, Pere Soler explained that all human, material and budgetary resources were used to comply with court orders regarding the referendum. “The number of officers was increased by 800. The whole body of Mossos was mobilized like never before. We made a huge sacrifice.” The former director of the Mossos emphasized that “it was a joint operation” with other Spanish police forces.

Soler dismissed follow-up of Spanish officers as “false.” He said he knew that chief Trapero was against the referendum. “He told me that there could be a public order incident and that he wanted to report it to Minister Joaquim Forn.”

Soler also assured that the former Interior Minister Forn never gave him “instructions for the Mossos to support the referendum.”

Former Secretary-General of Interior Cèsar Puig

On Thursday, Cèsar Puig affirmed that he had no jurisdiction related to the independence referendum. “I had nothing to contribute to strategic or operational issues in relation to the referendum. I was responsible solely for managing resources to comply with court orders.”

Cèsar Puig was named Secretary-General of Interior in 2015 and was dismissed in 2017 in accordance with Article 155 (Spain’s direct rule) in Catalonia. “My role with the referendum was zero. The Government wanted to hold an agreed referendum, but I had no competence in this regard,” emphasized the former Secretary-General.

On the referendum, Puig reiterated that there was a “joint” operation with the Civil Guard and the National Police. He also admitted that he knew that former police chief Trapero and the Mossos were against the referendum.

Jailed Catalan Leader Oriol Junqueras Prepares an Appeal to the General Court of the European Union (EGC)

The defense of jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras is preparing an appeal in the General Court of the European Union (EGC) against the decision of the European Parliament to exclude him as Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Precautionary measures will be required for the EGC to suspend the decision of David Sassoli, President of the Euro-Chamber, and the court will have to determine whether to accept it within a few hours after the appeal is presented.

The General Court of the European Union (EGC) is a constituent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It hears cases against institutions of the European Union by individuals and member states.

According to article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), any citizen can file an appeal against the acts of European institutions that directly affect him/her. The procedure for this appeal may take several months, but the precautionary measures will be pronounced immediately, a few hours after the petition has been registered. The EGC could accept or reject them. If they are accepted, the European Parliament will be obliged to recognize Junqueras as an MEP again.

The parallel route to the ECJ

In parallel with the appeal to the EGC, Junqueras’ defense will file an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to keep him in prison. If this move fails, Junqueras’ defense will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court for violation of his political and constitutional rights. The next and final step would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The EU ParliamentDecision to Recognize Jailed and Exiled Catalan Leaders, Junqueras, Puigdemont and Comín, Causes Political Turmoil

On Monday, the news that the exiled and jailed Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Oriol Junqueras will be allowed to take up their seats as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) caused immediate political turmoil in Spain. The European Parliament officially announced that it will recognize the Catalan leaders as MEPs through a communique during the morning. This decision came after the European Court of Justice ruled on December 19 that the Catalans leaders have immunity.

While Catalan authorities celebrated the EU Parliament decision, the Spanish far-right and the right-wing, which had been attempting to prevent them from becoming MEPs, accused the EU Parliament of violating Spanish sovereignty and suggested that there had been an under the table agreement between the EU authorities and pro-independence forces, though no evidence was presented.

Regarding Spain’s Electoral Authority’s decision on barring Catalan President Torra from office and to veto Junqueras from becoming MEP despite the European Court of Justice immunity ruling, Torra said he was “proud that both the Catalan Parliament and the EU Parliament had disregarded Spain’s electoral Authority.”

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, first tweeted a prompt “mission accomplished.” Later he demanded also the annulment of the trial over the 2017 independence referendum because “the trial shouldn’t have taken place due to Junqueras’ immunity.”

Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, called for his client’s release: “Junqueras is an MEP. He has parliamentary immunity. He must be released to be able to go to the European Parliament.”

Spanish far-right and right-wing reaction

The three main unionist parties, Ciutadans (C’s), People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox asked the EU Parliament to revoke its decision recognizing the Catalan leaders as MEPs.

The spokesperson of the PP in the EU Parliament, Dolors Montserrat, accused the EU Parliament President, Sassoli, of an under the table agreement with those seeking Catalan independence. In a letter, Montserrat also recalled that the Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) ruled that Junqueras cannot be an MEP because he has been convicted by the Supreme Court. She also defended that the JEC is a “legitimate and competent” body in Spain.

The head of Cs’ delegation to the European Parliament, Luís Garicano, called on the chamber’s president, David Sassoli, to “revoke” and “reconsider” as well as to take into account the Spanish electoral authority veto. Garicano also announced that his party had already appealed the decision.

The head of the People’s Party in Spain, Pablo Casado, criticized the Socialist government’s “inaction” on the matter and called on Sassoli to “revoke his decision on Junqueras, who has been sentenced and barred from office for sedition and misuse of funds.” He also added that his party would “always defend Spanish institutions and respect for the law.”

The leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused Brussels of “trampling over Spanish sovereignty” and said that “the enemies of Spain in Europe want to take advantage of us having a treacherous prime minister to weaken our nation further.”