The ruling of the EU Court of Justice on Junqueras’ immunity last week caused a political earthquake in Spain. The ruling, which is binding, stated that all candidates become members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and have immunity at the very same moment the results of the European elections are published by national authorities of each state member. This decision means Junqueras should be released immediately and his judgment on the 2017 independence referendum annulled and that exiled Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín can no longer be extradited nor detained in the euro-zone.
There is however a mechanism that the Spanish Supreme Court could activate if it still wants to prosecute the Catalan leaders, the supplicatory which is based in asking the European Parliament to withdraw the Catalan leaders’ immunity. This procedure, which lasts for several months, would internationalize the Catalan cause to levels never before seen. It would be like a trial on the Spanish Supreme Court, which would provide relevant evidence, clarification and information on the situation of Catalan exiles, as well as the Catalan conflict.
According to Article 9 of the EU Parliament regulations, the competent authority of a Member State, that is, the Supreme Court, can request the President of the European Parliament a petition to suspend a MEP’s immunity. If accepted it is transferred to the legal affairs committee of the Parliament.
There are no deadlines to resolve these sorts of cases, though EU regulation specifies it should be done “as soon as possible.” The legal affairs committee has to issue a recommendation after analyzing the specific case that will eventually be voted on by the plenary.
During this process, the EU Parliament could ask the Spanish Supreme Court “for all information and clarifications it deems necessary to form a criteria” as to whether or not immunity is needed. The MEPs affected, in this case, Junqueras, Comín and Puigdemont, could also take part in the commission to provide further information and defend themselves. The rest of the sessions would be behind closed doors.
Once the committee elevates a proposal to the plenary, it would be debated and voted on during the next EU Parliament plenary session. No amendments could be tabled, but the plenary would have to discuss publicly the reasons for and against the decision rendered on the petition. The Catalan cause and the judgment on the 2017 independence referendum would have extraordinary international visibility.
If the Plenary finally agrees on withdrawing the immunity of the Catalan leaders, the President of the Chamber would notify the Spanish Supreme Court. This, however, doesn’t mean that they would lose their credentials as MEPs, but that the EU chamber allows three of its members to be tried in a country that claims jurisdiction over them. The Spanish Supreme Court would then need to get their extradition; otherwise, the whole procedure to revoke the Catalan leaders’ immunity would have been useless.