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).
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.”
On Thursday, the National Council of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) decided to facilitate Sánchez’s investiture and thus a PSOE-Podemos coalition government in Spain.
ERC emphasized that, in the party’s opinion, “recognition” of the existence of the Catalan conflict by PSOE has been achieved and, therefore, now is the time to take the “political path” through negotiations, not started by the Republican party, but “by the Government of Catalonia, as a country” and that, if the Spanish government of PSOE and Podemos deceives them once again, it will be the last time.
The agreement between ERC and PSOE includes a negotiating table during this legislature and a vote on the agreements.
Podemos and PSOE announced earlier this week that the negotiations would always take place within the Spanish Constitution, which would exclude the right to self-determination of the Catalans.
The investiture session of Pedro Sánchez is set to take place between this morning and Tuesday.
Reaction of Pro-independence Organizations and Parties
President Torra told Vice-President Aragonès on Thursday morning that the ERC/PSOE agreement does not have the approval of the Catalan government and that the executive will not take responsibility for it. The President understands that this is an agreement between parties and that any agreement with PSOE should “include the right to self-determination of Catalonia.”
The far-left party CUP also rejected the agreement, assuring that “it is far from resolving the Catalan conflict.”
The ANC warned that the agreement could lead to a second failed transition. Its President, Elisenda Paluzie, also said that “it could make the Catalan conflict become an internal matter in the eyes of the international community.”
JxCat affirmed that “it is an agreement between two political parties: ERC-PSOE, not the Catalan and Spanish governments.”
Democràtes party rejected the agreement and announced that they will decide in assembly on January 13 whether to abandon the ERC parliamentary group.
Numerous CDRs also announced their rejection and discontent with the agreement on social media.
ERC risks big losses in the next Catalan election, which is likely to take place in the next few months, if the negotiating table with PSOE does not yield immediate results on a self-determination referendum and the release of jailed Catalan leaders.