Tomorrow Monday, November 16th, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs will start discussing whether to lift the immunity of Catalan leaders Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Comín. This comes at the request of Spanish authorities, who have openly expressed their desire to have them extradited in order to jail them for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum, even though Belgian justice recently rejected the extradition of exiled Catalan leader Lluís Puig arguing that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant against him.
The ultra-conservative Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki will be the head of the committee and will present the case, which will then be discussed by the rest of MEPs on the committee.
Monday’s session will be held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will be summoned for a hearing at a later date. The debate on their immunity is expected to last for several months.
In the event Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí lose their immunity, they would still remain MEPs until a potential extradition and conviction barring them from office takes place.
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.