Catalan MEPs "barred" from accessing the European Parliament

Written by Martin Banks on 7 June 2019 in News
News

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín claim they have been refused access and official MEP accreditation.

Carles Puigdemont | Photo credit: Press Association


They were among four MEPs elected from parties campaigning for independence for Catalonia.

A third elected MEP who could be prevented from taking his seat is Oriol Junqueras, the lead Spitzenkandidat for the European Commission presidency for the European Free Alliance grouping who has so far spent 19 months in preventive detention in Spain following the 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.

Diana Riba, a fourth pro-independence MEP also elected in the recent European elections, was allowed admission to the parliament and obtained her accreditation documents.


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At a news briefing in Brussels on Thursday, Alfred Bosch, Catalonia’s minister for foreign affairs, condemned the decision to refuse access to Puigdemont and Comín, calling it a “terrible indictment on the parliament’s legitimacy.”

Bosch, who was in Brussels to discuss the results of the elections, told reporters, “Last week, newly elected MEPs from Spain were able to enter the building, and some even received their official badge but access was refused to Puigdemont and Comín.”

He added, “Depriving political rights to elected officials does not sit well in a modern democracy. The legitimacy of the parliament could be tested if the rights of those who were elected by the people are not fully protected and they are unable to be present on 2 July in Strasbourg.”

“When we asked why this decision had been taken we were not given a proper answer. If it just a bureaucratic issue, then it needs to be dealt with quickly by parliament.”

He said the move was “ironic” given the “pro-EU” stance of the Catalonian parties. He added, “It appears parliament is more lenient with those political groups who have an anti-EU stance.”

In the elections, pro-independence parties won four of Spain’s 54 parliamentary seats.

“Puigdemont, Junqueras and Comín have been elected by 1.7 million citizens of Spain and Catalonia to represent them in the European parliament. If these three Catalan MEPs are not allowed to participate in the next legislature, Europe will not only have lost three active and pro-European members, but it will also have lost another chance to show the world that this is a space of freedom, democracy and support for fundamental rights” Alfred Bosch, Catalonia’s minister for foreign affairs

Lliures per Europa, the party of Puigdemont and Comín came top of the poll in Catalonia with 28.5 per cent of the vote. In third place, with 21.2 per cent, was Ara Republiques, the party of Riba and Junqueras.

Puigdemont, a former president of Catalonia, and Comín, Catalonia’s former health minister, face charges relating to the 2017 referendum which has been branded “illegal” by the Spanish government. They are both in exile in Belgium.

Junqueras is in jail in Madrid and faces the most serious charges, ranging from mismanagement of funds, rebellion and sedition. He faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Riba is the wife of Catalonia’s former foreign affairs minister who is also in custody in Spain.

Bosch said he believes the refusal to hand over parliamentary accreditation represents an “internationalisation” of the Catalan issue, and reiterated that, “Other Spanish MEPs elected last month were allowed to collect their accreditation so why not Puigdemont and Comin?”

“This really raises a question about who decides whether an MEP can take up his or her seat in the parliament. Is it the parliament itself or a national government?”

“In order to clarify the procedure to obtain a provisional accreditation by provisionally elected MEPs and avoid any possible interference in a national procedure, the president (Antonio Tajani) instructed to suspend the accreditation of all incoming Spanish members on 29 May until parliament receives official notification from the Spanish authorities. European Parliament source

He added, “Puigdemont, Junqueras and Comín have been elected by 1.7 million citizens of Spain and Catalonia to represent them in the European parliament. If these three Catalan MEPs are not allowed to participate in the next legislature, Europe will not only have lost three active and pro-European members, but it will also have lost another chance to show the world that this is a space of freedom, democracy and support for fundamental rights.”

“Pro-independence parties got nearly 50 per cent of the vote in the elections so this also about the safeguarding of basic political rights.”

Turnout in Catalonia was 64.23 per cent compared with the EU average of just over 50 per cent. Bosch said that self-determination was the most prominent issue in the elections in Catalonia.

Responding to the criticism, a European Parliament source said, “In order to clarify the procedure to obtain a provisional accreditation by provisionally elected MEPs and avoid any possible interference in a national procedure, the president (Antonio Tajani) instructed to suspend the accreditation of all incoming Spanish members on 29 May until parliament receives official notification from the Spanish authorities.

“In order to ensure equal and fair treatment, the president also instructed the Secretary General to suspend the provisional accreditation which may have already been granted to other incoming Spanish members.

“The decision was taken after two elected Catalan MEPs, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín, tried to obtain the temporary pass (not accreditation) to enter the premises of the Parliament as elected MEPs but before the official communication of the elected candidates had reached the parliament.

“On the same day, the head of three Spanish delegations in parliament, Gonzalez Pons (EPP), García-Pérez (S&D) and Javier Nart (ALDE) wrote an email to President Tajani expressing their concern about what Puigdemont and Comín had experienced in the Parliament and specially how this could affect the trial process and the public opinion in Spain.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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