ECJ rules that Oriol Junqueras has right to take up seat in European Parliament

Written by Martin Banks on 20 December 2019 in News
News

The Spanish Supreme Court had earlier ruled that Junqueras could not take up his seat as he was in pretrial detention for having participated in the organisation of a “self-determination referendum” in Catalonia.

Oriol Junqueras | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


The European Court of Justice ruling effectively means that Junqueras was an MEP from the moment of his election in late May this year and enjoyed immunity which only the Parliament itself may wave or defend.

Reacting to the verdict, Parliament’s president David Sassoli issued a statement which reads, “This is a very important ruling that directly affects the composition of this institution.”

“It covers the assumption of the mandate of a member of the European Parliament and the protection of the correct functioning and independence of the Parliament.”


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He added, “The Court also ruled that immunity implies that the precautionary custody measure to which the elected deputy was subjected must be revoked, in order to allow the deputy to go to the European Parliament and complete the necessary formalities to take up his role.”

“That said, in the event that the competent national authority considers that this measure should be maintained after the person in question has assumed the role of MEP they must request the withdrawal of this immunity from the European Parliament as soon as possible, in accordance with the aforementioned protocol.”

He added, “I have given a mandate to Parliament's services to evaluate as soon as possible the application of the effects of the judgment on the composition of Parliament.”

Junqueras, the former deputy leader of Catalonia, was sentenced to 13 years in jail in October, alongside a number of other Catalan separatist leaders, over the 2017 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence ruled illegal by Spanish courts.

“I have given a mandate to Parliament's services to evaluate as soon as possible the application of the effects of the judgment on the composition of Parliament” David Sassoli, Parliament President

Junqueras, who had been in pre-trial detention since 2017, was elected in May for the Greens/European Free Alliance group but Spanish courts refused to allow him to take an oath on the country's constitution, which they say is necessary to become an MEP.

German Greens MEP Ska Keller welcomed the ruling, saying, “We have always defended the right of our colleague to take up his seat and we welcome that the ECJ now recognises this right.”

“The European Parliament is the body competent to defend Junqueras' immunity.  We request David Sassoli to enforce the ruling of the ECJ by protecting the rights of an elected member of this chamber and ensure the protection of his immunity in order to exercise his mandate.”

“The implementation of this ruling is essential to protect the rights of Junqueras but also to protect the functioning and independence of the European Parliament.”

“We have always defended the right of our colleague to take up his seat and we welcome that the ECJ now recognises this right” Ska Keller MEP

Her colleague Diana Riba said, “So long as Junqueras is not allowed to take up his seat in the European Parliament it violates his rights and the choice of the 1.2 million people who voted for him and are not represented today in the European Parliament.”

“Junqueras should have been freed to be able to exercise his political mandate as an MEP. Now that the ECJ has ruled that he should be able to take up his seat the Spanish state must provide him the opportunity to fulfil his duty to his voters.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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