EU can no longer ignore Catalonia, says Puigdemont
The Catalan pro-independence MEP made the remark when speaking for the first time in the European Parliament.
Catalan pro-independence MEPs Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin have now taken up their seats in the European Parliament for the first time.
Socialist group leader Iratxe García Pérez has backed the decision to allow two Catalan MEPs to take up their seats, saying, “We cannot ignore the situation in Catalonia. There is a new scenario now with the new government in Spain, which is good news for Spain, Catalonia and Europe. Our defence of rule of law cannot be selective so we must respect the decision of all judicial decisions.”
This was an indirect reference to a decision by the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, in December where judges ruled that MEPs have the right to immunity from the moment they are officially elected.
A third Catalan politician, who was also elected in last May’s European elections, the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, has been held in custody for over two years.
Junqueras was elected leader of the European Free Alliance group, but he will remain in prison after the Spanish Supreme Court recently refused to release him.
Parliament’s president David Sassoli has announced that Junqueras is no longer considered an MEP, backing the Spanish Supreme Court decision to block his bid to take his seat in Parliament. Junqueras is expected to appeal against the ruling to the General Court of the European Union.
"We cannot ignore the situation in Catalonia. There is a new scenario now with the new government in Spain, which is good news for Spain, Catalonia and Europe" S&D group leader Iratxe García Pérez
A total of nine Catalan separatist leaders were jailed over the 2017 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence which was ruled illegal by Spanish courts.
S&D group leader Pérez said, “We must respect the ECJ decision and we must take on board the fact that there are now two new MEPs from Catalonia in parliament. Parliament must not be turned into a spectacle or a circus and we must now allow justice to work.”
Puigdemont and Comin currently sit with non-attached members in parliament despite saying previously they wanted to join the Greens/EFA group. Both are currently exiled in Belgium, fearing they will be arrested if they return to Spain.
However, Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts has poured cold water on the prospects of them joining his grouping.
"It is not possible that the European Union any longer ignores Catalonia" Catalan MEP Carles Puigdemont
The Belgian MEP said, “I know they have asked to join us, but their membership of our group would constitute a problem, so we need to talk to our EFA colleagues about this. These two MEPs have constantly been aligned with a party in their host country, Belgium, which sits with another group.”
Speaking last week in parliament for the first time, Puigdemont said, “We are here to recall that the Catalan crisis is not an internal affair, it is a European one.”
Describing his debut in parliament as a “very emotional day,” Puigdemont, a former president of Catalonia, urged the EU to find a “political solution” to the Catalan issue and insisted that the Commission “should make sure Spain respects the ECJ decision.”
"It is not possible that the European Union any longer ignores Catalonia," said Puigdemont, who believes that "the Catalan crisis has already had an impact on the foundations of the EU".
Both Puigdemont and Comin held up posters saying “Free Junqueras”.
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