Brussels (AP) – The European Parliament has decided to waive the immunity of former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont.
Parliament approved a request from the Spanish authorities against the MEP by a clear majority, it was announced in Brussels on Tuesday. It thus paved the way for the continuation of criminal proceedings against the separatists. The former president of the autonomous government of Catalonia was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. The 58-year-old now lives in Belgium.
In addition to Puidgemont, the two Catalan MPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí will also be deprived of their immunity. In parliament, a majority of about 400 MPs voted to lift the immunity of the three independence supporters on Monday evening. Nearly 250 MPs voted against, more than 40 abstained. With two more votes on the waiver of the immunity of other MPs, the majority was significantly larger.
After the voting results were announced on Twitter, Ponsatí wrote that it gave her hope and strength for the “next fight”. Following the banned independence referendum in Catalonia in October 2017, several high-ranking politicians in the region, including Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí, fled abroad. Puigdemont has been chairman of the autonomous government since 2016. Comín and Ponsatí were temporary cabinet members.
The vote in the EU parliament caused a new dispute within the governing coalition of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. While EU parliamentarians from his socialist PSOE party voted in favor of the repeal, members of left-wing alternative junior partner Unidas Podemos (UP) voted against it.
For Sánchez, Puigdemont and the other two politicians are on the run from justice, while for UP boss Pablo Iglesias, however, politicians in exile wrote the newspaper “El País”. UP has repeatedly stressed that the conflict with the Catalan separatists cannot be resolved through the judiciary, but only through dialogue.
Despite the coalition dispute, Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya, close to the PSOE, said the government welcomed the EU parliament’s decision. Parliamentary immunity should not be used to circumvent justice. The MEPs’ decision strengthens the rule of law and the judicial system in Spain. Moreover, it is clear that Catalonia’s problems cannot be solved in Europe, but only in Spain.
The vote could also affect negotiations to form a new regional government for Catalonia after the February 14 elections. It is true that the socialists – who are in favor of dialogue but against secession – have become the strongest party. But the separatist parties ERC, JuntsxCat and CUP together hold a majority of parliamentary seats. ERC politician Pere Aragonès wants to become the new head of government in Barcelona. The UP would also be considered a partner and could have increased his chances by saying no in Brussels.