Carles Puigdemont allowed to enter EU Parliament after court ruling

Former Catalan separatist leader still awaiting decision on whether he can claim his MEP seat.


12/19/19, 10:41 PM CET

Updated 12/19/19, 10:47 PM CET

Exiled former Catalan leaders who were elected as MEPs will no longer be barred from entering European Parliament buildings after an EU court ruling Thursday, according to one of the ex-leaders.

The former president of the northeast Spanish region, Carles Puigdemont, and his former health minister Toni Comín were elected to the assembly in May, but have been unable to take up their seats because Spanish officials don’t recognize them as MEPs. Both fled to Belgium to avoid charges in Spain over their role in a failed secessionist push in 2017. Spanish officials won’t recognize them as MEPs unless they swear a constitutional oath in their home country, where they face arrest.

But a ruling on Thursday in favor of another former Catalan leader, ex-vice president Oriol Junqueras, has literally opened doors for Puigdemont and Comín.

The Court of Justice of the European Union said Junqueras should have enjoyed the immunity afforded to MEPs and been allowed to leave pre-trial detention to take up his seat after May’s election. Junqueras has since been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in the 2017 independence push.

The ruling did not say whether Junqueras should now be freed, but European Parliament President David Sassoli on Thursday called on "the competent Spanish authorities to align with the ruling." He also said he had asked the assembly's legal services to evaluate how the Parliament should respond to the ruling.

According to Comín, Sassoli also decided to lift a ban on Puigdemont and Comín entering Parliament buildings.

“With the lifting of the ban on our entry into the European Parliament, President Sassoli understands that today's CJEU decision on immunity of Vice President Junqueras also affects the president and me,” Comín said.

The decision to let them enter the Parliament building does not mean they have been recognized as MEPs.

Spain's government said in a statement that it is now up to the Supreme Court to decide how to comply with the EU court decision.