Home Europe European Parliament ex-president broke law by barring Catalan separatists, top court adviser says

European Parliament ex-president broke law by barring Catalan separatists, top court adviser says

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Former European Parliament President Antonio Tajani broke EU law when he refused to recognize Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont as a member of the Parliament, a top EU court adviser said Thursday.

Puigdemont and another Catalan separatist politician, Toni Comín, were both elected MEPs in the 2019 European Parliament election, but at the time both were living in Belgium, where they had fled following the failed 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

Because Spanish authorities were still pursuing them, both declined to travel to Madrid to declare their allegiance to the constitution in the national parliament, as is required of all newly minted MEPs in that country.

As a result, Puigdemont and Comín were left off the official list of MEPs-elect that Spain sent to the European Parliament, and Tajani decided to withhold their credentials and bar them from entering the institution’s buildings.

That ban remained in place until Tajani’s successor as Parliament president, David Sassoli, waived it six months later, when the Court of Justice of the European Union reaffirmed the immunity of elected MEPs and ruled member countries had no right to ban them from taking their seats in the Parliament.

Even then, however, Puigdemont and Comín were not recognized by the Parliament. Their credentials were finally accepted by the institution in January 2020, eight months after the European Parliament elections were held.

In response to an appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU filed by Puigdemont and Comín back in 2019, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar issued an opinion Thursday slamming Tajani for his actions and recommending the Parliament be ordered to retroactively annul its refusal.

Szpunar said Tajani had breached EU law by calling the officially declared election results into question, and by bowing to Spanish authorities who had failed to “faithfully and completely” relay the results of the elections in a bid to block the separatists from taking their seats in the Parliament.

“There is no provision of [EU] law that authorizes a Member State to suspend the prerogatives of Members of the European Parliament,” Szpunar wrote.

While the advocate general’s opinion is nonbinding, their independent input is key to the Court’s deliberations and has been found to align with around three-quarters of its final legal decisions. The definitive ruling on the case is expected at a later date.

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