Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and ex-minister Toni Comín have run into the first hurdles in their attempts to take office as MEPs. Both tried to enter the European Parliament on Wednesday to collect their provisional documentation, accompanied by other newly-elected MEPs such as Diana Riba, number two for ERC, but the authorities of the European Parliament did not allow the exiled politicians to enter the premises.
Only the two of them were refused entry, since the rest of the new MEPs were able to obtain the provisional accreditation that facilitates their access to the Parliament until the official notice from the member states arrives. However, sources from the European Parliament said that "the Parliament can decide not to grant any assistance until it receives assurances that an individual has actually won a seat in the chamber" and they avoided explaining what criteria had been followed to deny the entry of Puigdemont and Comín in this case but allow that of other new MEPs.
"The argument they have given us holds no water, because they told us that Spain has not officially announced the list of elected officials," said Puigdemont as he left the seat of the European Parliament in Brussels. The former president asked why MEPs from other parties were able to enter the building and said that the answer was "silence." Puigdemont criticized the "blatant discrimination" and said that there is an attempt "to extend to European institutions the standards of violations of rights that are already a given in Spain." He warned that they will stand up for their rights and demand accountability, and he is convinced that the same will happen as with the Central Electoral Board, which excluded them from the electoral lists but finally had to rectify this by judicial order.
The European Parliament has failed to provide a reason why it decided to deny entrance to Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín. Sources from the European chamber already notified yesterday that they would play this by the book and make no exceptions to facilitate procedures as they have done on other occasions. "The European Parliament will have to provide a sound explanation, because we are the representatives of European citizens voted for by more than one million people and they are preventing us from exercising our rights," said the former president in exile.
ERC MEP Diana Riba explained that she was able to enter “with no trouble" and had been "working all day within the European Parliament", with her group partner Pernando Barrena (EH Bildu). Both Barrena and Riba were on the provisional list of MEPs and were able to see that the names of Puigdemont, Comín, and Oriol Junqueras were also on the list. "We have seen that there were three names marked in gray. It is a huge pity that the European Parliament has given itself over to totally arbitrary discrimination against two elected officials," she explained.
Carles Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, also reacted rapidly on Twitter, criticizing the decision of the European Parliament and warning that “we have won the legal game" and that, therefore, "force" is being used as a "last resort, one that is unbecoming of a democratic parliament".