Sassoli recognizes Puigdemont and Comín as MEPs, but strips Junqueras of his seat on the JEC’s orders

The former Catalan president will "fight" to force Spain to respect his immunity, thus allowing him to return to the country

NÚRIA ORRIOLS / AÏDA SÀNCHEZ

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín are now fully-fledged MEPs. This Monday, the two JxCat representatives attended the European Parliament to participate in the first plenary session of the new political season. It began with a reference to the pair’s position and that of Oriol Junqueras, absent thanks to a ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, opened the plenary by referring to the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling on their immunity and recognizing Puigdemont, Comín and Oriol Junqueras as having been MPs since 2 July. However, in the case of the ERC leader, in accordance with the guidelines of the Junta Electoral Central (JEC or Central Electoral Board) and the European Parliament, Sassoli stated that Junqueras is no longer an MEP, declaring Junqueras’ seat to be vacant by virtue of a decision made by the Spanish authorities.

While Sassoli was addressing Parliament, however, Vox leader Jorge Buixadé demanded the right to speak by clapping his hands in the middle of the chamber. This prompted Sassoli to call him to order in an attempt to silence him. "Calm down, calm down, there’s nothing to discuss" Sassoli added. Puigdemont and Comín, who have joined the parliament as "non-Inscrit" MEPs, seating themselves at one end of the chamber, have not expressed their intention to address the parliament. Nevertheless, the former president, together with MEPs from the Green Group (to which ERC belongs) raised a banner calling for Junqueras' release.

Sassoli did not refer to the appeal which Parliament received from the Supreme Court this morning, calling for Puigdemont’s immunity to be withdrawn. To respond to it, Sassoli must first inform the plenary of its existence before submitting it to the legal affairs commission.

Puigdemont does not rule out travelling to Spain

Following the plenary, Puigdemont and Comín participated in a press conference organized by the platform promoting dialogue between Catalonia and the European Union, together with ERC MEP Diana Riba. Puigdemont, the leader of JxCat, called on the PSOE to vote against the appeal, which is to be debated by Parliament, in an attempt to "de-judicialize" the political process. Puigdemont declared that "We only ask you to be consistent". He went on to say that he has not ruled out travelling to Spain, based on the fact that if his immunity is respected throughout the EU, it should also include Spain.

Puigdemont declared that "We have taken risks so far and it hasn’t gone too badly", going on to assert that "legal avenues" still exist and that they will "fight" for Spain to treat them like the other EU member states. He refused to give any further details, though he said that if they were able to enter Spain as MEPs the first thing they would do would be to visit the political prisoners.