A superficial reading of the decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) might lead one to interpret it as a victory for Catalan independence over the Spanish justice system, but it is much more than this. The ruling issued by the Luxembourg-based court is a victory for European values over state structures when they are in partisan hands. It is a victory for the people of Europe as a whole and, in short, it is a victory for justice over the violation of rights.
Today Europe is stronger thanks to the Catalan lawsuit. Since its foundation, the European Union has been built in opposition to state structures, reluctant as they always are to ceding power upwards or downwards. But as the founding fathers (Monet, Schuman, De Gasperi) knew all too well, this was the only way to strengthen peace on a continent devastated by two world wars. This European construction has had its ups and downs, its successes and setbacks along the way, and nowadays its enemies are especially strong, as Brexit has shown us.
But, most importantly, the judges who are part of the CJEU did not make this decision as supporters of Catalan independence, or as Spain’s enemies, as certain individuals in Madrid would have us believe. Instead, they simply acted in accordance with the values and the philosophy which permeates the European project. The question, then, is not why has the CJEU ruled in Junqueras' favour, but how it is possible that in a European state like Spain the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has acted with zero respect for the political rights of the Catalan independence leaders and the country’s voters. The answer is very simple and is now in plain view for the whole world to see: in the case against the Catalan independence process, the Spanish justice system has acted more out of a thirst for revenge than a genuine desire to administer true justice.
The individual whose reputation has taken a real beating is Justice Manuel Marchena, the President of the Second Chamber of Spain’s Supreme Court, who sought to give the impression the defendants were receiving a fair trial and, contrary to expectations, agreed to raise a pre-trial question with the CJEU regarding Junqueras’ immunity. Although he did so while seeking to minimize any practical effects of an adverse outcome and without waiting for Luxembourg to issue a ruling, today he was completely overruled, as was judge Pablo Llarena on an earlier occasion.
Luxembourg's decision will be hard for Spain to swallow, gripped as it is by the resurgence of an anti-European rhetoric, alongside an equally atavistic anti-Catalan feeling. Which is why it is important, on a day like today, that Catalan independence is reaffirming its pro-European commitment and demonstrating its civic spirit. Not only to separate itself from rancid Spanish nationalism, but because it is the only practical way to force the Spanish state to recognize its own internal diversity. Can anyone imagine what would be happening right now if Spain were not part of the European Union? What future would await those behind bars and in exile, if they were unable to appeal to European judicial institutions?