I know what you’re thinking: “It’s just a bunch of gobbledygook. Now this writer will outline all the threats to democracy and how we should all fight the system.” That’s not exactly how I would describe it, but… it’s possible, I would say.
So, what is the problem? Long story short: Carles Puigdemont, the former prime minister of Catalonia, and Toni Comín, the former minister of Catalonia (both pro-independence politicians), successfully ran for MEPs. Despite their election, they are not being allowed to take their seats in the European Parliament. Why? This is where the story gets a bit tricky.
It is the European Parliament that provides the necessary credentials to the elected MEPs so they can enter the European Parliament building, attend the meetings and sessions and… vote. However, the European Parliament wants the national authorities to officially notify them about who has been elected as MEPs in their respective country. The European Parliament claims such notification is necessary so as to be sure that the person who is requesting for accreditation is actually an MEP.
I guess it must be difficult to obtain any information about the results of the European Elections in the member states from Brussels!
Now, you are probably asking “If the two politicians won enough votes to secure seats in the European Parliament, then it’s merely a formality to confirm their status as elected parliamentarians, right?” Right, but it’s not so simple.
According to Spanish legislation, anyone who is elected as MEP first has to attend a special session of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid to be sworn in and to swear to abide by the Spanish Constitution. So, Puigdemont and Comín have to go to Madrid first to attend the Spanish Parliament. The problem is that they cannot step foot in Spain. The moment they enter the country, they will be arrested on charges of rebellion (for organising a referendum in 2017).
It does not matter whether you are in favour of Catalonia’s independence or not. And even though Madrid is desperately trying to make this case all about the Catalonian independence, it is not. It is all about the unfair push of several Spanish political parties to get rid of their well-known political rivals who could be seen and heard in the European Parliament.
And I shall go even further to say it is also about the independence of the European Politics and the European Parliament. Moments like this will ultimately determine whether the European Parliament will be a whole and independent political forum where European Politics will be discussed and decided, or merely a pawn of the national governments and national disputes.
It is worth noting that Puigdemont and Comín were allowed to run in the European Parliamentary elections – despite the criminal charges against them. There was no European or Spanish law to prohibit them to run in the elections. Both are residing in Brussels and are not going to be extradited to Spain, so they are hardly fleeing from justice in Belgium.
And here’s a bonus to end the story…
It has been confirmed that other Spanish MEPs have received their credentials before the official confirmation of the Spanish national authority. So why haven’t Puigdemont and Comín (wanting to join Greens/EFA) received theirs? Because their political rivals from Spain (the People’s Party, EPP; the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party, S&D and the Citizens, ALDE) have written a request to the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, EPP, another political rival of the two, asking them not to provide the credentials.
It is evident that this is not exactly a non-partisan process…
Lukáš Lev Červinka, is a constitutional lawyer specialising in the comparative constitutional law and parliamentarism, is currently working as a legal political advisor for MP Jan Lipavský, in the field of international security. He is also a Research Fellow at the AMO (Association for International Affairs) Research Centre. He was a Pirate Party candidate in the European Parliament elections of 2019.