EU Catalan electorate organised demonstration at doorstep of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 2 – the first day of the sitting of a new legislature. They have been protesting against ban of three of their elected MEPs to access their offices. Oriol Junqueras, imprisoned in Spain, Charles Puigdemont and Antoni Comin, stay in exile in Belgium.
Carles Puigdemont was expected among the demonstrators but his lawyer Gonzalo Boye convinced him to avoid travelling in France, fearing his arrest.
According to local police, around 10,000 demonstrators participated. They came by bus, cars and even two chartered flights.
Spanish MEPs from parties like the Ciudadanos insist that fugitive suspects do not have the right to sit in the European Parliament, representing electorate.
On Monday, the European Court of Justice agreed with this opinion.
A Madrid court ruled on that former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who lives in a self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017 to escape arrest for his prominent role in organising the independence referendum, could run in the European Parliament election on May 26.
Spain’s electoral commission last month barred Puigdemont and two other fugitive Catalan politicians from standing, but they contested the decision in court. Puigdemont and Toni Comin live in Belgium while Clara Ponsati lives in Scotland.
All three face imminent arrest in case they return to Spain as the referendum was ruled not only illegal by the Constitutional Court. Nine Catalan leaders – including Puigdemont’s former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras are going through trial in Madrid on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
Today the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as a guest of honor attended a photo exhibition “The Catalan Language: 10 million European Voices”, taking place in central location of the European Parliament – Atrium of Altiero Spinelli building.
The event was inaugurated by Ramon Tremosa (MEP, ALDE).
“The Catalan language, 10 million European voices” was organised in co-operation between Plataforma per la Llengua (Platform for the Language) and MEP Ramon Tremosa (PDeCAT).
Although crowded, the event was not overwhelmed by visitors, as it usually happens when Carles Puigdemont is present, because the information passed that the vernissage was ‘suspended‘. The relevant announcement appeared on the Catalan site ‘El Nacional‘:
“Another veto from the European Parliament towards another Catalan event. This time, the chamber has suspended an exhibition on the Catalan language planned for 4th March, saying it is “no longer appropriate” given the snap Spanish general election at the end of April. The exhibition was scheduled for two days before an event with far-right party Vox which is currently still happening”
Apparently the ban was lifted, and the exhibition on Catalan language will be available to the visitors of the European Parliament this week. However for many it is regrettable to fail to attend the event with Carles Puigdemont, who is held in high esteem by general public in Belgium, and by Brussels international press corps, always eager to interview the Catalan high-profile politician in exile.
Former President of Catalan government, and acting politician in exile, Carles Puigdemont presents a formal complaint to the EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, against the decision of the European Parliament (EP) president Antonio Tajani to ban his joint conference with the Quim Torra, the incumbent President of the Government of Catalonia. The decision to ban the Catalan event in the EP was motivated by the “security” reasons, explained in a letter to the conference organizers. In the written complaint the decision of Tajani is described as “unprecedented“.
The European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has canceled a conference (18.02.2019) with participation of the Catalan president, Quim Torra, and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, citing “security threats.”
The conference was due to take place in in Brussels on February 18, but the parliament decided to cancel it saying there was a “high risk” that the event “could pose a threat to the maintenance of public order on the parliament’s premises.“
The chamber detailed its decision in a press release: “The assessment takes into account several elements, including the recent occupation by the protesters of the European Parliament and Commission buildings in Barcelona, the tensions linked to the trial against Catalan pro-independence leaders that started on February 12, the lack of information on the participants at the event and, especially, the possibility of incidents within or around the Parliament premises.“
Apparently the ban came as a result of relentless efforts of Spain‘s three largest parties opposing Catalan independence to bloc the debate. They had sent a letter to the Speaker Antonio Tajani, urging him to prohibit the event on the grounds that Puigdemont planned to “overthrow Spain’s constitutional order.”
“Allowing Puigdemont’s presence is not compatible with the noble role of the European Parliament as an example of democracy and rule of law in force in the EU,” said MEPs from the Socialist, People’s, and Ciutadans parties.
However the ban to host a conference in the European Parliament premises is not conducive to the resolution of the Catalan issue, seen by many Catalans as an act of an ultimate betrayal of their fundamental freedoms by the EU.
Catalonian parliament has elected pro-independence politician Quim Torra as president, ending months of Barcelona political stalemate with Madrid.
A close ally of the independence leader Carles Puigdemont, Torra, 55, won the ballot by a simple majority with the backing of 66 members of the parliament, and four abstentions. However 65 legislators voted against his candidacy.
Torra has promised to draft a constitution for a future Catalan Republic and restore regional laws that were suspended by Spanish courts in the wake of Catalonia’s October 1, 2017, independence referendum in which about two million Catalans voted to secede from Spain.
Jordi SOLE MEP reflects upon new arrests of Catalan politicians and activists, deepening crisis between Madrid and Barcelona. He warns against danger of banalising terrorism, while Madrid attempting to compare peaceful political activism to terrorist activities. Use of obsolete terms as “rebellion” and “sedation” is symptomatic to flaws of Spanish democracy, denying Catalans their fundamental rights.
However SOLE admits there are not sufficient voices in European Parliament to stand for defence of democracy in Spain, and respect of human rights of Catalans. EU-Catalonia platform created in EP, is promoting dialogue, and it needs more support of MEP to enhance political solution of the crisis. SOLE regrets EP president Antonio Tajani aligned with Madrid even in wording of his position, while completely ignoring legitimate demands of Catalans.”We deplore this one-sided attitude”, SOLE said. Repeated denial of dialogue and negotiations by Madrid, is a denial of democracy, and democratic right of Catalans to choose their future.