The European justice system ruled in favour of the European Parliament (EP) in the judicial battle that Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya President Oriol Junqueras opened to claim his seat as an MEP. On Tuesday, the European Union’s General Court declared inadmissible the appeal lodged by ERC President Oriol Junqueras against the decision of the President of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli, to declare his seat vacant after being elected MEP in the last European elections. Junqueras was unable to take up the post because the Spanish authorities did not allow him to leave prison to take office. Once his seat was declared vacant, Jordi Solé took it over in July this year
The Luxembourg-based court upheld the EP’s decision because it does not have the power to contradict decisions that come from Member State authorities, in this case the Supreme Court. In particular, it argues that “the President of the European Parliament did nothing more than transmit to the institution information on a pre-existing legal situation, derived exclusively from the decisions of the Spanish authorities”. He believes that the EP does not have the power to “control” any decision by the authorities of the Member State if it cancels the mandate of an MEP. He pointed out that the EP only receives information “about this vacancy” and argued that it cannot refuse to take into consideration the decision of the national authorities.
Junqueras has opened several fronts before the European justice system to claim his seat as an MEP after the Court of Justice of the European Union itself agreed with him. Luxembourg ruled that Junqueras had parliamentary immunity from the moment the election results were announced and considered that the Supreme Court should have released him so that he could take office. Since then, however, the defence of Esquerra’s leader and former Catalan vice-president has filed several appeals in Luxembourg which, so far, have been rejected.
In early January, the Supreme Court ignored the ruling of the European Court of Justice on Junqueras’ immunity. It informed the Central Electoral Board and the European Parliament that it was not appropriate to annul his sentence or to allow him to take up the post of MEP. In view of this decision Sassoli announced during the plenary session of the European Parliament on 13th January that Junqueras’s seat was vacant. Junqueras then appealed to the EU’s General Court to have this decision annulled and also asked for urgent precautionary measures until everything was settled in Luxembourg.
But the European courts rejected the interim measures, and Junqueras also appealed against this refusal. In October the ‘no’ vote was repeated and this time the European Court ruled on the first appeal, without going into the substance of the matter and simply giving the European Parliament the right to argue that it lacked the power to contradict the Supreme Court. But the judicial journey in Luxembourg does not end there. Junqueras’s defence has opened other fronts in the European justice system, with other appeals on the same issue.