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The curious case of Carles Puigdemont and the suppression of democracy ǀ View

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Free to travel around Europe but persecuted in Spain. Accused of rebellion in Madrid but acquitted of it in Germany. Accused of a coup d’état for organising an independence referendum by a court that de facto recognises as legitimate the very real coup d’état led by General Franco. An MEP-elect thanks to the votes of one million people, but dependent on European courts in order to fulfill his mandate.

The case of Carles Puigdemont - and his colleagues Toni Comin and Oriol Junqueras - is certainly a curious one. It is unique in Europe, even.

Despite being elected an MEP in a landslide, President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani has given orders to not to recognise Carles Puigdemont as an MEP.

Tajani is just following the position of the Spanish Electoral Commission, who after failing to exclude him from the electoral lists, stubbornly states that Carles Puigdemont cannot be an MEP if he doesn’t go to Madrid to swear allegiance to the Constitution. It seems that it doesn’t matter that one million people voted for him; the Spanish Constitution is more important than the electoral result itself. Other countries like Italy or France, for instance, don’t call for their citizens to make any kind of oath in order to exercise their mandate.

If Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin and Oriol Junqueras, are barred from becoming MEPs, why shouldn’t other EU countries create national procedures that ban political dissidents from attending the European Parliament?
Aleix Sarri Camargo
Carles Puigdemont’s campaign manager

Meanwhile, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in prison awaiting trial since November 2017 accused of rebellion and sedition, and who has been suspended as MP by the Spanish courts, will probably not be allowed to swear loyalty to the Spanish Constitution by Spanish prosecutors to become an MEP either.

Why? Because, as the Prosecutor’s Office recognises, if he is actually an MEP then the European Parliament will be able to have a say over his immunity, and subsequently over whether or not he is tried in Madrid and likely condemned to lengthy prison sentence for having organised the referendum of October 2017.

The whole sorry tale is one of contradictions. According to the very politicised Spanish Electoral Commission, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin cannot be MEPs because they won’t go to Madrid to swear to uphold the Constitution (where they would incidentally be arrested and sent to prison without trial). Conversely, Junqueras, who actually is in Madrid and ready to swear an oath to the Constitution, will not be allowed to in order to prevent him from enjoying his rights as an EU parliamentarian.

It’s all too clear. At this point, the EU is facing the massive violation of political rights not only against 3 MEPs-elect, but also against the 2.3 million citizens that voted for them. All in all, this legal mess, created by the Spanish judicial system, that will now end up to being decided by the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg.

Not only will the political futures of Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin and Oriol Junqueras be decided in court, but the question of what kind of union the EU is will also be scrutinised.

Are the voices of citizens and their votes less important than an administrative hurdle? Who decides who is MEP and who is not? Citizens with their votes or national electoral commissions? For how long can Spain be allowed to have social leaders and politicians in prison because of their political actions and ideas? For how long can the EU be silent?

If Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin and Oriol Junqueras, are barred from becoming MEPs, why shouldn’t other EU countries create national procedures that ban political dissidents from attending the European Parliament? It is true that many things are happening in the continent concurrently to this polemic, but the future of European democracy is at stake in the final resolution of the Puigdemont case.

Aleix Sarri Camargo was Carles Puigdemont’s campaign manager for the 2019 European elections.

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