Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and two other separatist politicians from Catalonia now fully credentialed as European Parliament legislators (MEPs) are getting the cold-shoulder treatment from key parliamentary groups in Strasbourg as they prepare to face down a petition from Spain for removal of their parliamentary immunity so they can be extradited to face trial in Madrid.
On Wednesday, Catalonia’s former regional Education Minister Clara Ponsatí took her place as the latest credentialed Catalan separatist MEP alongisde Puigdemont and the region’s former Health Minister Toni Comín. Ponsatí was awarded her MEP seat as one of five places allotted to Spain to replace outgoing British MEPs, who lost their seats in the European Parliament on the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU on 31st January.
All three of the Catalan separatist politicians fled Spain in November 2018 to avoid prosecution for their roles in the October 2017 illegal referendum on Catalonia’s independence, with Ponsatí fleeing to Scotland to resume her post as a professor at St. Andrew’s University in Fife.
Despite their success in gaining seats as MEPs over the objections of Spanish election and judicial authorities, Puigdemont and his colleagues are having trouble integrating in the European Parliament, which after the exit of British parliamentarians currently has 705 seats.
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In October 2018, Puigdemont’s centre-right PDeCat party in Catalonia were expelled for corruption by the Renew Europe parliamentary group, formerly the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the third-largest parliamentary group in Strasbourg. The explusion had been promoted as much for the Catalans’ separatist leanings as for corruption and was promoted by Spain’s centre-right Ciudadanos party, also a member of the ALDE/Renew Europe group.
Following their acceptance as MEPs in January, Puigdemont and Comín’s attempted to join the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA), the fifth-largest parliamentary bloc in Strasbourg. But objections by Belgian Greens leader and group Vice-President Ska Keller over Catalans’ close ties in Brussels to Belgium’s right-wing Flemish nationalist NVA party torpedoed that possibility and Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí now find themselves excluded from all European Parliament blocs as they prepare to face hearings for the removal of their parliamentary immunity.
Adding to their woes, the Catalan politicians also face additional problems, as Spain’s Tribunal de Cuentas financial high court has found that the Catalan politicians involved in the illegal 2017 independence referendum are liable for repayment between them of 4.1 million euros in taxpayers money that the court says was misappropriated for the purpose of promoting and staging the referendum.
In addition, the parliamentary immunity that Ponsatí currently enjoys, but may soon lose if the push to remove that immunity prospers in the coming months, is only applicable within the European Union.
But following the UK’s Brexit from the EU, as of 31st January she no longer is shielded by that parliamentary immunity in Scotland. Already, Spanish Supreme Court Justice Pablo Llarena has called on British authorities to process an international arrest warrant so that the former Education Minister can be detained the moment she steps foot in the UK and then extradited to stand trial in Spain.
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