Brussels (AP) – The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to lift the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, the former president of the Spanish region of Catalonia, and his two colleagues, which could pave the way for their extradition and reopen separatist scars in Spain.
The Spanish government immediately welcomes the decision of the EU legislature as a victory of the rule of law against those who tried to cut off the rich northeastern part of the rest of Spain.
In the decision on Puchdemont, 400 lawmakers voted in favor of waiving immunity, 248 were against and 45 abstained.
The measures taken by his colleagues, the former Minister of Health of Catalonia, Tony Comini, and the former Minister of Regional Education, Clara Ponsati, to lift the immunity were largely similar.
Puigdemont and a number of his separatist allies fled to Belgium in October 2017 for fear of being arrested after a referendum on Catalonia’s independence, which the Spanish government considered illegal.
In 2019, Puigdemont and his two supporters took seats in the European Parliament and were supported as members of the EU Assembly.
Puigdemont’s lawyer in Spain, Gonzalo Boyer, has announced that the former president of Catalonia is going to appeal the decision of the Assembly in the EU Supreme Courts in Luxembourg.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez-Laya said the assembly’s decision showed that Puigdemont and his two aides could not defend themselves from their legislature to avoid appearing before national justice. In the video, Gonzalez Laya also said that the decision means that “Catalonia’s problems are solved in Spain, they are not solved in Europe.”
Dolores Montserrat, the center-right legislator of the European People’s Party նախկին Former member of the Spanish government who overthrew Puigdemont, Dolores Montserrat told TVE: He added that the decision confirms that Puigdemont “has fled and will have to answer to the Spanish courts”.
Despite the high margin for lifting the immunity of the three legislators, Boyer said the Assembly’s support was not as overwhelming as Spain wanted.
“Obviously, there are people in the conservative group, in the EPC, the Socialists, who voted against,” he told Spanish TVE.
The 2017 independence vote in favor of Catalonia seceding from Spain was defeated, but the central government in Madrid declared the vote illegal and unconstitutional. Hundreds of people were injured in Catalonia by police on the day of the inquiry.
Spain tried to bring Puigdemont back to trial but failed to persuade the Belgian judiciary to extradite him. Spain may now make new efforts to extradite him, but Puigdemont has promised to continue the fight.
The legal appeal process can still take months, if not years.
Parra reports from Madrid.