Spanish judge Pablo Llarena has upheld the European Arrest Warrants and their national counterparts against Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín. He will also ask the European Parliament to revoke their immunity as MEPs. What does that mean in practical terms? Puigdemont and Comín cannot currently be arrested in any EU country, thanks to their immunity. That doesn't hold in Spain, however, which doesn't consider them to be MEPs. The decision comes a week after a Belgian court suspended extradition proceedings against the two Catalan politicians.
Besides the European Arrest Warrants (EAW), the investigating judge from the Supreme Court also ratifies their arrest warrants in Spanish territory where, according to Llarena, if arrested the wouldn't enjoy immunity "in having already been prosecuted". If so, it would be unnecessary to ask the Parliament for permission. Secondly, he will ask Belgium to pause the time limits to decide on the EAWs until the European Parliament responds to his request to revoke their immunity. He argues that "the facts attributed to both of them are from well before their election and have no relationship to their activity in the European chamber."
Llarena has taken this decision after giving the parties an opportunity to submit arguments when the Court of Justice of the EU's verdict on Junqueras's immunity was released. He accepts Puigdemont and Comín's appeals to recognise them as MEPs, but rejects their appeals to withdraw the arrest warrants against them.
The judges notes that, according to the CJEU, MEPs enjoy "in their own national territory, the immunities granted to members of the Parliament of their country" and, "in the territory of any other member state, immunity to any measure of arrest and all legal action." This means they have immunity when travelling to and from European Parliament meetings, whether in Brussels or Strasbourg.
He calls for the Parliament to suspend their immunity "as soon as possible". He argues that "the facts attributed to both of them are from well before their election and have no relationship to their activity in the European chamber."
Unnecessary in Spain
The small print of the Supreme Court's rulings means that, according to the judge, no appeal to lift immunity is necessary in Spain. He notes that both the Spanish Constitution and the rules of the Congress and Senate "establish that delegates and senators cannot be 'charged or prosecuted' without the prior authorisation of their respective chamber." As such, he argues there's no need to ask for parliamentary authorisation "with respect to any parliamentarian who takes office after their prosecution."
Llarena says that immunity "protects [MEPs] from the opening of proceedings designed to alter or perturb the normal working of the legislative chamber", but not to "prevent the ending of a legal case in which the delegate or senator has already been prosecuted". He notes they were prosecuted on 21st March 2018 and gained immunity as MEPs on 13th June 2019.
"Duty of cooperation"
In his rulings, the judge also has a message for the European institutions, reminding them that the principle of "loyal cooperation" not only requires member states to "adopt all the adequate measures to guarantee the scope and efficacy of Union law", but also that there's a "reciprocal duty of loyal cooperation from the European Parliament".