The Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, and former minister Toni Comín have finally been able to collect their credentials as MEPs. The accreditation is temporary, given to new members of the chamber until they've completed the procedures to take their seats. That will come in January.
Puigdemont and Comín got access to the headquarters in Brussels on the last working day of the year, the day after the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras had automatically become an MEP on the proclamation of the election results, without needing to complete any other formalities within Spain.
"It's taken us six months but now we're here and we'll make it count", Puigdemont said as he arrived at the Parliament where a crowd of journalists and Flemish politicians from NV-A, including MEP Assita Kanko, had been waiting since mid-morning.
In response to questions from journalists, Puigdemont said he hadn't spoken with the Parliament's president, David Sassoli, before entering the building. Sassoli, however, had made it clear yesterday in the chamber that they would respect the court's ruling. The decision was taken after a very tense meeting in which the leader of Spain's PSOE in the chamber, Iratxe García, tried to prevent it.
The first formality for Puigdemont and Comín, followed by a swarm of photographers, was to collect their accreditation. Their passes last one day; in fact, the Parliament will close its doors mid-afternoon today until January.
President Puigdemont said he was "absolutely" convinced they'll be able to take part in the first plenary session of the new year, scheduled for 13th January in Strasbourg.
They're not afraid of anything the Spanish government or justice system might do? "The justice system that protects us is the European one, fortunately. In charge of the EU institutions is the European justice system, fortunately. If the Spanish justice system were in charge we would be in prison, despite having immunity and the rights recognised by the CJEU," he said.
The president said that today's step should have been taken when the chamber was constituted earlier this year. He described the decision which prevented them from doing so as "arbitrary, illegal [and] abusive by Antonio Tajani's team and his legal services".
As for the options open to judge Pablo Llarena to continue after them, Puigdemont said they've spent "more than two years fights" in which time they'd got "a lot of experiences and also not a few victories". "All scenarios have been considered", he said, adding that the most immediate challenge is the European Arrest Warrants.
After having the procedure for accreditation explained to them by Parliament staff, the president thanked the workers who had been waiting for them, despite it being the last day before the holiday. "Very pleasant feelings, to finally be in the place where we were meant to be. We're home," he said.
A victory for democracy and freedom. After much obstruction and delay, Finally able to defend the interests and the voice of their voters and Catalan.— Assita Kanko MEP (@Assita_Kanko) December 20, 2019
Welcome in the European Parliament @KRLS @toni_comin pic.twitter.com/PyLmribCx9