The Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, has argued that the presentation of a European Citizens' Initiative calling on the European Commission to set in motion disciplinary proceedings against Spain aims to "strengthen" democracy in the country. "Now is the time to show the power of the citizenry", he said in a press conference presenting the proposal from the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and the Council for the Republic. The president said it's "not a proposal against the state".
The ANC's president, Elisenda Paluzie, explained that their objective is to have the Commission activate article 7 of the Treaty on European Union which can lead to suspending a member state's right to vote until it fulfills all its duties under European law. As examples of their complaints with Spain, she gave the "limited respect for the rights of minorities" in the country's high courts and their "politicisation". They also cite the decision by Spain's Central Electoral Commission to prevent Puigdemont and his former ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí standing in this year's European Parliament election.
Once the organisations present the initiative to the European Commission, it will have two months to decide whether to register it or not. To take this first step, the Commission has to judge that the proposal falls within its powers and that it's "not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious", nor contrary to European values. The bodies say that if the Commission refuses to register it, they will appeal that decision to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
At that point, the proposing organisations have one year to collect a million signatures in support of the initiative. These signatures must come from at least seven member states, each state having a different number of signatures as the threshold for it to count.
The press conference
During today's presentation of the initiative, Puigdemont was accompanied by three of the ministers who went into exile with him, Toni Comín, Lluís Puig and Clara Ponsatí, as well as Elisenda Paluzie and French former MEP Gérard Onesta.
Ara és el moment de demostrar el poder de la ciutadania a la UE. Avui hem presentat una Iniciativa Ciutadana Europea per demanar l’aplicació de l’article 7 del Tractat de Lisboa al Regne d’Espanya com a resposta a les greus violacions de drets fonamentals https://t.co/SEgsbiG2iO pic.twitter.com/rFA6xKHILd— Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) 2 de maig de 2019
They announced the members of the initiative's required "citizens' committee" come from Finland, Sweden, France, Slovenia, Spain, Germany and Belgium. They say the campaign will be financed solely by private donations from citizens and non-profits.
The accompanying text denounces violations to basic rights in Catalonia by the Spanish government, including to "human dignity, freedom, democracy, egalitarian respect for human rights and minority rights".
Who's on the citizens' committee?
- Mikko Karna, from Finland
Katarina Sundström, from Sweden
Gérard Onesta, from France
Igor Korsic, from Slovenia
Elisenda Paluzie, from Spain
Ulrich Hoinkes, from Germany
Bart Maddens, from Belgium