The Catalan pro-independence MEP for Junts, Clara Ponsatí, asked for the word at the beginning of today's plenary session in the European Parliament to denounce her arrest yesterday in Barcelona and reprimand the president of the chamber, Roberta Metzola, for her lack of response to the situation. Ponsatí's address led to a dispute in the chamber, in which the Spanish unionist MEPs Dolors Montserrat (PP) and Jordi Cañas (Ciudadanos) and the pro-independence Diana Riba (ERC) also spoke. Present in the front row of the plenary session were the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and the president of the Council, Charles Michel.
Ponsatí appeared today in the European chamber the day after returning to Barcelona for the first time in over five years, a visit in which she was arrested in the centre of the city while on her way to an event at the Junts MEP office. She was taken before a duty judge and four hours later was informed of her obligation to appear before Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena in Madrid. Faced with this situation, she asked today for the president of the European chamber to protect her immunity. In fact, Metzola, in the opening business of the session before MEPs' addresses began, had announced that she had sent the Ponsatí case to the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI).
When she took the floor, Ponsatí accused Metzola of "failure" for not complying with her obligation to protect the immunity of MEPs despite being requested to. "I did not receive a response and as far as I know she has not done anything about it, except to bureaucratically pass the case to the JURI commission", she reproached the Maltese MEP. She asked if this failure to comply with the defence of parliamentary immunity, after the "unlawful" detention of a member of Parliament, something which had never happened before, is a policy of the presidency, or the attitude that Catalans deserve? Metzola advised Ponsatí to carefully review her announcement that she was sending the request to the the Legal Affairs committee.
"Enough secessionist theatre"
Immediately afterwards, it was the Catalan member of the People's Party, Dolors Montserrat, who spoke, in a very forceful tone, to inform Ponsatí that the European Parliament is not like the Catalan one, "where they do what they want". She warned that in the Brussels chamber "everyone knows that they are fugitives from justice." "Enough of so much secessionist theatre, yesterday's electoral show in Barcelona, manipulating the truth. The only thing that has changed here is that Sánchez has reached agreement with you out of fear of losing power, cheapening the Penal Code," he exclaimed, addressing directly the Socialist members present whom she warned that "the dignity of a country is never sold, not even for a handful of votes."
The third speaker was from Ciudadanos, Jordi Cañas, who applauded Metzola's response to Ponsatí's request for protection and called on her not to allow this type of situation in the chamber, with a political debate that goes against the principles she defends, those of union and agreement. "I think that this is not the space, you have directed it as was necessary to where it belongs, in the corresponding committee. And we would like this chamber not to be used for political spectacles," he complained, warning that it degrades the institution. "That is exactly what I think too," Metzola replied.
From ERC, Diana Riba invoked Article 8 of the internal regulations of the European Parliament, which indicates the response that the presidency is to take in the event of the arrest of one of its members. "It is unheard of for a judge to request arrest for a crime that does not even imply deprivation of liberty, such as disobedience. And then to detain her for hours despite having all her political rights intact. We demand that the presidency of this chamber defend Ponsatí's immunity and demand that the Spanish courts once and for all abide by European legality and abandon the judicial Brexit which they have fallen into", she stressed.