Spain's Central Electoral Commission (JEC, in its Spanish acronym) has asserted this Thursday that the Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, must pay a visit to Madrid to collect his credentials in order to be a member of the European Parliament. In a new text in response to the European Parliament's request for information, the administrative body positions itself in opposition to the European Court of Justice by stipulating that Puigdemont "has not acquired his full status as a member of the European Parliament because he has not fulfilled the requirement of constitutional compliance". On that basis, the JEC asks that "his seat be temporarily vacant until this compliance occurs, with the consequent suspension of his rights".
The Spanish electoral organ bases its argument on article 224.2 of the Spanish electoral law (LOREG), which describes the action that has not been fulfilled in the case of Puigdemont and, on this basis, it concludes that he cannot receive his credentials as an MEP. The article establishes that, within five days of the proclamation of election results, the candidates elected must swear or promise compliance with the Spanish Constitution before the JEC. Once this time has passed, the JEC declares vacant the European Parliamentary seats corresponding to any successful Spanish candidate who has not complied with the Constitutional obligation and suspends all the prerogatives that would apply to them by reason of their position, until the compliance takes place".
The JEC has also given expressed the same view with regard to Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí - who, like Puigdemont, are Junts representatives - and Jordi Solé, who represents ERC. This Spanish electoral body stated its opinion due to an initiative from the European Parliament's committee of Legal Affairs. This committee, headed by Spanish MEP Adrián Vázquez (Ciudadanos), asserted that the chamber could not verify the credentials of the Catalan MEPs, and thus requested the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, to ask the JEC if it could confirm that these four MEPs were on the list of 59 positions proclaimed elected in the European elections of 2019.
The JEC's argument was overruled by European justice in 2019
In a landmark ruling on 19th December 2019 in the case of the former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, the European Court of Justice determined that it is the result of the ballot box which accredits a representative's status as an MEP, and that this status applies as soon as the official results are announced. This court, therefore, denied that swearing an oath on the Spanish Constitution was a requirement in order to become a member of the European Parliament. It should also be noted that, despite the view given by the JEC this Thursday, it has never proposed substitutes for the four MEPs - Puigdemont, Comín, Ponsatí and Solé - despite having the powers to do so.
After the 2019 European elections, the JEC recognized that Puigdemont, Comín, and Junqueras had been elected, but subsequently did not include them in the list sent to Brussels since they did not attend the Congress of Deputies to swear or promise the Spanish Constitution - at that time Puigdemont and Comín were already in exile, while Junqueras was in pre-trial prison. Six months later, following the EU court's ruling, it was already too late for Junqueras, as he had by then been convicted of sedition, but on the basis of his precedent, the European chamber recognized the seats of the two exiled politicians, and the same happened with Ponsatí, who shortly after, occupied one of the seats left vacant by the English MEPs with the approval of Brexit. The case of Jordi Solé, who then acquired the seat left vacant by Junqueras, is different in that he assumed the seat without swearing on the Constitution, but, on the other hand, he did present himself to Congress. Nevertheless, the JEC pronounced in the same direction in his case.
JEC claims that Spanish Supreme Court backed its ruling
In the text it delivered to the European Parliament this Thursday, the Spanish electoral body acknowledges the European Court of Justice's 2019 decision in the Junqueras case, which led to the reinstatement of the Catalan MEPs, but notes that it "wasn't consulted at any time" by the European judges. Moreover, it argues that its view was subsequently backed by the Spanish Supreme Court, in an administrative disputes judgment rejecting appeals raised by Puigdemont and Comín against the JEC's earlier actions, on 10th June, 2020. The JEC ruling states that the "Supreme Court chamber considered the actions of the Central Electoral Commission to be accordance with the legal system."