Finally, and after months of waiting, the exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí once again have full parliamentary immunity like the rest of their colleagues in the European chamber. Although, again, it's an interim measure. This was decided by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), annulling the ruling of the General Court (EGC) and suspending on an interim basis the effects of the European Parliament's March 2021 decision to lift the immunity of the pro-independence leaders. The ECJ thus considers that there is a risk that the exiles will have their rights and immunities associated with their office as MEPs violated before the substantive case is resolved. Carles Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, explained the ruling on Twitter: "The cassation appeal against the withdrawal of the interim measures of Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí on July 30 has been accepted," adding in English that as a consequence the General Court's 2021 ruling had been set aside.
The ECJ has now, on an interim basis, suspended the effects of the request to lift the immunity, arguing that the demand for the return of the interim measures requested by the pro-independence MEPs "meets the urgency requirement" and that "the fact that they have not been arrested so far "does not mean that they can't be." The decision of the Luxembourg-based court comes after the three MEPs, last November, appealed the decision of the EGU to dismiss the precautionary measures on the grounds of their immunity. This had been decided by the EGC on 30th July, when it withdrew their immunity (which had been returned on an earlier occasion as an urgent precautionary measure), while they awaited the resolution of the appeal against the European Parliament's lifting of the immunity, as requested by the Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena. On that occasion, the EGC dismissed the appeal and lifted the precautionary measures, arguing that they had “not shown they could be subject to imminent arrest”. It was understood by the EGC that the European Arrest Warrants for the three MEPs were suspended while judge Llarena's preliminary questions were waiting to be resolved.
Less than two months after this, on 23rd September, Carles Puigdemont was, in fact, arrested and held overnight in Sardinia, and at this point the Spanish Supreme Court asserted that the European Arrest Warrants were still in force. On November 26th, 2021, the EGC again insisted that the warrants had been suspended and therefore again rejected the request of the exiled pro-independence politicians for the interim suspension of the lifting of their immunity.
A warning: "Personal damages"
In the ECJ's ruling today, it considers that the requirement for the granting of interim measures has been met, and takes the opportunity to touch on the handling of the immunity question by the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, specifically that the chair of the committee and the spokesperson responsible for investigating the case of the Catalan MEPs, had both "taken a position or shown a personal prejudice contrary to the MEPs". Going further, the ruling points out that the fact that the spokesperson belongs to the same political group as the Vox MEPs "may raise legitimate doubts about a potential prejudice". This spokesperson MEP is none other than Angel Dzhambazki, the Bulgarian MEP notorius for making a Nazi salute in the European Parliament earlier this year; while the chairperson of the Legal Affairs committee is Adrián Vázquez, Spanish MEP for the Ciudadanos party.