The leader of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left, Oriol Junqueras, has not given up his battle to take possession of the MEP seat to which he was elected by Catalan and Spanish voters in 2019. Junqueras has now appealed to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after the initial rejection of his appeal against the European Parliament for having replaced him in the seat by the next name on his party list, that of Jordi Solé. On December 15th, Junqueras's defence made its appeal to the ECJ after the EU General Court (EGC) had dismissed his earlier complaint. And the Republican leader is fighting a legal battle in Luxembourg for his seat in the European Parliament with several different appeals, but almost all of them have been rejected in the first instance. However, his legal team has not thrown in the towel and has now taken all of them to the ECJ, according to the ACN agency. At the same time, the ERC leader has another court procedure due in Spain over the same case.
The former Catalan vice president, part of the government that led Catalonia to its referendum on independence from Spain in 2017, ran in the European elections of May 2019 while he was on trial for rebelllion and sedition, and was elected. However, the Spanish Supreme Court did not allow him to leave prison to swear by the Spanish Constitution, a requisite set down by Spain for him to be recognized as a Member of the European Parliament. In December of that same year, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Spanish court should have asked the European Parliament for permission to keep him in prison because Junqueras had immunity. In addition, it ruled that a successful election candidate acquired the status of MEP simply through the act of being elected at the polls, questioning that declaring allegiance to the Spanish Constitution was a necessary prerequisite to becoming an MEP.
But the Supreme Court then ruled, in early 2020, that the immunity of Junqueras, although recognized by the ECJ, "did not prevent the trial or the reaching of the verdict" on the 2017 independence process in Catalonia and that, therefore, the politician's conviction entailed the suspension of his mandate as an MEP. Following this decision by Spanish justice, the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, declared Junqueras's seat to be vacant in January 2020. The ERC leader challenged this before the EU General Court with a number of appeals. He also appealed the Supreme Court decision within Spain. Oriol Junqueras was found guilty of sedition and sentenced to thirteen years' prison and, after having spent nearly four years behind bars, was partially pardoned by the Spanish government last summer, along with eight other Catalan political prisoners.
The so-called Junqueras doctrine of December 2019 benefited the three Junts deputies who were his government colleagues in 2017 - then-president Carles Puigdemont, and ex-ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí - who had taken the path of exile in 2017, and, having also stood for and won seats in Brussels in the 2019 elections, were able to take their places in the European Parliament in early 2020, which they have held since. However, they also have an appeal open on the same issue, in the General Court, over the Parliament's initial rejection of their recognition, prior to the Junqueras ruling. The hearing is set for January 21st.
Battle at Luxembourg
The main case in the Luxembourg-based courts, though, is Junqueras's appeal against the European Parliament's decision to declare his seat vacant, which was rejected by the General Court in December 2020 and which the higher European court is now studying. Luxembourg has twice refused to apply interim measures in this case.
In addition, there are a couple of collateral appeals: against the former Catalan vice president's replacement in the seat by his ERC colleague Jordi Solé and against the partial payment of the salary as an MEP. The first appeal was rejected and this past December it was appealed to the ECJ. The second is still pending resolution in the General Court.
As well, Junqueras made two appeals prior to the recognition of his immunity by the ECJ in December 2019. In these, the Catalan Republican leader complained that the EU Parliament had not taken steps to confirm parliamentary protection, as had been requested by several MEPs. Both appeals were dismissed by the General Court and, against those decisions, the ERC leader's defence lawyer has not appealed.