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The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, has spoken out this Monday following reports from the Spanish press which affirmed that during her visit to Barcelona last week she stated in an after-lunch conversation that she was going to withdraw the parliamentary seat of the Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont. The story, published by El Mundo, asserted that the president of the European chamber told several people with whom she shared a table - among them the president of the Spanish People's Party (PP), Alberto Núñez Feijoó - that she was waiting for an internal report from the institution before withdrawing the seats of the Catalan pro-independence MEPs who had not complied with the formality of promising or swearing on the Spanish Constitution in Madrid, as the Central Electoral Commission (JEC) has demanded.

To questions from a journalist from the EFE agency, Metsola replied that the European chamber has not yet taken any decision in relation to this issue, "neither formal nor informal" and assured that it is awaiting the resolution of an internal report in order to finish establishing a position on the issue. What Metsola confirmed is that the issue is being analyzed in detail by the legal services of the European Parliament, based on the information received from the competent authority in Spain, the JEC.

Metsola's reported "confession", which she has now denied, was said to have taken place in a private meeting, in the presence of Feijoó and the PP European representative Dolors Montserrat. Also present were the former Spanish justice minister, Pilar Fernández; the presidents of two employers association, Antoni Cañete, of PIMEC, and Josep Sánchez-Llibre, of Foment del Treball. According to El Mundo, the president of the European Parliament admitted in this company that the decision to be made public would be in line with the criteria of the Spanish electoral body.

Puigdemont's reaction

Catalan president in exile and MEP Carles Puigdemont was quick to respond to the initial information from El Mundo, calling on the European chamber's president to clarify what happened. An indignant Puigdemont commented on Twitter: "The Spanish press claims says the president of the European Parliament revealed in Barcelona that she will withdraw my seat as deputy. We obtained more than a million votes and won the elections in Catalonia. Such a decision would contradict that of the General Court. An explanation is needed", he wrote. Meanwhile, Puigdemont and his colleagues also wrote a formal letter to Metsola asking her for an explanation. Sources from the press team of the president of the European Parliament did not want to comment on the information that appeared in the newspaper El Mundo.

TUIT carles puigdemont resposta roberta metsola
Carles Puigdemont's tweet after Roberta Metsola's statements.

After hearing this afternoon's response by the president of the European Parliament, Puigdemont pointed a finger of blame at the Spanish press, calling it "a fake news factory on the Catalan independence movement." "Today we had another example, although this time the indirect victim was the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. This morning I asked her to give a public explanation," he noted.

The letter to Metsola from Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Comin

In the letter sent earlier today to the president of the European Parliament, signed by the exiled Catalan MEPs, Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, they referred to the story that appeared in the Madrid newspaper, mentioning that they do not trust the information of a newspaper like El Mundo because it has often published "fake news about the Catalan independence movement". Nevertheless, the three MEPs admit that the information surprised them and that they expected "an immediate clarification regarding a behaviour that, if true, would be inappropriate for a president of the Parliament". They state that the claims made in the Spanish press "seriously affect our reputation and our work before the citizens who may believe, given your supposed actions, that we have no right to represent them. That is why we require a public explanation."