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Their appeal gets the thumbs down - but the broader implications of the decision are in fact much brighter. That is the double-edged reading after the news that Spain's Constitutional Court has this Tuesday closed the door on an appeal by the exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín against the Central Electoral Commission (JEC). The Spanish court rejected an argument for constitutional protection from the two MEPs against the JEC's decision invalidating the proposal they made, after their election in May 2019, to swear on the Spanish Constitution before a judicial representative in Belgium.   

In 2019, the electoral commission decided to inform the European Parliament that the two MEP seats were vacant, as well as suspending their prerogatives as long as Puigdemont and Comín failed to meet the requirement of in-person compliance. But the Constitutional Court now claims that it can no longer provide protection because both are working as MEPs with complete normality. The defence of Puigdemont and Comín, led by the lawyer Gonzalo Boye, introduced a new element into the debate this Monday, but the constitutional judges decided not to accept the appeal, which also asked the Constitutional Court to assess, before ruling, whether resolving this question is within its competence. The MEPs' defence lawyer pointed out that this is a matter on which the European Parliament has the final decision, and therefore, assessing its legality is the exclusive competence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Court's ruling does imply that Puigdemont and Comín are MEPs

As with the ruling it handed down on November 15th, the Constitutional Court's decision released this Tuesday took into account that the European Parliament accepted the election of the plaintiffs as MEPs in the plenary session of January 13th, 2020, with retroactive effects to the beginning of the legislature, and the full exercise since then of the rights which accorded to any member of the European Parliament. In other words, the court once again affirms that Puigdemont and Comín are MEPs and are freely exercising their parliamentary duties. This circumstance, which affects matters subsequent to the agreements subject to this appeal, but prior to the submission of their request for constitutional protection, implies that, without accepting the appeal, the court admits its core claim, that is to say, that the MEPs hold European parliamentary status with full exercise of their functions.