Monday’s European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg, the first for the year, will have a special place in History as the last meeting for many.
Due to Brexit, this is the last meeting there for British MEPs, while Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont and Antoni Comin will attend for the first time after being held up by a prolonged legal battle.
The two men, along with Oriol Junqueras, were elected to the European Parliament in May 2019, but were prevented from taking up their seats because Madrid demanded that they first swear to remain faithful to the Spanish Constitution. However, Puigdemont and Comin, who reside in Belgium, are afraid they will be thrown in jail if they return to their country due to their participation in organizing the referendum on the independence of Catalonia.
In December, the European Court of Justice ruled that Junqueras, as well as Puigdemont and Comin, should be recognized as MEPs – and thereby benefit from parliamentary immunity – “from the proclamation of the results” of the election, leading the European Parliament to take steps in that direction.
However, on Friday, the Speaker of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said Junqueras’ mandate had ended on 3 January, following the decision of the Spanish central electoral commission, confirmed on Thursday by the Supreme Court in Madrid. Puigdemont and Comin were still expected in Strasbourg on Monday afternoon even though Spain has already asked for their immunity to be lifted.
While the Catalan legislators have been fighting for months to be able to occupy their seats in the European body, some of their peers from the UK have been striving just as resolutely to leave it. Now, three and a half years after the Brexit referendum, British MEPs will be attending their last meeting in Strasbourg.
After that, they will be in Brussels on 29 January, two days before Brexit’s scheduled date, for a last plenary that is supposed to ratify the divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union: the realization of a dream for Brexit advocates; a bitter defeat for supporters of the European project.
The Brussels Times