ECJ condemns Spain's treatment of separatist Junqueras
The European Court of Justice has ruled that since his election as an MEP last June the Catalan independence activist Oriol Junqueras enjoys immunity, and that therefore Spanish authorities should not have prevented him from taking office. Spain's Supreme Court sentenced the former vice president of Catalonia to 13 years in prison in October for sedition. Journalists discuss the potential consequences of the ruling.
Don't respond with rancid patriotism!
The Spanish judiciary must now exercise extreme caution to avoid undermining trust in its work, warns El Periódico de Catalunya:
“This is a resounding legal rebuke. It is of grave concern regarding Junqueras' political rights, which according to the ruling have been violated, and also regarding the reputation of the Spanish judiciary and, by extension, of Spanish democracy. ... In a trial that has been the subject of fierce criticism from the outset from both inside and outside the country, such a ruling by the European Court of Justice threatens to harm the Spanish Supreme Court, which, as a key pillar of Spanish democracy, cannot afford to be discredited in any way. The only course left open to it now is full respect for the ruling and strict implementation, without any rancid patriotic manoeuvres.”
EU Parliament can't want Spain's break-up
The ruling is a triumph for the separatists only at first glance, explains the Süddeutsche Zeitung's Spain correspondent Thomas Urban:
“The European Parliament will probably now lift Junqueras's immunity. It's only natural that the other Europeans don't want to accept the disintegration of an important EU member state. Junqueras will remain in prison. The problem can't be solved by European courts or by European politicians. It's up to the Spaniards themselves. However, the MEPs could play an important role. The European Christian Democrats and the Liberals should teach their party friends in Madrid that the Catalonia crisis can't be solved with drastic prison terms or heavy fines, but only through compromise.”
Solve Spain's problems with Europe's help
The EU bashing coming mainly from the far right in Spain is counterproductive, La Vanguardia angrily comments:
“Vox supporters see the European ruling as an an insult to Spain and are using it with undisguised Euroscepticism as an argument for a hypothetical Spexit (Spain's exit from the EU). We consider such reactions to be entirely unwarranted. There can be no such talk of Europe humiliating Spain since Spain is not a rival of Europe, but part of it. And finding a solution to the conflicts that arise in Spain - and that we are having such a hard time resolving - will be easier in collaboration with Europe.”
A hornet's nest is waiting
Corriere della Sera fears that the Court's reprimand could paralyse the rapprochement between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who was charged with forming the government, and the separatists:
“The shock wave triggered by the confrontation between the European judiciary and Spanish politicians has suddenly added new obstacles to the formation of a government in Madrid. ... Will Junqueras, who negotiated with Prime Minister Sánchez from prison, be able to continue the dialogue without looking like a traitor to his Catalan homeland or like he is driven by envy of the triumph of his ally and rival Puigdemont? One ruling with a whole hornet's nest of consequences.”