Catalonia says yes to Europe

Catalonia says yes to Europe

(Article publicat a The Guardian i 15 mitjans internacionals més)

Catalonia has always been a committed and reliable partner in the construction of the European project. Unlike the Brexit supporters, Catalonia has never given up its feeling of being European or its conviction that it is part of the European Union. We say yes to Europe.

Catalan society has shown its engagement with the common project by actively participating in the elections to the European parliament – turnout was 13 points higher than the European average. It is the only directly elected EU body, and that’s why, as democrats, we must demand that all those who have won their seat are allowed take their place. MEPs must be able to represent their citizens and work to defend their vision of an inclusive, social and better Europe for the five years to come. That has not been the case for some newly elected Catalonian MEPs, such as the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former minister Toni Comín, who were among those denied access to the European parliament.

When the parliament sits for the first time on 2 July, Europe will be able to see first-hand the efforts by some to deprive elected officials, and their voters, of their political and democratic rights for purely political reasons. This isn’t new. Last month, the Spanish parliament and senate suspended five elected officials, all former members of the Catalan government who are currently on trial, from their duties as representatives. They ran legally, won the elections, took their seat in parliament while awaiting a sentence in their trial, yet they were denied their political rights.

Last week, newly elected MEPs from Spain were able to enter the building, and some even received their official badge. But after access was refused to Puigdemont and Comín, the current presidency of the European parliament, led by Antonio Tajani, in a botched attempt to end the continued bungle, ordered its secretary general to suspend all current and future accreditations given to newly elected Spanish MEPs.

A third elected MEP who could be prevented from taking his seat is Oriol Junqueras, the lead candidate of the European Free Alliance who has so far spent 19 months in preventive detention. The UN working group on arbitrary detentions recently demanded the immediate release of Junqueras and two others currently on trial in Madrid. According to the UN group, they are incarcerated for their political ideas.

Depriving political rights to elected officials does not sit well in a modern democracy. The legitimacy of the European parliament could be tested if the rights of those who were elected by the people are not fully protected and they are unable to be present on 2 July in Strasbourg.