Clara Ponsatí, the former Catalan education minister who is currently living in Scotland, received her credentials as an MEP in Brussels on Wednesday, despite the Spanish authorities having requested that the UK prevent her from leaving the country.
Ponsatí works at the University of St Andrews. She is fighting extradition from Scotland after a new European Arrest Warrant was issued by the Spanish authorities on charges of sedition for her role in the October 2017 Catalan independence referendum. The MEP status will now also affect the extradition hearing, scheduled to start from 11 May in Edinburgh.
Ponsatí has now joined the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan minister Toni Comín in the European Parliament, despite the efforts of the Spanish courts to extradite all of them over the 2017 Catalan referendum.
The EU Parliament has since officially received a petition from the Spanish Supreme Court to waive the immunity as MEPs of Puigdemont and Comín, and the issue has been forwarded to the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.
The EU Parliament has also recently announced that the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras’s mandate as an MEP ‘terminated with effect on 3 January 2020,’ after Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) vetoed the jailed leader.
The EU Parliament accepted Ponsatí as one of those who benefits from the seats left vacant by UK MEPs after Brexit. Britain officially left the European Union on 31 January.
From 1 February, the EU Parliament now has 705 seats, compared with 751 (the maximum allowed under the EU treaties) before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Of the UK’s 73 seats, 27 have been redistributed to other countries, whilst the remaining 46 will be kept in reserve for potential future enlargements.
Despite threats from Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) that Ponsatí’s seat was vacant because she had failed to return to Madrid to take the oath (yet where she would most certainly have been arrested), her MEP status now currently gives her certain immunity. However, the Spanish judiciary has asked the European Parliament to waive the legal protection on the grounds that it no longer extends to Britain now that it has left the EU.
Speaking in Brussels after collecting her MEP credentials, Ponsatí said she was looking forward to this ‘new personal challenge’. She also promised to ‘follow the orders of the judges’ in Scotland when asked about her upcoming extradition case.
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