CJEU agrees with Spain: Belgium can no longer block Puigdemont’s surrender

Legal - February 15, 2023

The Court of Justice of the European Union has given the reason to the judge of the Supreme Court of Spain, Pablo Llarena. The former Catalan president and visible face of the celebration of the illegal referendum held in Catalonia last 2017, Carles Puigdemont, is getting closer and closer to answer for his crimes against the unity of Spain. Specifically, the European court ruled that Belgium can no longer stall the surrender of the pro-independence leader.

The president of the court, Koen Lenaerst, reportedly stated that the executing country, the Kingdom of Belgium, should not be able to refuse an arrest warrant on the grounds that the court that issued it does not have jurisdiction. Furthermore, it should not be able to refuse a European arrest warrant on the grounds that another fully-fledged state such as Spain could violate fundamental rights without any evidence of systemic deficiencies. The court does not object to issuing new successive warrants against Puigdemont, even though the previous ones were denied. In other words, Spain could reissue a Euro warrant pending the lifting of the immunity of Puigdemont, who would also serve as a member of the European Parliament. Now, Spaniards must wait for the pronouncement of the General Court of the European Union, to clarify whether Puigdemont will regain full immunity as a member of the European Parliament.

The pro-independence movement facing the decision

After Carles Puigdemont stated, just a few weeks before this decision by the European court, that he would not return to Spain “neither handcuffed nor sold before a judge”, the Catalan leader faces what seems to be his final stretch after having been accepted the argument of the Spanish judge. Thus, despite all the bureaucratic hurdles that exist between member states, and despite the problem that the European Parliament is posing, it seems that Spain will be able to judge a fugitive criminal after a long wait of years. Despite attempts to make this decision look like a victory for the independence movement, which would have even deigned to reduce the consequences of this judicial decision as something that simply leaves the extradition “deadlocked”, the independence movement shows evidence of nervousness. The spokeswoman of the autonomous government, Patrícia Plaja, affirmed during a press conference that the CJEU would have sentenced that it could deny euro-orders when they violate fundamental rights to an identifiable group of people, for example, to the independentism. This relation is made by Plaja, not by the court.

Beyond the obvious delirium to which some institutional positions in Spain can reach, something to which Catalonia has not managed to be an exception, it is clear that the independence movement is going through a clear moral crisis. Since the grotesque spectacle offered by Carles Puigdemont himself when he proclaimed an independence that he annulled a few seconds later on the same October 1, 2017, the independence movement has only achieved support from the same government of Spain with pardons to pro-independence leaders. Since then, the leaders of one of the two major pro-independence parties in Catalonia, Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left), have been heavily discredited by the pro-independence movement. Support for the main separatist parties is suffering a major crisis. While awaiting the completion of the cycle for which Carles Puigdemont will be tried by a Spanish court, the pro-independence movement is beginning to witness how attacking the law that protects Spaniards can be costly, both for the leader Puigdemont who will pay for his crimes, and for the very survival of the pro-independence movement.

In this way, another episode of this long agony of the weakened pro-independence movement is advancing one more day. Closer and closer to the elections of 2023, the polls predict an electoral disaster between those who seek to destroy the unity of Spain and their partners in government. And, meanwhile, Puigdemont is closer to being tried by a Spanish court.