Esquerra Republicana points out the CJEU Advocate General’s basis is formal, and commends the recognition that Spain’s Supreme Court has violated the principle of sincere cooperation with the EU institutions.
The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Maciej Szpunar proposes confirmation of the dismissal of the appeal by Esquerra Republicana leader Oriol Junqueras against the act withdrawing his seat in the European Parliament. The Advocate therefore proposes the decision of the European General Court (EGC) be upheld in the first instance. His opinion is not binding and we must therefore await the final decision of the European High Court.
Esquerra underlines that this procedure is based on formal issues and so does not go into the substance of the case. In other words, these resolutions do not in any case mean that the loss of the seat in the European Parliament was lawful.
In fact, in the event that the CJEU confirms the Attorney General’s opinion and rules along the same lines, Esquerra has other avenues ready to assert Mr Junqueras’ rights. On the one hand, Esquerra does not rule out opening proceedings against the Spanish state on infringement of European Union law.
The second avenue is that which they opened before the Spanish courts, appealing the Central Electoral Commission’s decision not to issue Mr Junqueras’ credentials. It is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court, after the Supreme Court upheld the CEC ruling. If as Esquerra points out, the Constitutional also endorses it, the case will end up in the European Court of Human Rights.
Similarly to the EGC, the Advocate General considers that the annulment of the decision to declare Mr Junqueras’s seat vacant announced by the then President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, had no legal effect, but that the prior decision of the Spanish authorities did. He thus assures that it is the Spanish state that is rule on the protection of the rights of Esquerra’s leader.
This reasoning does not in any way convince Esquerra, who contend that the European Parliament is obliged to protect its elected members—and ultimately to protect the rights of the citizens who elect them. Esquerra Republicana therefore maintains that the Spanish authorities breached European law, violating the principle of primacy of European Union law and that of sincere cooperation with the institutions of the Union by not bestowing any practical effect upon the prior ruling by the CJEU.
The CJEU Advocate General acknowledges that the Supreme Court has violated the principle of sincere cooperation with the EU institutions.
That principle, which Esquerra defends, has been violated by the Spanish state. This was confirmed by the Attorney General in his letter, where he acknowledged that the Supreme Court may indeed have violated the principle of sincere cooperation with the institutions of the European union.
Republicans value this position of the Attorney General very positively for his implications in future proceedings against the Spanish state. Mr Junqueras’ legal team is weighing up the use of this argument to substantiate the domestic case and the eventual appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
While the Advocate acknowledges that the Spanish Supreme Court may have acted against the European institutions, he also states that it is not up to the European Parliament to correct this breach. That is why Mr Szpunar proposes that the decision to dismiss Junqueras’ appeal, which the European General Court (EGC) issued in the first instance, be upheld.
Background to the case
Oriol Junqueras was recognized as a Member of the European Parliament on 19 December 2019, after the CJEU ruled that a Member of the European Parliament becomes such as of the time the election results are announced, without the need for any additional requirements from the State. This resolution is known as the “Junqueras Doctrine.”
On January 13, 2020, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli stripped Mr Junqueras of his seat after Spain’s Central Electoral Commission refused to grant him his credentials, alleging his conviction in the case regarding the October 1st 2017 Independence Referendum, despite the CJEU ruling.
Against this act of the European Parliament, Mr Junqueras’ legal team appealed before the EGC, the first instance of the EU jurisdiction—prior to the CJEU. The EGC dismissed the appeal alleging that the act of the European Parliament was not that which materialized the legal effect. In other words, the EGC considered that Mr Sassoli had not taken any effective decision, but had only implemented a decision by the Spanish authorities. In view of this, the EGC concluded that it had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Mr Junqueras’ legal team thus filed an appeal on the ruling of inadmissibility by the higher instance, the CJEU. The High Court will therefore have to decide on this appeal: if it deems it appropriate, the case will be returned to the EGC which will have to rule on the merits of the case; if it does not admit it, it will mean inadmissibility of the appeal being upheld and the decision will terminate this avenue—without prejudice to any other proceedings which may be instituted.