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POLITICS

Spain briefly arrests Catalan MEP on return from exile

Catalan politician Clara Ponsati, a leading figure in her region's failed bid to gain independence, on Tuesday returned to Spain from five years in exile and was briefly arrested despite having immunity as an MEP.

Spain briefly arrests Catalan MEP on return from exile
Catalan regional policeman 'Mosso D'Esquadra" detains former Education minister of Catalonia and MEP's Clara Ponsati. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

The 66-year-old was released by a judge and summoned to appear at the Supreme Court on April 24th over “prosecution for a crime of disobedience,” the court said.

Ponsati does not risk prison, however, owing to legal reforms in Spain, where Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has adopted a strategy of dialogue with the moderate separatists and pardoning those involved in the independence bid.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, Ponsati and fellow MEP Toni Comín led efforts by Catalonia’s separatist regional government to stage an independence referendum in October 2017 despite a ban by Madrid. The vote was marred by police violence.

Several weeks later, the Catalan administration issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering a political crisis that prompted Puigdemont and several others to flee.

“I have come to denounce the systematic violation of our rights,” Ponsati told a news conference in Barcelona, a few hours after entering Spain from France by car.

Puigdemont denounced her “illegal arrest” on Twitter.

Ponsati, who fled Spain along with Puigdemont, first lived in Belgium and then in Scotland where she taught economics at the University of St Andrews.

Scotland dropped a Spanish request for her extradition after her election to the European Parliament in 2019 and subsequent move to Belgium.

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POLITICS

Spain sees no risk to EU presidency from July snap election

There is "no risk" that Spain's upcoming European Union presidency will be affected by an early general election in July, Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sánchez said Monday.

Spain sees no risk to EU presidency from July snap election

Sánchez last week dissolved parliament and called a snap election on July 23rd following heavy losses for his Socialist party in local and regional elections on May 28th.

Spain is slated to take over the rotating presidency of the bloc from Sweden on July 1st.

READ ALSO: Who won where in Spain’s regional elections?

Asked if the general election would affect its turn at the helm of the bloc, Sánchez said the goals for this presidency were shared with the other EU member states and the European Commission.

“There is no risk that all the goals which we set before the elections were called will not be met during this presidency,” he said during a joint news conference with his visiting Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson.

“Other nations have held elections as well during their presidency and absolutely nothing went wrong,” he added.

Kristersson said he “fully shared” Sánchez’s assessment that there is “no problem at all”.

READ ALSO: Collapse of Spain’s far-left complicates vote for Sánchez

He recalled that Sweden held elections just before its presidency of the bloc while France held presidential elections in April 2022 during its EU presidency.

“Every country is very well suited to handle all the activities at the same time,” Kristersson said.

Sánchez had been scheduled to address the European Parliament’s plenary session on July 13th to outline Madrid’s main policies during the six-month presidency, but he requested it be delayed to September due to the early elections.

That would allow the speech to be delivered by a new Spanish premier in the event that Sánchez is defeated in the election.

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