There are words and then there are deeds.
On March 9, the European Parliament voted by secret ballot to remove the parliamentary immunity of three of its members, all Catalans who were formerly part of the government of that prosperous region of Spain.
All three MEPs are wanted by Spain over Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum. The European Parliament’s move seemingly makes it possible for Madrid to push for the extradition of the Catalans.
Seemingly is a good word.
The European Parliament’s actions seemed to support Spain’s position. But in actual fact it’s not clear any extradition attempt by Spain would be successful. After all, two Belgian courts have previously blocked the extradition of a fourth former Catalan official. This could serve as precedent in the case of the three Catalan MEPs.
If so, the removal of immunity for the three MEPs would have been both superficially significant and substantially meaningless. In fact, classic European fudge.
Of course, the rights and wrongs of some of these developments are contested.
By some accounts, the vote on the Catalan MEPs has forced European Union institutions to confront difficult issues of sovereignty, territorial integrity and regional autonomy within the European bloc. According to Carles Puigdemont, one of the three MEPs and the fugitive ex-president of Catalonia, “Europe has a problem”.