Procedure : 2017/2199(IMM)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0398/2017

Texts tabled :

A8-0398/2017

Debates :

Votes :

PV 12/12/2017 - 5.6

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0479

REPORT     
PDF 376kWORD 57k
8.12.2017
PE 613.657v02-00 A8-0398/2017

on the request for defence of the privileges and immunities of Eleonora Forenza

(2017/2199(IMM))

Committee on Legal Affairs

Rapporteur: Gilles Lebreton

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

on the request for defence of the privileges and immunities of Eleonora Forenza

(2017/2199(IMM))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request from Gabriele Zimmer of 20 July 2017, announced in plenary on 11 September 2017, for the defence of the privileges and immunities of Eleonora Forenza in connection with an incident the latter endured following a demonstration held in the context of the G20 summit in Hamburg on 8 July 2017,

–  having heard Eleonora Forenza in accordance with Rule 9(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, and Article 6(2) of the Act of 20 September 1976 concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,

–  having regard to the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 12 May 1964, 10 July 1986, 15 and 21 October 2008, 19 March 2010, 6 September 2011 and 17 January 2013(1),

–  having regard to Rules 5(2), 7 and 9 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0398/2017),

A.  whereas Gabriele Zimmer, MEP, Chair of the GUE/NGL Group, has requested, under Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7, the defence of the parliamentary immunity of Eleonora Forenza, an MEP belonging to the same political group, who was searched and then detained by the German police along with a number of other activists following a demonstration held in the context of the G20 summit in Hamburg on 8 July 2017; whereas the search and detention took place after the demonstration, when Ms Forenza and her companions were on their way to have lunch together;

B.  whereas Parliament has broad discretion as to the direction it wishes to give to a decision following a request from an MEP for the defence of immunity(2);

C.  whereas Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union are mutually exclusive(3); whereas the case at hand does not concern any opinion expressed by an MEP, but rather conduct deemed to pose a danger to public order (alleged participation in a riot); and whereas, therefore, Article 9 of Protocol No 7 clearly applies in this case;

D.  whereas, under Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, MEPs are to enjoy, in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament, and, in the territory of any other Member State, immunity from any measure of detention and from legal proceedings; and whereas Ms Forenza, as an Italian MEP visiting Germany, therefore enjoyed such immunity;

E.   whereas, according to the request for the defence of her immunity, Ms Forenza had told the German police right from the outset that she was an MEP; whereas she had immediately presented documents attesting to her status; and whereas she had even managed to put the Italian Consul in Hamburg in contact with the police officer in charge;

F.   whereas, despite her status as an MEP, the German police nevertheless subjected Ms Forenza to a thorough body search, and then detained her for more than four hours;

G.   whereas, in the light of the foregoing, the German police must have known that they had detained an MEP; whereas that amounts to a breach of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, and in particular Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) thereof;

H.   whereas, given the circumstances of the case, it is clear that Ms Forenza was not found in the act of committing an offence, so the exception laid down in Article 9, third paragraph, of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union does not apply, and whereas Ms Forenza is therefore fully covered by her parliamentary immunity in this case;

1.  Decides to defend the privileges and immunities of Eleonora Forenza;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the competent authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany and to Eleonora Forenza.

(1)

Judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 May 1964, Wagner v Fohrmann and Krier, 101/63, ECLI:EU:C:1964:28; judgment of the Court of Justice of 10 July 1986, Wybot v Faure and others, 149/85, ECLI:EU:C:1986:310; judgment of the General Court of 15 October 2008, Mote v Parliament, T-345/05, ECLI:EU:T:2008:440; judgment of the Court of Justice of 21 October 2008, Marra v De Gregorio and Clemente, C‑200/07 and C-201/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:579; judgment of the General Court of 19 March 2010, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-42/06, ECLI:EU:T:2010:102; judgment of the Court of Justice of 6 September 2011, Patriciello, C‑163/10, ECLI: EU:C:2011:543; judgment of the General Court of 17 January 2013, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-346/11 and T-347/11, ECLI:EU:T:2013:23.

(2)

Case T-42/06, Gollnisch v Parliament, cited above, paragraph 101.

(3)

Joined Cases C-200/07 and C-201/07, Marra et al, cited above, paragraph 45.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

1.  Context

At the sitting of 11 September 2017 the President announced, under Rule 9(1) of the Rules of Procedure, that he had received a request from Gabriele Zimmer, Chair of the GUE/NGL Group, for the defence of the parliamentary immunity of Eleonora Forenza, MEP, in relation to an incident that the latter endured following a demonstration held in the context of the G20 summit in Hamburg on 8 July 2017(1).

The President referred the request to the Committee on Legal Affairs under Rule 9(1).

The immunity defence request included a short report of the incident that Ms Forenza had sent Ms Zimmer on 10 July 2017. An extract of that report is set out below.

‘On 8 July I was stopped by the police at around 16.00 in Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse in Hamburg, while crossing Holstenwall together with my APA (...) and 13 other Italian activists. The demonstration had just ended and we were heading towards a place to have lunch together. I would like to clarify that at that moment were we doing nothing more than just walking in a peaceful way.

In Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse the police asked us to show them our ID, which we did straight away. As we did so, however, a group of 25-30 police officers suddenly surrounded me and my group, forcing us against a wall.

I immediately pointed out that I was a Member of the European Parliament, and showed the police officers both my Parliament pass and my laissez-passer. The police officers just laughed in my face and confiscated all of my documents, my pass and my laissez-passer. I only got them back when I was released from the detention facility (Gefangenensammelstelle) at around 20.00.

When I asked why we had been treated in this manner, the police said that they had received information from the intelligence services to the effect that many Italians were making their way to Hamburg to take part in rioting. So, despite my status as a Member of the European Parliament, I was considered to be a ‘dangerous’ individual because I was moving in a group and speaking Italian. That was the basis on which the police justified and authorised my detention, and the arrest of the people who were with me.

I spent more than half an hour cornered by police officers in that street. I was also subjected to a thorough body search. I was frisked, and my bags and personal belongings were searched. Everyone with me was searched in the same way. Nothing was found that could be used to commit an act of violence, nor even any clothing that could be used to hide our faces. Following the body search, I was able to call the Italian Consul in Hamburg. I passed him over to the only English-speaking police officer, who appeared to be in charge of the operation. The call did not make any difference, however, and I was declared to be ‘under arrest’ along with 14 other activists. No clear explanation was given as to the grounds justifying the detention of a Member of the European Parliament.

Following the arrest, we were transferred into two police vans and kept in custody in cells for approximately three hours, together with four other people, in a very small space. We were not given the opportunity to make calls or receive legal assistance. Thereafter, we were transferred to a detention centre in Hamburg, still under arrest. (...) I was finally released at around 20.00, several hours after having been detained, once my status had been recognised. (...)

The 14 other people in my group, however, were locked up in cells (...).

Even after my release I received a number of threats that I would be thrown out of the detention centre if I continued to refuse to leave the premises. This meant I was prevented from exercising my right of scrutiny as an MEP. I was also denied the opportunity to recharge my mobile phone; nor could I receive any assistance or information from the legal team.

I did not leave the detention centre until after 18.00 on the following day, 9 July, when most of the other Italians in my group were released without charge. They were given no documentation explaining why they had been arrested.

That evening I was shown a Tweet on the Hamburg Police Twitter feed, praising the fact that I, as an MEP, had been arrested. (...)’

On 24 July 2017, Ms Zimmer submitted a request for the defence of Ms Forenza’s immunity, dated 20 July 2017, pursuant to Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 and Rules 7 and 9 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

On 21 November 2017, the Committee on Legal Affairs heard Ms Forenza pursuant to Rule 9(6).

2.  Law and procedure on the immunity of Members of the European Parliament

Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union read as follows:

Article 8

Members of the European Parliament shall not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties.

Article 9

During the sessions of the European Parliament, its Members shall enjoy:

(a) in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament;

(b) in the territory of any other Member State, immunity from any measure of detention and from legal proceedings.

Immunity shall likewise apply to Members while they are travelling to and from the place of meeting of the European Parliament.

Immunity cannot be claimed when a Member is found in the act of committing an offence and shall not prevent the European Parliament from exercising its right to waive the immunity of one of its Members.

Rules 5, 7 and 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament read as follows:

Rule 5: Privileges and immunities

1. Members enjoy the privileges and immunities laid down in the Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union.

2. In exercising its powers on privileges and immunities, Parliament shall act to uphold its integrity as a democratic legislative assembly and to ensure the independence of its Members in the performance of their duties. Parliamentary immunity is not a Member’s personal privilege but a guarantee of the independence of Parliament as a whole, and of its Members. (...)

Rule 7: Defence of privileges and immunity

1. In cases where it is alleged that an infringement of the privileges and immunities of a Member or former Member by the authorities of a Member State has occurred or is about to occur, a request for a Parliament decision as to whether those privileges and immunities have been or are likely to be breached may be made in accordance with Rule 9(1).

2. In particular, such a request for the defence of privileges and immunities may be made if it is considered that the circumstances would constitute an administrative or other restriction on the free movement of Members travelling to or from the place of meeting of Parliament or an administrative or other restriction on an opinion expressed or a vote cast in the performance of their duties, or that the circumstances would fall within the scope of Article 9 of the Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union.

3. A request for the defence of the privileges and immunities of a Member shall not be admissible if a request for the waiver or defence of that Member’s immunity has already been received in respect of the same facts, whether or not that earlier request led to a decision. (...)

Rule 9: Procedures on immunity

1. Any request addressed to the President by a competent authority of a Member State for the immunity of a Member to be waived, or by a Member or a former Member for privileges and immunities to be defended, shall be announced in Parliament and referred to the committee responsible.

2. With the agreement of the Member or the former Member concerned, the request may be made by another Member, who shall be permitted to represent the Member or former Member concerned at all stages of the procedure.

The Member representing the Member or the former Member concerned shall not be involved in the decisions taken by the committee.

3. The committee shall consider, without delay but having regard to their relative complexity, requests for the waiver of immunity or requests for the defence of privileges and immunities.

4. The committee shall make a proposal for a reasoned decision which recommends the adoption or rejection of the request for the waiver of immunity or for the defence of privileges and immunities. Amendments shall not be admissible. If a proposal is rejected, the contrary decision shall be deemed to have been adopted.

5. The committee may ask the authority concerned to provide any information or explanation which the committee deems necessary in order for it to form an opinion on whether immunity should be waived or defended.

6. The Member concerned shall be given an opportunity to be heard and may present any documents or other written evidence deemed by that Member to be relevant.

The Member concerned shall not be present during debates on the request for waiver or defence of his or her immunity, except for the hearing itself.

The Chair of the committee shall invite the Member to be heard, indicating a date and time. The Member concerned may renounce the right to be heard.

If the Member concerned fails to attend the hearing pursuant to that invitation, he or she shall be deemed to have renounced the right to be heard, unless he or she has asked to be excused from being heard on the date and at the time proposed, and has given his or her reasons. The Chair of the committee shall rule on whether such a request to be excused is to be accepted in view of the reasons given. The Member concerned shall not be permitted to appeal that ruling.

If the Chair of the committee grants the request to be excused, he or she shall invite the Member concerned to be heard at a new date and time. If the Member concerned fails to comply with the second invitation to be heard, the procedure shall continue without the Member being heard. No further requests to be excused, or to be heard, may then be accepted.

7. Where the request seeks the waiver or the defence of immunity on several counts, each of these may be the subject of a separate decision. The committee’s report may, exceptionally, propose that the waiver or the defence of immunity should apply solely to prosecution proceedings and that, until a final sentence is passed, the Member should be immune from any form of detention or remand or any other measure which prevents that Member from performing the duties proper to the mandate. (...)

3.  Justification for the proposed decision

General points

Both Article 8 and Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union were invoked by Ms Zimmer in her request.

The two articles are in fact mutually exclusive. Article 9 of the Protocol only applies to legal proceedings relating to offences other than those perpetrated by means of opinions expressed or votes cast. Those are solely covered by Article 8 of the Protocol(2). As this case does not involve opinions expressed by a Member of the European Parliament, but rather conduct deemed to pose a danger to public order (alleged participation in a riot), it is clear that only Article 9 applies here.

As the Court has held, the objective of Article 9 of the Protocol is to ‘safeguard the independence of Members by ensuring that pressure, in the form of threats of arrest or legal proceedings, is not brought to bear on them during the sessions of the Parliament’(3).

Although the application of national provisions pursuant to Article 9, first paragraph, point (a) means that there is a wide variety of rules, and can result in disparities in the treatment of MEPs(4), point (b) of the same paragraph establishes a genuinely uniform, supranational regime for MEPs in countries other than their own. Regardless of their nationality and the Member State concerned, those MEPs enjoy immunity from any measure of detention and from legal proceedings.

The provision in question is worded just as peremptorily as Article 8 of the Protocol, establishing so-called ‘absolute’ immunity. It follows that it would be possible to apply, to the immunity referred to in Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) of the Protocol, the approach recommended by the Court of Justice to determine the scope of the absolute immunity enshrined in Article 8, i.e. that such immunity should be established on the basis of EU law alone(5). Like Article 8, therefore, Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) does not allow for any national provisions to be brought into play.

As far as the internal procedure at the European Parliament is concerned, Rules 7 and 9 of the Rules of Procedure stipulate that MEPs may request the defence of their immunity under Rule 9. However, as the Court has made clear, Parliament has broad discretion as to the direction it wishes to give to a decision following a request for defence of immunity relating to Article 9 of the Protocol(6).

Applicability of Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) of the Protocol to Ms Forenza’s case

The Committee on Legal Affairs takes the view that the facts of the case, as established on the basis of Ms Zimmer’s request and the hearing of Ms Forenza, show that the German police subjected Ms Forenza to a body search and then detained her despite being fully aware of her status as a Member of the European Parliament.

Given that Ms Forenza was in a Member State other than her own, she fulfilled all the conditions required for the immunity referred to in Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) of the Protocol to apply to her case. It follows, therefore, that the German police, by searching and detaining Ms Forenza, knowingly infringed the privileges and immunities she enjoys.

In the light of the foregoing, it appears that the German police acted unlawfully in conducting a body search on, and subsequently detaining, Ms Forenza.

Lastly, given the circumstances of the case, it is clear that Ms Forenza was not found in the act of committing an offence, so the exception laid down in Article 9, third paragraph, of the Protocol does not apply, and that Ms Forenza is therefore fully covered by the parliamentary immunity referred to in Article 9, first paragraph, point (b) of the Protocol.

4.  Conclusion

Pursuant to Rule 9(3) of the Rules of Procedure, having considered the reasons for and against defending Ms Forenza’s immunity, the Committee on Legal Affairs recommends that the European Parliament should defend the privileges and immunities of Eleonora Forenza.

(1)

Pursuant to Rule 9(2), with the agreement of the Member or the former Member concerned, a request for the defence of a Member’s immunity may be made by another Member, who shall be permitted to represent the Member or former Member concerned at all stages of the procedure.

(2)

Joined Cases C-200/07 and C-201/07, Marra et al, cited above, paragraph 45.

(3)

Judgment in Mote, cited above, paragraph 50, citing the order of the Court in Rothley and Others v Parliament, T-17/00 R, ECLI:EU:T:2000:119, paragraph 90.

(4)

In some countries, members of parliament do not enjoy any immunity. This is, for instance, the case in the UK: see the First Report of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, 9 April 1999, HC 214-I 1998-99, point 242: ‘If a member is charged with a criminal offence, no waiver of immunity is required. If one of their members is imprisoned and cannot attend the House, the two Houses expect only to be informed of the fact’.

(5)

Joined Cases C-200/07 and C-201/07, Marra et al, cited above, paragraph 26.

(6)

Judgment in Gollnisch, cited above, paragraph 101.


INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

7.12.2017

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

9

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Marie-Christine Boutonnet, Jean-Marie Cavada, Gilles Lebreton, Evelyn Regner, Pavel Svoboda, Axel Voss, Tadeusz Zwiefka

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Maria Arena, Anne-Marie Mineur, Pier Antonio Panzeri

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