LUXEMBOURG (CN) – European nations have the power to determine whether members of the European Parliament are entitled to absolute immunity for their opinions and votes, the Court of Justice ruled.
Europe’s highest court clarified the rules for applying immunity to Parliament members after a former member accused the Court of First Instance of violating procedure by denying him immunity for distributing a leaflet containing insulting remarks about Eduardo De Gregorio and Antonio Clemente. (The ruling does not elaborate on the insults or the offended parties.)
Clemente and De Gregorio successfully sued Alfonso Marra for damages in an Italian court, and Marra appealed on the basis that his opinions as a Parliament member should have been protected. He claimed the Italian authorities should have sought “authorization” before initiating proceedings against him.
But the Court of Justice explained that the issue of absolute immunity “is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the national courts,” and that national courts must recognize that immunity if the actions occurred in the course of parliamentary duties.
Further, the national courts have no obligation to clear the question with the Parliament before taking it up, the court ruled. If the Parliament chooses to defend immunity for one of its members, that decision would be non-binding.