European Parliament opens amid protest and discord
The European Parliament has re-opened in Strasbourg with an anti-EU stunt by the UK’s Brexit Party and a protest by Catalan nationalists whose MEPs are barred.
The first session after Europe-wide elections in May began as EU leaders went into a third day of talks on who should fill the bloc’s top jobs.
Outside parliament, hundreds of Catalan protesters protested that three separatist figures were unable to take their seats, as inside the chamber fellow MEPs placed three photos of the missing members on their desks.
Ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and colleague Toni Comin were barred from taking their seats because they fled to Brussels after a banned referendum on independence went ahead and did not attend a swearing-in ceremony in Madrid as required. Another separatist leader, Oriol Junqueras is on trial in Spain and in detention.
As outgoing speaker Antonio Tajani convened the new session, MEPs rose for the EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. But not everyone stood, and anti-EU MEPs from the UK’s Brexit Party turned their backs on the rendition accompanied by a saxophone quartet.