Brussels welcomes that the Government has parked the reform in the election system of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) to circumvent the blockade of the Popular Party, which has lasted two and a half years. And it warns the Spanish Executive that the reform to limit the powers of a functioning Judicial Branch, as is the case, “makes the renewal of its members even more imperative.” This has been communicated by the European Vice President of Values and Transparency, Vera Jourová, to the Spanish Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, in a meeting held this Monday by videoconference. The meeting comes a week after three associations have written to the Community Executive to complain about a reform in the election of the General Council of the Judiciary already parked by the Executive.
The European Commission warns Spain that it must “reduce the influence of the Executive or Legislative Power in the Judiciary”
“I have had a very useful meeting with Minister Campo to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the situation of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ)”, Jourová has spread in a statement: “I have recalled our clear position, already expressed in the 2020 Rule of Law report that it is important to address the Council’s issue while ensuring that it is not perceived as vulnerable to politicization. ”
Indeed, At the end of September, Brussels urged the renewal of the Judiciary, the same day that the CGPJ made new appointments after having been in office for two years: the European Commission, in its first report on the rule of law in the EU, also warned Spain about the dependence of the Attorney General’s Office on the Executive branch .
“In this regard”, continues Vice President Jourová, “I take note of the guarantees given that the recent reform to limit the powers of the CGPJ when it has acting members reflects the requirements related to the principles of the rule of law and the balances of powers. in Spain. I have also pointed out that this reform makes the need to elect new members of the CGPJ even more imperative, to allow the body to carry out its essential institutional functions. Regarding the procedure, I have recalled that any reform should always be accompanied by broad consultations , including the Venice Commission, and I hope that this kind of consultation will always take place in future reforms. ”
The Venice Commission is an advisory body to the Council of Europe, made up of independent experts in the field of constitutional law.
Jourová also highlights in his note that he has received “guarantees from the Minister that no reform of the system for the election of CGPJ members by the Government will be carried out. This is good news. In this regard, I take note of the intention of the Government to concentrate its efforts on reforms aimed at improving the efficiency of the judicial system, so now I hope that the proposal is still on the table [sobre la elección de los miembros del CGPJ], while the European Commission has expressed serious concerns, be formally withdrawn. ”
In mid-October, Brussels already expressed its misgivings about this reform. “The European Commission is aware of the announcement of this new bill and we are closely following developments in this regard,” replied then the spokesman for Justice of the Community Executive, Christian Wigand, elDiario.es: “In the report Regarding the rule of law, we have underlined the importance of reducing the influence of the legislative or executive power over the judiciary in order to reinforce judicial independence. In that report we pointed out the CGPJ as a challenge. It is important to ensure that the Judicial Power is not perceived as vulnerable to politicization. ”
Four days after that reaction in Brussels, on October 19, 2020, the motion of censure of Santiago Abascal took place, in which the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, parked sine die this reform of the election of the members of the CGPJ, now officially withdrawn.
Precisely the conversation between Jourová and Campos took place seven days after the Professional Association of the Magistracy (APM), the Francisco de Vitoria Association of Judges and Magistrates (AJFV) and the Independent Judicial Forum (FJI), which have around of 2,500 members, sent a letter to both Jourová and the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, denouncing what they considered a “risk of serious violation” of the rule of law in Spain due to the latest legislative reforms that in their opinion make it ” at stake ”the separation of powers and judicial independence. “We are addressing the European Commission to highlight the risk to which the rule of law in Spain is subjected due to legislative drift due to reforms of the Organic Law of the Judiciary (LOPJ) in process,” says the letter.
They were referring to the reform, already in force, which prevents the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) from appointing judges with expired terms, as this body has been doing for more than two years, with 74 appointments to the judicial leadership. in this interim situation; and to the proposal of the PSOE and United We Can that foresaw a change in the majorities necessary to elect the members of the CGPJ, which was parked last October.
In the six-page letter, the signatories asked the European Commission to adopt measures among which they cite the initiation of the procedure of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which includes the possibility of sanctioning a Member State for violating basic values of the European Union such as human rights or the rule of law and implying the loss of voting rights in the European Council.
The European Commission, however, does not consider activating this article 7 at any time, as can be seen from this Monday’s statement.
Finally, Jourová states: “These issues and events will be taken into account in the report on the Rule of Law of 2021. In this context, I would like to thank the Spanish authorities for their constant commitments to the exercise of the mechanism of the State of Law. The rule of law in the EU can only be maintained if all actors are fully involved. ”