The European Commission presents this Wednesday its first report on the rule of law in the 27. A report that, in the case of Spain, mentions as problems the delays suffered by judicial processes and the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) . In addition, it echoes the criticisms about the independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, taking into account that the General Prosecutor is appointed by the Executive and that there is no obligation for the communications between the two to be public.
Unidos Podemos wants to bring the appointments of the acting CGPJ to the Constitutional Court
According to a draft report, the Community Executive does not make any general qualification of the rule of law in Spain, but rather limits itself to making observations on the functioning of the judicial system, anti-corruption legislation and practices and media pluralism, in many cases cases collected from previous reports of the Council of Europe, which is an institution outside the EU.
Nor does it issue any evaluation on the declaration of the state of alarm due to the Covid-19 pandemic –a matter on which the PP sent a dossier to Brussels-– and is limited to verifying that the Congress of Deputies authorized six extensions and that the Constitutional Court can control whether the Executive exceeds its definition of emergency and the measures adopted.
These reports are an idea that Didier Reynders, now European Commissioner for Justice, began to launch in 2016 when the Polish government started making controversial reforms, as did the Hungarian one.
In the case of Spain, it is an 11-page report, based on documentation of more than a hundred and based on virtual visits to 15 Spanish institutions, from Ministries to the Ombudsman, according to sources familiar with its preparation process.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, has reported on this document to the Council of Ministers this Tuesday, according to the published reference of the meeting.
The report confirms that the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) is pending renewal and that its president, Carlos Lesmes, has warned that this “institutional anomaly” may discredit the body. At this point, the Commission’s report is forwarded to the Council of Europe, which has made clear that these facts confirm the importance of ensuring that the Council is not perceived as vulnerable to politicization.
Secondly, it points out that the relationship between the Attorney General and the Government is “subject to debate”, because it is the Executive that appoints the Prosecutor and, although he cannot remove him, his mandate ends with that of the Executive and that “may affect the perception of independence “.
At this point, he again cites the Council of Europe because it has emphasized that, for there to be public confidence, it is important that the Public Prosecutor’s Office not only be impartial, objective and free from interference, “but also appear so.” It also recalls that that institution has recognized that the matter has been duly considered but that it has asked the authorities for substantive improvements to increase the autonomy of the Public Ministry, especially in relation to its communications with the Government.
Specifically, it points out that the law does not require that the Government’s communications with the Prosecutor’s Office be public, nor that they be in writing. Thus, she affirms that “it seems” that there is a practice of “publishing some of these communications as press releases on the website of the Ministry of Justice”, although she adds that the actors in the judicial sphere underline the importance of this publicity
The text emphasizes that the judicial processes are increasingly long, more than 600 days in the case of the Supreme Court. It also includes concerns about the impact of the state of alarm on delays and delays but adds that measures have been taken.
On the other hand, a global framework is missing for those who complain about corruption – although he points out that the Government began working on one in June – and on ‘lobbies’ or interest groups, something that has also caught the attention of the Council of Europe.
It also notes that in recent years Spain has strengthened its framework for the fight against corruption and points out that, although Spain does not have a global strategy against this scourge, the National Strategy against organized crime and serious crime of February 2019 has aiming to improve research capacity.
However, it collects that, according to the Eurobarometer, 94% of Spaniards consider that corruption is widespread, compared to 71% of the European average.
In terms of transparency, it points out that there are no homogeneous rules for the different levels of the Administration in matters of conflicts of interest, incompatibilities and advertising of goods and assets and that, according to a report by GRECO (Council of Europe) the Transparency Council has financial and human resource problems. Nor is there a single code of conduct for all those elected, although the Congress of Deputies adopted one in February 2019.
On the other hand, it indicates that the Constitution establishes freedom of expression and of the press and the right to information. It also confirms that the Citizen Security Law has caused “concerns” in this area.
The report also considers that the legislative process includes guarantees of transparency and that the Ombudsman has an “extensive” mandate that he can exercise in defense of the rights of citizens.