The Commissioner for Justice, the Belgian Liberal Didier Reynders, has asked this Monday the large Spanish political parties – in particular the PSOE and the PP – to reach an agreement as soon as possible to renew the members of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), whose situation of interim and limitation of powers constitutes an “abnormality”.
This agreement, Reynders claims, must include a “clear commitment“on the future reform of the CGPJ with the objective that the judges directly elect at least half of the members. A reform that in any case” will cost time “since it is necessary to consult widely with all those affected.
The Justice Commissioner received the representatives of the four majority judges associations in Spain on Monday in Brussels. In the morning, Reynders met alone with the deputy spokesman for Judges for Democracy, Fernando de la Fuente, for being the one who first made an appointment.
In the afternoon, he held a joint meeting with the representatives of the Professional Association of the Magistracy, Manuel Almenar; the Francisco de Vitoria Judicial Association, Jorge Luis Fernández; and the Independent Judicial Forum, Concepción Rodríguez.
At the end of the meeting, the four associations have published a joint statement in which they claim to share two fundamental objectives: the renewal of the CGPJ, whose mandate expired almost three years ago; and the reform of the system for electing judicial members.
However, the representatives of the judges disagree in the order of priorities. While for Judges for Democracy the urgent thing is to renew the Council in accordance with current legislation and then address the reform in a “calm” manner, the other three associations demand an “immediate change in the system of election of the members”, in line with what the PP defends from Pablo Casado.
The Justice Commissioner has proposed a kind of third way between the two dissenting positions. “It is very important to continue the discussions and try to organize the best possible renewal of the Council, with a clear commitment to fully comply with European standards in the future“Reynders said at the end of the meeting.
“We need the best possible renewal of the CGPJ. It is very important because now we only have an interim CGPJ with its limited powers. And if we want to achieve this we will have to discuss the next step, that is, the reform of the composition of the Council. Why ? Because it takes time to carry out this reform: some texts have to be changed and all those affected have to be consulted, “argues the Justice Commissioner.
The Community Executive has not set any kind of deadline Spain to unblock the CGPJ, nor is it considering activating sanctions for endangering the rule of law or judicial independence. “We have no general concerns about the independence of the judicial system in Spain. The problem is the appearance that is given to citizens with an interim Council and with the lack of capacity to appoint new members, “Reynders insisted.
Brussels is aware that the reform of the CGPJ “it is a very sensitive and difficult subject“, not only in Spain, but also in other countries such as Italy or Luxembourg. For this reason, the Commissioner for Justice has asked the current Slovenian presidency of the EU to include this issue in a ministerial meeting before the end of the year.
“We are examining with all the Member States how the situation regarding the rule of law can be improved. But it is very important to get out of the situation of an interim CGPJ with limited powers. It is an abnormal situation and that is why we ask all political parties to try to get out of it and find an agreement by a qualified majority, “Reynders said.
The Ursula von der Leyen Commission has already forced the Government of Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos to withdraw the law that sought to reduce from three fifths to a simple majority the threshold necessary to renew the CGPJ, with the aim of leaving out the Popular Party. Brussels warned that this reform violated all European standards and posed a threat to judicial independence.
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