Brussels urges the renewal of the judicial leadership and the Spanish constitutional bodies

A year ago the first report of the European Commission on the rule of law in the 27 was published. And, practically 12 months later, the evaluation of Spain abounds in what was already collected on the previous occasion: the lack of renewal of the General Council of the Judicial Power, due to the blockade of the PP, is a problem.

In its report, Brussels affirms that the Spanish judicial system continues to drag “challenges”, specifically “the lack of renewal of the CGPJ”, which “continues in the absence of agreement in Parliament to renew the constitutional bodies.” Indeed, the PP did agree to renew RTVE, but it has refused to do the same with the judicial leadership or the Ombudsman, for example.

Brussels, in any case, welcomes “the withdrawal of the reform project for the election of the CGPJ” that reduced the majority necessary for its renewal from three fifths to a simple parliamentary majority. Something that, according to the European Commission, “would have increased the perception that the Council is vulnerable to politicization.”

In this context, the European Commission asked to establish a system for the election of the CGPJ in which judges participate “in line with European standards. It is important that European standards are taken into account and that all affected parties are consulted.”

The CGPJ “has been exercising its functions on an interim basis since December 2018,” Brussels recalls, “which prolongs the concern that it may be perceived as vulnerable to politicization, as already mentioned in the Report on the rule of law of 2020 “. And he adds: “The Council of Europe recalled that European norms establish that at least half of the members of the Council must be judges elected by their peers from all levels of the judiciary.”

The European Commission also highlights another constitutional blockade: “The Ombudsman is appointed by Parliament. Negotiations between political parties for his appointment continue, so he has remained in office. ad interim since 2017, when the previous mandate expired. ”

Brussels maintains that “elements of concern have also appeared related to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in relation to the criminal responsibility of senior officials [aforamientos] and the system of incompatibility of judges and prosecutors [las idas y venidas de la polĂ­tica de algunos de ellos]That said, the European Commission does acknowledge that various measures have been adopted or planned to improve the quality of justice, such as the reforms of the court order and the Criminal Procedure Law, as well as three drafts on procedure. , organization and digital efficiency. The digitization of justice is progressing, and there are efforts to address backlogs in justice, such as the creation of new courts, but the low number of judges per capita is a problem. ”

In this sense, the report recalls that the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) “recognizes the independence and impartiality of judges and prosecutors; although it has underlined the very broad terms of the tax regimen in Spain, and has recommended reforming the system In addition, the interested parties have criticized the fact that the incompatibility regime for judges or prosecutors does not foresee ‘reflection periods’ for judges or prosecutors who have been members of the Executive or Legislative power. According to GRECO, this situation raises questions from the point of view of the separation of powers and on the necessary independence and impartiality of the judges in reality and appearance “.

Brussels also reiterates a recurring criticism: “There is concern about the autonomy of the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to the Government. As mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Rule of Law, the coincidence in the mandate of the Attorney General and the Government may affect the perception of independence “.

In its report, the European Commission also notes that the challenges related to the “civil society space” continue and that “a reform of the Citizen Security Law is under way, as a result of the concerns raised about it.”

Thus, the study recalls that in March 2021, “the Venice Commission issued an opinion on the Citizen Security law, highlighting that even in cases where a norm is considered constitutionally acceptable, if in practice it has led to abuses. , must be modified, circumscribed or accompanied by additional safeguards. The opinion encouraged the Spanish legislator to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the practical functioning of the law and its impact on fundamental rights and freedoms. Currently, Parliament is reviewing the law and it is important “Let this view be taken into account. Stakeholders have also reported that in April 2021 there have been attacks by far-right extremists on the headquarters of various NGOs in relation to LGBTI rights and migration.”

In any case, the European Commission report recognizes that “Spain continues to improve the legal and institutional framework to prevent and combat corruption. Anti-corruption measures follow a strategic line of action, but there is no concrete anti-corruption strategy to guide measures to combat corruption in a holistic way “. In this sense, Brussels echoes criticism from prosecutors for “the lack of sufficient resources” that “affect the speed of prosecuting and investigating corruption cases, including the most serious.”

In relation to freedom of the press and pluralism, “the Government is taking steps to address the problems of access to information, although they continue to exist in relation to the transparency of media ownership and the independence and resources of the audiovisual regulator are concerned. as a result of the transposition of the audiovisual media services directive “.

“The Government has taken measures to financially support the media in COVID-19,” says Brussels: “Journalists have continued to face problems in their professional activities, although measures have been taken to facilitate their work” due to the pandemic .

2021 Report of the European Commission on the situation of the rule of law in Spain

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