26th Feb 2024

EU will mediate talks in six-year old Spanish judiciary row

  • The president of Spain's National Council for the Judiciary resigned in 2022 over the judicial body's blockade (Photo: PromoMadrid/Max Alexander)
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The European Commission has agreed to facilitate discussions in Spain about the future of one of the country's most senior judicial bodies.

The announcement comes after a political stalemate led the Spanish National Council for the Judiciary to operate merely an interim basis since December 2018 — hence making it the subject of concerns in the EU commission's annual rule-of-law reports.

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The Spanish National Council consists of the president of the Supreme Court, plus 12 judges or magistrates, and eight lawyers or other jurists of "recognised prestige".

The appointment of these 20 members is subject to a qualified majority of three-fifths in parliament (congress and senate), but no consensus has been reached for the past six years — with legal experts warning that any prolonging of the situation could discredit Spain's domestic legal system.

The fresh negotiations, limited to two months, will be chaired by EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders — who is hoping to get a job as secretary general of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe shortly after.

"This has to be the definitive negotiation. No more excuses. There are no more excuses … justice can't take it anymore," Spanish justice minister Félix Bolaños said on Friday (26 January), during the informal meeting of home affairs ministers in Brussels.

Late last year, Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the leader of the opposition Partido Popular (People's Party), Alberto Núñez Feijóo, agreed that the EU commission should step in and oversight the talks.

"Against this background, the commission is ready to play its role to ensure compliance with EU law," it said in a written statement.

Throughout letters, reports and bilateral meetings, the commission has repeatedly called on the two main political parties first to renew the judiciary, and then adapt laws for the appointment of judges according to EU law.

The first meeting with Reynders is expected to take place next Wednesday.

EU ministers for European affairs will hold a debate on Monday about the rule of law reports on Spain, including the long-standing blockade of the Spanish National Council for the Judiciary.

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