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Pedro Sánchez during a session at the Congreso de los Diputados in Madrid. Europa Press
A tentative agreement
The Euro Zone opinion

A tentative agreement

The EU and legal experts have expressed concerns that the failure of Spain's two main parties to secure consensus over the renewal of the CGPJ has undermined the independence of the country's judiciary

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 28 June 2024, 16:46

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This week saw a rare moment of collaboration between the Socialists and the Popular Party (PP) in Spain, the senior members of which are usually found exchanging insults in congress.

Prompted by EU meditation, which was requested by Pedro Sánchez and PP leader Alberto Feijóo last December, Spain's two main parties have agreed to prioritise the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), a body that's crucial to maintaining the independence of Spain's judiciary but which has been operating in caretaker mode since late 2018.

Since then, polarised politics and electoral deadlocks have blocked new appointments to one of the country's most senior judicial bodies, which must be approved by a three-fifths majority in both congress and senate.

The EU and legal experts have expressed concerns that the failure of Spain's two main parties to secure consensus over the renewal of the CGPJ - a twenty-member body of jurists that appoints judges and oversees the functioning of tribunals - has undermined the independence of the country's judiciary.

The most important function of the CGPJ is to stand between the executive and the judiciary, in order to prevent the government having direct influence on the appointment of judges. Essentially, it exists to prevent the politicisation of the judiciary - and its lack of activity in this respect has shown.

Over the last few years, there have been several occasions on which to suspect that some of Spain's most senior judicial bodies are not as detached from the country's politics as one would wish.

To take three examples: the punishment handed out to Catalan separatists by Spain's Supreme Court in 2019 was much harsher than that received by their predecessors - those who organised 2014's independence referendum, which was also declared illegal in advance by the Constitutional Court; a corruption investigation into Begoña Gómez, Sánchez's wife, has been launched on the basis of evidence that even the plaintiff admits is shaky; and the chances that Luis Rubiales, the former president of the Spanish football federation, will receive a fair trial for kissing Jenni Hermoso at the World Cup medal ceremony last August seem slim.

In all three cases, the independence of Spain's judiciary was or is open to doubt. Only a properly functioning CGPJ has the remit to discover whether such doubts are justified.

The EU Commission referred to this week's agreement between the PSOE and PP as "a major step that addresses a long-standing concern and improves the situation of the judiciary in Spain".

Well, not quite yet: cross-party support for new appointments to the CGPJ has yet to be secured. That will be the real test of the Socialists' and PP's willingness to put politics aside in pursuit of a common goal; and if they manage to do so over one issue of great importance, then why not over others?

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