Keys to the renewal of the CGPJ ·

Keys to the renewal of the CGPJ ·
Keys to the renewal of the CGPJ ·

The PSOE and the Popular Party have sealed an agreement this Tuesday, June 25, 2024 in Brussels to renew the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ)constitutional body in charge, among other functions, of appointing the judges of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.

The pact comes after more of five years of waitingin which the CGPJ has remained with the expired mandatewith the resignation of its former president in the face of a situation that he described as “unsustainable” and the resignation of a member in response to the “useless” role that the CGPJ had in a state of expiration. In these more than five years, there have also been several failed agreement attempts at the last moment by the Popular Party, which from the beginning set some “red lines” that have changed over the years.

The agreement entails the distribution of the 20 members of the CGPJ in a list that the deputy secretary general of the Popular Party, Esteban González Pons, has described as being “above the parties” and having been prepared through consensus between both parties.

For her part, the European Commissioner for Values ​​and Transparency, Věra Juveráwho attended the meeting between the Minister of the Presidency, Justice and Relations with the Cortes, Felix Bolañosand Pons, has claimed to feel “satisfied” and has affirmed that the agreement is a fruit of the “effort” of all the parties, whom she has congratulated, and of the EU in its role as mediator.

The agreement that ends a five-year blockade

The agreement reached this Tuesday between the PSOE and the main opposition party, the Popular Party, brings to an end a situation of blockade that has been dragging on since December 4, 2018, when the mandate of the CGPJ expired. The agreement involves the appointment of 20 members of the CGPJ.

After several frustrated attempts to carry out the renewal, this afternoon the agreement was presented from the headquarters of the European Commission (the community body that mediated the negotiation between the Government and the PP). González Pons has valued the agreement as a victory for the “judicial independence” and has highlighted the role of the EU as supervisor and guarantor of the rule of law. Bolañoswho has celebrated the agreement, has stated that in this way “an institutional anomaly is put to an end and normality is restored”.

  • According to Pons, the list of 20 members agreed upon by both groups is “above” both groups, which gives it total “independence.”

  • As both have explained, new Council appointments must be based exclusively on objective questions and merit of the candidates.

  • The new CGPJ must make a proposal for its own operation within six months and will have to have the support of at least three-fifths of the Council itself. To do this, they must look at the rest of European systems to base the future renewal mechanism.

  • Whoever holds the position of State Attorney General from now on will have to carry at least five years out of politics.

  • Pons has also specified that, “for the first time, the Presidency of the Supreme Court will be proposed by the members, it will not be a proposal from either of the two political forces.”

The agreement also responds, according to Bolaños, to a social and judicial “cry” that came from all the professional associations of the judiciary and the courts themselves. “HE renews the Council and its 20 members of undoubted prestige” and goes on to explore new ways of configuring the mode of election and to reinforce the independence of the Judiciary, Bolaños has expressed.

Five years of disagreements

The blockage to the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary has been one of the permanent keys in the disagreements, accusations and debates that the main political parties in Spain have maintained during the last years since the renovation ran aground in autumn 2018 and the mandate of the CGPJ will expire on December 4 of that same year.

The members of the CGPJ themselves have been co-protagonists of this situation from the beginning. The one who was president when the mandate expired, Carlos Lesmesurged the Cortes just a month later, on January 10, 2019, to proceed with the renewal of the Council.

However, that year there were two general elections in Spain, one in April and another in November, which kept the country without a Parliament formed until the following year and the expiration situation was extended.

The PP, the red lines and two frustrated attempts in extremis

After the formation of the first coalition government, in January 2020, the renewal remained blocked by the refusal of the PP to negotiate “with those who ask for the abdication of the king, the independence of Catalonia and the whitening of the Batasunos”, in words of the then popular leader, Pablo Casadoin reference to the government partners of the PSOE, Unidas Podemos, and the parliamentary formations that supported it, among them EH Bildu and ERC.

That same year, at the opening of the 2020-2021 judicial year, Lesmes insisted again on the need to renew the CGPJ, while threatening to resign if the situation, “unsustainable”, according to himself, continued.

Faced with this situation, in October 2020 the Government tried to promote a reform that reduced the majority necessary to renew the CGPJ in the Congress of Deputies of qualified (210 votes in favor) for the absolute (176). The doubts raised by this reform caused the Government to back down in April 2021.

In October 2022, the PSOE and the PP, already with Alberto Núñez Feijóo at the helm, brought closer positions until the agreement was almost sealed. However, according to some media outlets, including some sectors of the PP revolted faced with the prospect of an agreement with the socialists, a pressure that finally made the popular party reconsider the pact and back out at the last moment.

Cascade of resignations and reforms to the functions of the CGPJ

Congress did carry out other reforms, such as the March 11, 2021, which prevented the CGPJ from making appointments of judges while their mandate had expired. A year later, in 2022, Congress also modified the organic law of the Judiciary to allow the two magistrates of the Constitutional Court that corresponded to it at that time to be appointed.

Meanwhile, in 2021 Lesmes once again insisted to the parties on the need to renew the body, above the “scenario of partisan struggle”. One year later, in September 2022, He again threatened to resignwhich finally occurred a month later, in October 2022.

It was not the last resignation. In March 2023, the member of the CGPJ, Concepcion Saez, wrote a public letter in which he described it as “unsustainable” the situation of the General Council of the Judiciary and announced his resignation given the “uselessness” of his presence in the judicial body due to the “inability to make certain decisions in the ordinary exercise of powers.”

Final stretch towards renewal with international mediation five years later

He July 20, 2023 the new president was appointed, Vicente Guilarte, who replaced Rafael Mozo, who remained as interim president since Lesmes’ resignation. But there were still a few more months of comings and goings.

In October, the PSOE and Sumar agreedin the pact to reissue the coalition Government, the reform of the parliamentary majority necessary to renew the CGPJ and established the idea of ​​lowering it to the simple majority, as published The confidential. An idea that June 25, 2024 has not materialized.

In December, the PP and the PSOE, at the request of the former, agreed to international mediation by the Commissioner for Justice of the European Union, Didier Reynders, in order to unblock the situation. Between January and March 2024, the meetings in Brussels between Esteban González Pons and Félix Bolaños, but the agreement was not closed.

In April 2024, the president of the CGPJ, Vicente Guilarte, threatened to resign before the summer if an agreement was not reached and the situation was definitively precipitated after the European elections of June 9, 2024, in which both the PP and the PSOE obtained similar results, with a slight advantage for the first, 23 and 20 MEPs, respectively.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, made his move and announced a final proposal to renew the CGPJ “in 15 days”, which activated the negotiating parties and has led, five years and six months later, to the agreement announced this Tuesday in Brussels.

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