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EU urges Spain to renew key judicial body

The European Commission on Friday urged Spain’s leftist government and the conservative opposition to end a years-long stalemate and renew a key judicial body.

The delay is precluding the appointment of new judges to higher courts and numerous vacancies due to the retirement of judges have not been filled.

The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the governing body of Spain’s judges and courts, is meant to be renewed every five years.

But the current group has been exercising its functions on an interim basis since 2018 because Spain’s two biggest parties — the ruling Socialist and the opposition Popular Party (PP) — can’t agree on its makeup.

“It’s time to get out of this crisis,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a conference in Madrid, before adding that the body’s mandate must be “promptly” renewed.

Made up of 20 members, the CGPJ plays a supervisory role and appoints some magistrates to the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court and other top courts.

The appointment of 12 of the 20 members is subject to a qualified majority of three-fifths in both Spain’s lower and upper houses of parliament

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government proposed that they be appointed instead with the backing of just an absolute majority of lawmakers.

But the PP and other opposition parties and some judges accused the government of seeking to nominate left-leaning judges with this reform.

Faced with this opposition, the government dropped this proposed reform and now calls for the existing system to be kept.

The PP, meanwhile, is pushing for all the members of the judicial body to be nominated by judges, who critics say tend to lean to the right in Spain.

In 2020 the European Commission already rapped Spain for failing to renew the CGPJ in a report on the rule of law in the European Union.

It also warned that the body “can not be seen as being vulnerable to politicisation”.