Spain’s judicial independence one of the worst regarded in the EU
Spain’s justice has “room for improvement” especially regarding the “number of administrative cases pending” and the “clearance rate” for civil and commercial litigation. This is what the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova, stated this Monday at the presentation of the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard, a document which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States. “Perceived judicial independence” of Spain’s courts and its magistrates is the sixth lowest of the 28 Member States and 56% of the citizens and companies surveyed considered it “fairly bad” or “very bad”. Only Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Bulgaria and Slovakia got worse marks. “Interference or pressure from government and politicians” is the main cause of this bad perception of judicial independence.
Brussels (CNA).- The “perceived judicial independence” of Spain’s courts and its magistrates is the sixth lowest of the 28 Member States. According to the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard, 56% of the citizens and companies surveyed considered Spain’s justice “fairly bad” or “very bad” and “interference or pressure from government and politicians” is pointed to as the main cause. The document, which was presented this Monday, gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States and this year for the first time presented the results of Eurobarometer surveys on perceived judicial independence from the point of view of citizens and businesses. Spain’s justice has also “room for improvement” regarding the “number of administrative cases pending” and the “clearance rate” for civil and commercial litigation, warned the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova.
Spain is at the lower end of the EU in terms of judicial independence. Only Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Bulgaria and Slovakia got worse marks amongst the businesses and citizens surveyed in the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard. 38% of those surveyed considered it “fairly bad” and 18% assessed it as “very bad”. Most of them, 41%, pointed to “interference or pressure from government and politicians” as the main cause of this negative perception. A high percentage, 38%, also reported “pressure from economic or other specific interests” and 28% considered that “the status and position of judges do not sufficiently guarantee their independence”.
“Perceived judicial independence is still a challenge for Spain” warned Jourova and pointed out that this might not be only “a problem of individual cases” but also a scourge affecting “public and very popular cases”. “People expect judges to make fair decisions”, she added, but avoided going any further when asked about the recent corruption scandals in Spain, which she considered an “internal matter”.
Spain’s judicial system is also one of the slowest in the EU and holds sixth-last position in this ranking as well. The average time needed to resolve civil, commercial, administrative and other cases in Spain is 318 days, according to data released in 2014. Only Greece (330 days), France (348), Croatia (380), Slovakia (524) and Italy (532) are in a worse position. Spain is also the third worst Member State in terms of ratio of cases pending; 0.4 for every 100 citizens.
At the other end of the ranking, Denmark, Finland and Sweden have the best regarded judicial systems, as around 80% of those surveyed considered them “very good” or “fairly good”.
Key findings from the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard
The aim of the Scoreboard is to assist national authorities in their efforts to improve their justice systems by providing comparative data. “The fourth EU Justice Scoreboard shows that Member States' efforts to improve their justice systems continue to bear fruit. The key role of national justice systems in upholding the rule of law, enforcing EU law and establishing an investment-friendly environment deserve these efforts” said Jourová. “The Scoreboard serves as a tool to learn from each other to render European justice systems more effective”, she added.
Key findings from the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard include shorter duration of litigious civil and commercial cases and better accessibility to justice systems, in particular in matters like electronic submission of small claims or promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. However, there is still room for improvement in online availability of judgements or electronic communication between courts and parties.
According to the Scoreboard, further efforts are still needed to improve training in judicial skills and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for case management systems.